HL Deb 20 February 1821 vol 4 cc797-803

The Earl of Liverpool moved the second reading of this bill, in doing which, he should abstain from entering into any detail on the subject. The sum of 50,000l. had been proposed, not with any reference to her majesty's case, but because it was the identical sum, which, as stipulated in her contract of marriage, she was to have if she survived his majesty. As therefore she would be entitled to that sum on the demise of the Crown, he thought that in her present situation she had, if not a legal, at least an equitable claim to it.

The Earl of Darnley

said, that so far from wishing to oppose the measures of the noble lord on every occasion, he was very happy when he could, even in the slightest degree, concur with him. Under all the circumstances of the case, he thought the sum proposed that to which her majesty was fairly entitled. Having thus far stated his agreement with the noble lord, he must disclaim any approbation of the other measures of the noble lord in reference to the Queen. He could not agree that the House of Commons had wisely decided that there existed no grounds for censuring ministers. With that vote, however, before him, he could not help concluding, that any proposition which might be made, however aided by the talents of the noble lords near him, would be decided, not by the consideration of how far it was right or wrong in itself, but with reference to the supporting of ministers. Of the success or the motion of which he had given notice he had therefore much reason to despair; and, in addition to that consideration, he must freely confess that he had on this subject been guided by the opinion of individuals with whom he had long had the honour to act, and of others whose late conduct in preferring their duty to the public to their duty to ministers, had done themselves the greatest honour. He had reason to expect that, if he brought forward a motion for restoring the Queen's name to the Liturgy, he should be supported by many of the persons to whom he had alluded. At the same time, considering the discouraging circumstances he had stated, and the doubts which some entertained of its illegality, he was inclined to think that at present no good effect could be expected from the motion of which he had given notice; and he was, therefore, disposed to relinquish it. At the same time he must declare, that his opinion on the question of the Liturgy was not shaken; and that he thought that this was an occasion on which it was the duty of their lordships, as the constitutional advisers of the Crown, to recommend to his majesty the restoration of her majesty's name. Nothing would more tend to rivet to his majesty the affections of his people than such an act of grace and justice. Let it not be supposed that he was actuated by partiality in the course he had taken. When the illustrious person who was the object of the inquiry was formerly in this country, he had had very little intercourse with her; and since her return he had studiously avoided it, because he thought it right to keep his mind entirely free and unprejudiced. If, however, he wished to keep up a state of dissatisfaction, if he were disposed to perpetuate what had been called the undue influence of her majesty with the people, he would certainly advise ministers not to insert her name in the Liturgy. There were three great points of view under which this question presented itself; namely, the legality, the justice, and the expediency of the omission. He believed he might safely assert that the majority of legal opinions concurred in pronouncing the omission to be illegal. But he was willing to take it for granted that the exclusion was legal; and then came the question of justice. It appeared to him plain, that an exclusion, made on the presumption of guilt, must necessarily be unjust for if this were not admitted, the principle on which justice was administered in this country must be totally different from what he had always believed it to be. But if it was unjust to inflict punishment on suspicion, how much more unjust was it to continue that punishment after the prosecution was given up? But, while he contended that her majesty was substantially acquitted, he was not bound to approve of every thing which might be done by her. He felt, that if she had abstained from certain publications, her claim might have been considered more' irresistible even in that House, and that he at least should not have needed to wave the motion of which he had given notice. With regard to the question of expediency, he thought that was completely settled by the events which had taken place. He would leave it to the reverend bench to say, whether a measure could be expedient, which had proved so injurious to religion. Was it fitting that party feelings should be excited in a place devoted to public worship? Why should the Liturgy remain in that state which must remind every congregation, in the midst of their devotions, of the omission of her majesty's name? He was confident that great injury would be done to the establishment by the exclusion. If he were not greatly misinformed, the effect had already been considerable: he was assured that several reverend gentlemen had thought it necessary to exhort their congregations, in consequence of many pious Christians having made the omission of the Queen's name a ground for withdrawing from the church.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that if he had any doubt as to the legality of not inserting the name of her majesty in the Liturgy, he would be the first to move an address to the King, to pray his majesty to restore it to the Liturgy. It was a question upon which he had obtained every information that could be acquired, and to which he had applied the deepest research; and the result was, that he had no doubt whatever of the legality of omitting her majesty's name in the Liturgy; an opinion which, in his mind, the construction of the acts of parliament, and the consideration of what had been done under the authority of those acts, during the whole period since their passing, completely confirmed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

observed that the noble earl had intimated that a large secession from the established church had taken place, in consequence of the omission of the Queen's name in the Liturgy. Now, if such accession did exist, of which, however, he was entirely ignorant, he thought it must be owing to political, and not to religious feelings, le was not disposed to undervalue the claim of her majesty to have her name inserted in the Liturgy. It was a claim to something which was important when possessed, and still more important when withheld; but at the same time he must contend, that it was a claim wholly unconnected with religious principles. It was a claim, not for prayer, but to distinction in prayer. Her majesty was prayed for in the Liturgy and in the collects set apart for the royal family. He would, however, admit that to be so prayed for was no particular distinction. Still she was prayed for. Indeed, there was no person of any rank or degree in society who did not receive the benefit of the prayers of the church; and God forbid that any individual, high or low, should ever be excluded from that benefit. But, all that her majesty complained of was, that she had not distinction in prayer, the omission of which was not a question connected with religion, but one of grace and favour.

Lord Ellenborough

contended, that tie provision made for her majesty by this bill was too large. The reason alleged by the noble earl for granting 50,000l. namely, that the Queen would be entitled to that sum, if she survived the king—was not sufficient; for her conduct had not been such as ought to induce parliament to anticipate in her favour an event which might not take place. When he considered her majesty's conduct, not only as it had appeared in evidence at that bar, but, by her publications, and, in particular, by her Letter to the king, he could not expect that the money granted would be employed for the only object for which it ought to be granted, which was the maintenance of the dignity of the Crown. On the contrary, he was afraid that it would be so employed as to throw greater disparagement on the Crown and the institutions of the country. He regretted that, on the passing of this bill, the Commons did not take into consideration the circumstances of the case, and those principles of economy which had induced them on a former occasion to limit a grant proposed to be made to a branch of the royal family. This limitation was made upon a strong conviction that the case was one which ought not to receive the sanction which the grant might imply. There had been many occasions on which the sentiments of the people had for the moment been contrary I to the decision of parliament; but lie believed there never was one in which a decision of parliament received more general approbation than that to which he alluded. There were other points of economy to which the attention of the House of Commons had been frequently directed. He recollected several motions for the reduction of the public expenditure; and, among the rest, those for abolishing the third secretary of state and lessening the number of the lords of the Admiralty. The grant which was now made to her majesty, he, however, believed, was equal to the amount of all the savings that would have been effected by those reductions. The opinion of the people respecting her majesty's conduct j would soon be set right: and when they once formed a right judgment on that subject, he was convinced that there was no part of the proceedings in parliament respecting her which would be looked back to with so much disgust as this grant, made at a period of great national distress. He would not however propose a reduction, because, recollecting the practice of parliament respecting money ills, he would not hazard the opening of discussions between the two Houses which might revive the subject in which their lordships had lately been engaged. He was indeed anxious that nothing should be done to prevent her majesty: from falling into a state of oblivion. He rejoiced that the subject being now got; rid of altogether, she would no longer be able to agitate the country. It was to the throwing out of the bill of Pains and Penalties that their lordships were indebted for this happy state of things. Had it not been for the rejection of that bill, the case would still have been before parliament, and her majesty would have j ad the appearance of being an object of persecution, and would have been held up as an injured and unfortunate woman. There had been rumours, but he trusted they were untrue, that it was her majesty's intention to refuse the grant conveyed by this bill, unless her name was restored to the Liturgy. He hoped that if she had been advised to this course, it would be departed from. It could only tend to keep up popular clamour, and to continue those differences of opinion which had so long prevented the public business of the state from being duly attended to. It would be for her now to decide, whether she would receive the grant liberally voted by parliament, or become the pensioner of a party; but he hoped that she would not only take the money which was offered her, but abstain from doing or saying any thing which might lead to the re-agitation of the painful subject which had already occupied so much of the public attention.

The Earl of Limerick

agreed, that the grant was too large, and with much of what had been said respecting the conduct of the Queen; nor should he have risen, had it not been for an allusion made by the noble lord, to what took place some time since in the House of Commons with relation to a proposed allowance to a branch of the royal family. He could not agree with the noble lord in his opinion upon that subject: so far from there haying been any evidence to justify the vote alluded to, there was nothing alleged but mere rumours; and so far from that vote, which was only carried by a majority of one, meeting with the general approbation of the public, he did not believe that there was any general opinion of that description. He should feel himself guilty of great baseness, if he had not stood up in defence of the illustrious individual (the duke of Cumberland) who, at one time taking an active part in that House, had used all his exertions to bring in ministers whose measures were the best calculated to promote the interests of the country.

The Earl of Blesington

was far from thinking, that the annuity granted to her majesty was too great. On the contrary, he thought it too small. Considering that the bill of Pains and Penalties had been withdrawn, it was the duty of ministers to offer her majesty a palace and the full enjoyment of all her rights. He did not, however, approve of the advice which had been given her to refuse this grant. By the withdrawing of the bill she was the triumphant party, and she might, therefore, accept the money without giving up any legal claim. It was the opinion of the country at large that the exclusion of her name from the Liturgy was unjust, and he was confident there would be no tranquillity until it was inserted.

Lord Calthorpe

expressed a desire that the money now granted would be employed in supporting the high station of her majesty, and in exercising those virtues which the House had in view in all grants to the illustrious family on the throne. He should be glad if the apprehensions which he entertained on this subject were unfounded. With respect to the amount of the grant, ministers had, in his opinion, acted wisely. Her majesty had shown a great degree of liberality, on a former occasion, in surrendering a part of the income intended for her by parliament, and he did not wish to see any advantage taken of that liberality by proposing a less sum on the present occasion. The Marquis of Lansdoxvn would not have risen on the present occasion, had he not been one of those adverted to by his noble friend as having, by his advice, contributed to induce his noble friend not to agitate the question to which he had alluded. In doing so he was guided by the consideration that all discussion on a question of this nature ought to be avoided when it could lead to no practical result. He would say, that the amount of the grant proposed by ministers met with his concurrence. Whatever opinion might be formed of the Queen's conduct since she came to this country, he thought it ought not to weigh with the House on the present occasion. Disapproving, as he did, of her Letter to the king—disapproving, as he did, of many of her answers to addresses,—he at the same time thought that in the extraordinary situation in which she was placed, it was the height of cruelty to make her responsible for every part of her conduct—conduct which she had pursued under circumstances to which no queen was ever before exposed. Filling her high station, and enjoying her exalted rank, he thought the proposed grant not too great, nor did he think that her majesty was well advised to decline receiving a grant made b)r the bounty of parliament—even though a right on which she laid great stress was withheld. He trusted, therefore, that she would yet consent to accept it. The Bill was read a second time.