HL Deb 18 July 1831 vol 4 cc1382-6
Earl Grey

said, that a noble Marquis, whom he did not then see in his place, had, on Friday last, put a question to him, the nature of which their Lordships would, no doubt, recollect. The noble Marquis had asked him whether, in the event of Prince Leopold being called to the throne of Belgium, that illustrious personage would continue in the enjoyment of the pension allowed him by this country? In reply to that question, he had observed, that the pension alluded to had been settled by Act of Parliament, and that it was enjoyed, therefore, by as good a title as any of their Lordships could show to their own estates. It followed, then, that whatever might be done with regard to this pension, must be the voluntary and gratuitous act of the illustrious individual upon whom the pension had been settled; and viewing the question in that light, he had thought that it would be both improper and indelicate, as well in Parliament as in the Government, to give to that illustrious personage even a hint upon the subject. It was for these reasons that, in replying to the question of the noble Marquis, he had contented himself with a bare statement of the nature of the settlement of this pension, and of the consequent inability of the Government to deal with it. At the time, however, that he made this reply, he had no doubt as to the course which the illustrious individual in question would pursue; for the Prince had not only made a verbal communication to him upon the subject, but had also written him a letter, in which his Royal Highness repeated the communication which he had previously done him the honour to make to him personally. From the circumstances which he had stated to their Lordships, he had felt himself precluded from saying anything to the Prince upon the subject; but the Prince had, of his own accord, opened the matter to him, and communicated to him what his intentions were. After that communication, the Prince repeated in a letter what had passed between them at the interview. The interview between the Prince and him took place previous to the question that had been put to him by the noble Marquis. This letter was, as their Lordships would see, in the nature of a private communication, but as so much had been said upon this subject, and as so strong a feeling had been expressed upon it elsewhere, he had resolved, after consideration, to make a public communication of what the intentions of this illustrious individual were, and he had taken this resolution, as well for other reasons as in order to put a stop to invidious and unjust reflections, which might arise from the ignorance of the intentions of the Prince. He must again observe, that this communication had been made to him prior to the question of the noble Marquis, and he must also assure their Lordships, that he could state, upon his own knowledge, that it had always been the determination of Prince Leopold, not to draw from this country any part of the sum which had been settled upon him at his marriage, after he should have become Sovereign of Belgium. With these observations he would now read to their Lordships the express words in which his Royal Highness had communicated his intentions on the subject. It was as follows— Marlborough House, July 15. My Dear Lord Grey.—Before I quit the country, I am desirous to state, in writing, the intentions and views which I had the pleasure of communicating to you verbally this morning on the subject of my British annuity. As Sovereign of Belgium, it is not my intention to draw from this country any portion of the income which was settled upon me by Act of Parliament at the period of my marriage. Your Lordship is, however, well aware, that up to the very moment of my leaving England, I have maintained my establishments here upon their accustomed footing, and that, consequently, there remain to be fulfilled and discharged pecuniary engagements, and outstanding debts, to an amount which it is quite impossible for me to state at the present time with precision. As soon, therefore, as I shall have accomplished the payment of these demands, it is my intention to make over, into the hands of trustees, whom I will without loss of time appoint, the whole of the annuity which I receive from this country, in trust for the following purposes:— I shall require my trustees to maintain, in a state of complete habitation and of repair, the house, gardens, and park, at Claremont; and farther, to pay all the salaries, pensions, and allowances, which I shall deem a proper reward to those persons who have claims upon me, for their faithful services during my residence in this country. I shall, in addition, require them to continue all those charities, and annual donations to charitable institutions, which have been allowed or subscribed to, either by the Princess Charlotte or by myself, up to the present period. All these objects having been fulfilled, it is my wish and desire that the remainder shall be repaid into the British Exchequer.—I remain, my dear Lord Grey, most faithfully yours, (Signed) "LEOPOLD. This, he repeated, was the voluntary and gratuitous act of the illustrious Prince, and he was confident, that a generous public would not blame the just and liberal restrictions which limited the surrender of the complete amount of the annuity. There was another question which the noble Marquis had put to him; namely, whether Prince Leopold would continue to receive the emoluments which accrued from his regiment. Nothing had passed between him and the Prince on this subject, except that he had clearly understood it to be the determination of Prince Leopold, that as Sovereign of Belgium, he would not consent to derive anything from this country. Colonel Cust, however, had called upon the Commander of the Forces, and made a communication to him to the {following effect—namely, that his Royal Highness, the Prince, had intended to deliver into the hands of the Commander of the Forces, his resignation of the Colonelcy of the 5th Regiment of Dragoon Guards, but that, in the hurry of his departure, his Royal Highness had omitted to do so: that Colonel Cust had no hesitation in stating positively to the Commander of the Forces, that such was the intention of his Royal Highness, and Colonel Cust felt himself authorized to make this communication to the Commander of the Forces, in order that the resignation of his Royal Highness might be transmitted to the King: Colonel Cust added, that Baron Stockmar was ready to confirm and to authenticate this communication. He (Earl Grey) would only add, that he had himself seen Baron Stockmar, and that he had no hesitation in saying, that, from what had passed between himself and the illustrious personage alluded to, he also could confirm the statement, that it had been the intention of his Royal Highness not to leave this country without resigning the Coloneley of the regiment. He was confident that this statement would be received with satisfaction, both by the House and by the country.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that he had never entertained a doubt as to the right of Prince Leopold to retain both his property and his regiment; for, having examined the question on another occasion, he had seen that those belonged to the Prince by as good a title as their Lordships held their estates—namely, by the law of the land; and he had seen, also, that, even if the Prince chose to give up the pension, still it must be made liable to those charges which were enumerated in the letter of his Royal Highness. He congratulated the House and the country on the course which his Royal Highness had adopted; but his congratulation did not arise from any of those feelings which had been stated by the public Press. It arose from the fact, that this conduct would show to the people whom the Prince was about to govern, that their Sovereign was above even the suspicion of dependence on a foreign country. On this ground, therefore, it was, that he congratulated the House and the country, and not from any of those sordid notions which had been expressed out of doors.