HC Deb 23 November 1925 vol 188 cc927-32
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I beg to move:

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, to express the heartfelt sympathy of this House in the great affliction and loss which His Majesty has sustained by the death of Her Majesty the Queen Alexandra, and to condole with His Majesty on this melancholy occasion;

"To assure His Majesty that we shall ever remember with grateful affection the love which the late Queen inspired in all classes of the people, and that we participate to the utmost in the universal feeling of sympathy with His Majesty in his grievous loss."

According to the Rules and Orders of the House, this Motion should have been placed upon the Paper to-day, and the Motion itself moved to-morrow. But I took upon myself, as Leader of the House, to communicate with you, Mr. Speaker, and with the Leaders of the Opposition parties, because I felt convinced that the Members of this House would not wish to proceed with the ordinary business of the week without passing a Resolution of condolence on the death of Queen Alexandra. You, Sir, were good enough to express the view that, so far as you were concerned, you would allow the Motion to be moved. The Leaders of the other parties in the House agreed with me that it would be the desire of the House that the Motion should be moved to-day.

I think, perhaps, looking back upon the life of Queen Alexandra, and in her capacity as Queen, nothing is more striking than the way in which, from the moment that she landed on these shores, she identified herself with the country in which, and with the people among whom, she had come to live. Students of history will realise that what we take for granted in her life is in reality a rare thing, and, looking back over the years, were there any of us who ever regarded her as a foreigner, and who did not regard her from the first as one of our very selves? Then I think of her other attributes. I would like to dwell for one moment on a very rare personality. Personality is a thing of the spirit, which cannot be acquired, which is given here and there —for the spirit "bloweth where it listeth"—to people in very different walks of life. But when it does exist, it is something for which we ought to be thankful, something which we respect and admire wherever we find it.

This Queen Alexandra had in a very marked degree, and it was by this means, this gift of personality, that she impressed herself in a very unusual and remarkable way upon all classes of the community. I remember on one occasion in recent years, on a 1st of December, driving in London, and on leaving my cab the driver said to me, "I am so glad it is a fine day." I asked "Why?" "Because." ho said, "it is Queen Alexandra's birthday." That was the way in which her personality impressed itself. It made people of all kinds sympathise with her, and desire that a fine day should come on her birthday, just as every one of us who buys a rose in London in the summer, while remembering the cause for which those roses are sold, buy our flower always with the added feeling, "We hope the day will be a great success for the Queen's sake."

That feeling cannot be bought. It does not arise from any question of the rank of the person who inspires it. It is a gift of the personality, of the heart and of the soul. If I were asked, what is the key of the personality that she had, and of that kind of personality which many of us have been fortunate enough to know in different ranks in our own lives among our own friends, I would say that it is due to one thing and to one thing alone, and that is the spirit of love that permeated her whole life and her every action. It was that spirit which gave her what is so rare and beautiful in age—a spirit of serenity. It was that spirit which brought back to her, in the later years of her life, as comfort for the sufferings that had fallen to her in her human lot, a measure of love and gratitude and veneration from her own children and her own grandchildren, pressed down and running over.

In this House, and to each one of us it was in her womanhood, that ideal as daughter, as wife, as mother, and as widow that we felt very near to her, so that while—and the House will not misunderstand me—we pay our loyal homage to the King, whose servants we are, at the same time it is every mother's son of us who sends a message of deep and heartfelt personal sympathy to the King, as a mother's son himself, in his hour of loss, which is the sharpest and yet the tenderest to which the sons of men are heirs.


I rise to associate myself and my friends around me both with what the Prime Minister has said and with the Resolution that he has just moved. For two generations we have felt in our midst the presence of a lady of very sweet graciousness, of humane consideration, and of simple tenderness of heart, Queen Alexandra. Whether she was in the glowing blaze near the Throne, or in the more subdued lights of her widowhood, whether she was in glory or suffering from grief, she symbolised to the whole country, irrespective of class or condition, the detached dignity of royalty and the close kinship of humanity. She was very human.

She came to us on a spring day in 1863 as a bride, and won our hearts by her radiant beauty and her simplicity of demeanour. From that day to this she has kept our hearts. She has been associated with every humane cause that speaks to the hearts of good women, and that has its source in the deep well-springs of maternity. Greatest perhaps of all of her virtues was her virtue as a good mother. She represented to us not only the emblazoned life of courts, but the domestic affections of humbler places. And, when we thought of her, we did not stand stiffly in her presence, but sat in friendly companionship and communion with her as with our own personal friends. Now, rich in years, and crowned with reverence, she leaves us; and all we may do to-day is to pay our most sincere homage to her memory and respectfully offer to her son, who rules over us, our condolences, and I venture also to hope our consolations.


I cannot add anything to the eloquent words which have fallen from the Mover and the Seconder of this Resolution. And, after all, there is nothing we can say about the late Queen Alexandra in this House that is not known to her honour in millions of households in this land. I shall, however, utter a few words, because no section of this House would wish to be unrepresented in the tribute by the British Parliament on behalf of the British nation to the memory of this great lady. It is 15 years since she ceased to be Queen in this land. But she held an even more exalted position as one who was enthroned in the hearts of the people. That she held to the end, and still holds.

Throughout the whole of my lifetime, I cannot recall a period when she was not loved by every class of the community— not a period. She was loved when she came here—a beautiful girl, the bride of the heir to the Throne, and to become our future Queen. She was loved when the Prussian legions were trampling on her country; she was loved during the whole of the anxieties of her career; she was loved when she was speeding on those myriad errands of mercy which she discharged with the soft radiance of her sweet nature, and she ended by being beloved. She had all the charms and the graces that fascinate and attract people. I do not believe that there is any princess in our history who excelled her in those regal gifts. But she held her popularity for 60 years, because the people knew that they were not superficial—that her wonderful geniality was not shallow or false, but was deep-rooted in a tender heart, throbbing with human sympathy.

She had a simple kindness which was the despair of those who were responsible for her household. I recall—the House will forgive me—an illustration of this when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I remember, after the death of the late King, that fine and faithful old servant of hers, Sir Dighton Probyn, called upon me to make certain arrangements. He revealed an amazing story to me of the perplexities caused to him by her unrestrained benevolence—she had no other extravagance. He told me that when anyone wrote her with any tale of woe or suffering, she never made any inquiries, she never sought advice; she instantly put a five pound note in an envelope, and sent it along. This wise old counsellor of hers begged her, at any rate, to allow him to investigate the cases. Her answer invariably was, "How can they wait? Look at this story—his wife and children are starving." That, indeed, was the charity that "thinketh no evil and believeth all things." And it was because of this sympathy with uncertified suffering that, when the news of her death passed along, the note of mourning was deepest of all in the humblest quarters of the land, and in those areas they grieve for her, not so much for a great Princess who has passed away, as for a true friend whom they have lost for ever.


I hope the House will forgive me if I rise to add the voice of Ireland to that of England, of Scotland, and of Wales in eulogy of the late Queen. I will content myself with a sentence. She was especially dear to the Irish people, because of her immaculate loyalty, tenderness, and her sympathy, which they have always regarded as the highest virtues of all.

Question put, and agreed to, nomine contradicente, all present standing.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or members of His Majesty's Household.


I beg to move, "That this Resolution be entered in the Journals of the House."

Question put, and agreed to.