HC Deb 14 December 1936 vol 318 cc2237-45
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

at the Bar, acquainted the House that he had a Message from His Majesty the King to this House, signed by His Majesty's own hand. And he presented the same to the House, and it was read out by MR. SPEAKER as followeth, all the Members of the House being uncovered:

"I have succeeded to the Throne in circumstances which are without precedent and at a moment of great personal distress. But I am resolved to do My duty and I am sustained by the knowledge that I am supported by the widespread goodwill and sympathy of all My subjects here and throughout the world.

It will be. My constant endeavour, with God's help, supported as I shall be by My dear Wife, to uphold the honour of the Realm and to promote the happiness of My Peoples.


6.2 p.m.


I beg to move: That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to offer to His Majesty our loyal thanks for His Gracious Message; to express to His Majesty our devotion to His Royal Person and to Her Majesty the Queen, and to assure His Majesty of our conviction that His Reign, under the blessing of Divine Providence, will safeguard the liberties of the country and promote the prosperity and contentment of B is people. This is the last of the formal occasions which attend the Accession of a Sovereign until his Coronation. His Majesty has sent us a Gracious Message in which he reminds us that the circumstances in which he has succeeded to the Throne are without precedent. It is customary on these occasions, and has been customary, to speak of the deceased King. In this case that is not our duty. The circumstances are without precedent. All, I think, that I have to say I said--and I think I spoke for this House and for the country—on last Thursday, and in the few observations which I made on the Third Reading of the Abdication Bill on Friday, and I propose to make but a few observations on the other subject to which we always devote our- selves on these occasions, and that is the new Reign.

His Majesty speaks of a moment of great personal distress. I can assure the House that that is no exaggeration and no mere formal phrase. The occasion cannot but be one of poignant distress for the one who succeeds his brother, bound as these two brothers have been by ties of affection. But I have the honour of knowing the new King well and I would tell the House, if they do not know it already, that what will endear him to his people, if he be not already endeared, is that, more than any of his brothers, he resembles in character and disposition of mind his father whose loss we were lamenting eleven short months ago. He will bring to his great task that same devotion to duty. Whatever may happen to him, no personal predilections of any kind will stand between him and what he conceives to be his first duty, and that is to fulfil his great task as King and Emperor. His whole heart will be devoted to this task, and I am confident that this House and the country, in these circumstances, will give him all the support for which he asks, and all the support that a man entering upon these tremendous responsibilities needs at this time.

So, while we all of us here know that of all things, to preserve our monarchy in its integrity, it is necessary to keep it from controversy—controversy political or controversy of any other kind—I feel a profound conviction, from all I know of King George VI, that never of his will, will controversy, whether political or otherwise, be raised in connection with him. It only remains for me, speaking as Leader of this House, to wish His Majesty, if I may, God-speed in this great undertaking, and I look forward during to-morrow, with my colleagues from all parties in this House, to bring him the assurance of our good-will and our support, and our fervent prayers for his happiness.

6.8 p.m.


I rise to support, on behalf of the Opposition, the Motion which the Prime Minister has moved. I, too, will be brief. We can, for this day, intermit that conflict between policies and views which is the life-blood of our Parliamentary institutions, and the very essence of our British democracy. We can, irrespective of party, join together to-day in wishing God-speed to our new King and Queen. The task upon which King George VI has entered, that of being the constitutional Monarch of this country and of the other democracies united with us in the British Commonwealth of Nations, can never be easy. In days like these, when democracy is being assailed, and when the advocates of force against the rule of reason are vocal, it becomes still more onerous. He has, in his Gracious Message, referred to the unprecedented circumstances in which he succeeds at this time. Those circumstances necessarily make his position more difficult, but they are transient.

We are confident that King George, with the help of his Queen, will fulfil all the duties of his high office and maintain our constitution. For many years he has taken a part in the various activities which membership of the Royal Family entails. He has visited our Dominions, and he has visited various parts of the Empire. We know that he has taken a keen and an active interest in social questions. For many years he has been working with boys on their holidays in their camps. I know well from experience how working with boys leads one on to considering the social and economic conditions in which they live, and he, too, has gone on to studying the conditions of work, and has taken a most active part in promoting welfare among all those who work. We join in offering him assurances of our support on his accession to the Throne. We offer our services, and we hope that the King and Queen and their family may have long life and happiness, and that his reign may be one of peace and of prosperity, extending ever more and more widely so that it embraces the whole of the people of this country.

6.12 p.m.


I rise to support the Motion and to associate my hon. and right hon. Friends and myself with the speeches in which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have already given fitting and eloquent expression to the sentiments of the House on this occasion. Many of us who have foreseen with dread and have, so far as in us lies, striven to avert, the inexorable march of events last week could but have marvelled at the smoothness, the restraint, the dignity, and the quiet resolve with which an unprecedented transition from one Reign to another was accomplished. Our respect and gratitude are due to his former Majesty King Edward VIII for his bearing and for his actions in these last days, and to Her Majesty Queen Mary, to whom the sympathy of the whole nation goes out at this time for her grave and moving message, which gave wise and timely guidance to us all.

Three other considerations, however, were of vital importance in making possible this impressive transition: First, the strength and efficiency of our representative institutions, which enable the will of the people to be expressed with clarity and to prevail. Then, equally important, the strong and deep loyalty of the people to the Throne, to the foundations of the Throne. That is no empty phrase. They are intangible but no less real and secure than those of this building in which we meet. The events of the last fortnight have demonstrated to the world no less vividly than the solemn events of a year ago that the foundations of the Throne have been laid firmly and unshakably in the hearts of the British people.

The other consideration was the well known and well-attested work of the natural successor to the Throne. He is known in many parts of his Dominions overseas. Ex-service men at home know him as a veteran of the Battle of Jutland. He has shown a keen interest in social and economic problems, and especially in the conditions of employment and industry. His camps and the personal share which he takes in making them successful bespeak his interest in youth. Our welcome then, and the loyalty we offer to him and to his gracious Queen are not merely formal, but come straight from our hearts. King George VI succeeds to the Throne under his father's name. We offer him our humble Address in the confident hope that it is not only the name that King George will revive as he ascends the Throne with Queen Elizabeth, but also the inspiring traditions of his father's reign.

Question, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to offer to His Majesty our loyal thanks for his Gracious Message; to express to His Majesty our devotion to His Royal Person and to Her Majesty the Queen, and to assure His Majesty of our conviction that His Reign, under the blessing of Divine Providence, will safeguard the liberties of the country and promote the prosperity and contentment of His people, put, and agreed to, nemine contradicente. —[The Prime Minister.]

Address to be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.