§ The Lord Chancellor
moved the second reading of Prince Albert's Naturalization Bill, and, in doing so, he would refer their Lordships to the bill which had passed the legislature previous to the marriage of Prince Leopold and the Princess Charlotte. The House must recollect that her Royal Highness and her consort were in a different situation from the parties alluded to in the present bill. It was obvious, that if the Princess Charlotte had become Sovereign of this realm, some alterations would have been made with respect to the precedency of the Prince, who would then be the consort of the reigning Queen. The noble and learned Lord, after referring to the precedents in the cases of the marriage of Mary and Philip, and Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark, said, that it would only be necessary for him to refer to the principal provision of the bill, which was this:—"For and during the term of 576 his (Prince Albert's)life, to take precedence in rank after her Majesty, in Parliament and elsewhere, as her Majesty may think fit and proper, any law, statute, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding."
§ The Duke of Wellington
—My Lords, I certainly am not at all inclined to discuss this measure, or to give it any opposition, at the present moment. It is too serious a matter to be taken into the consideration of the House on the short notice which we have had of the nature of this bill. The noble and learned Lord lays this bill on the table on Friday night, after a debate, and the bill is entitled "An Act for the Naturalization of his Serene Highness the Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg and Gotha." I asked the noble and learned Lord when he intended to read the bill a second time, because I understood that it was a bill which meant no more than its title indicated. I thought it was a bill entirely consequent upon the other bill which passed both Houses last week, and which is now the law of the land. The noble and learned Lord said, that he intended to move the second reading on Monday, but he said not one word regarding the precedency, which is the important point in the bill. A noble Friend of mine looked at the title of the bill as I was walking out of the House, and he told me that it was nothing more than a bill of naturalization. The consequence was, I had no knowledge of the real contents of the bill. I had no idea of its contents until a noble Friend sent me a copy. My noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) I am sure would not be absent on this occasion if he had any idea that the bill related to anything beyond mere naturalization. As this is the case, I hope your Lordships will receive the proposition I am about to make to you, to adjourn this debate to some day in the course of the week, to give noble Lords an opportunity of really looking into the subject. Besides, there is something very extraordinary in the title of the bill; it is not the same as the title of the bill in the case of Prince Leopold's marriage. It is also very desirable that it should be known precisely what is intended to be done, for the words in the clause are very large indeed—"For and during the term of his natural life, to take precedence in rank after her Majesty, in Parliament and elsewhere, as her Majesty may think fit and proper, any law, statute, or custom to the contrary not with- 577 standing." I move, my Lords, that this debate be adjourned lo Friday next.
§ Viscount Melbourne
It would certainly be more desirable, and more conformable to former precedents, if this bill was passed without delay. The noble Duke objects, that its title does not state the fact that it is to provide for the precedence of Prince Albert. This omission, I believe, was accidental, but I don't think it of any great consequence, nor as at all depriving noble Lords of any information as to the substance of this measure, because it is perfectly clear that a naturalization bill must fix the rank and station of Prince Albert; otherwise he would have no rank or station whatever; a precedent which I presume Parliament is not desirous to establish. The noble Duke complains that my noble and learned Friend did not make the explanations the other night which he offered to-night. The proper time for such remarks is on the second reading of the bill, and this opportunity my noble and learned Friend had availed himself of. The noble Duke says that he and other noble Lords require further time for the consideration of this subject. I think it would be somewhat better if a more expeditious course were taken; but unquestionably this bill differs in form from other bills, as the case differs from other cases; and it does give her Majesty an ability to bestow on Prince Albert a higher station than that assigned to Prince George of Denmark, or Prince Leopold. The reason for the difference in these cases is to be looked for in the relative situation of the parties. As to the marriage of the Princess Charlotte, I believe the Prince Regent as well as that Princess were quite conscious that the arrangement then made was a temporary one, and that changes must speedily have been proposed to Parliament on the subject. I believe there is pretty good evidence, that such was the feeling of the parties to that transaction. The noble Duke seems anxious to know how the power about to be conferred by this Act is to be exercised. I have no hesitation in saying, that it will be acted upon to the full extent bestowed by Parliament. It is intended, if Parliament should give that power, to raise Prince Albert to a station next to that of the Queen; and this arrangement, however it may be opposed by others, has not been objected to by those peculiarly interested in point of rank. The noble Duke has moved, that the debate 578 be adjourned. I think that rather an ungracious course. I am of opinion it would be better to read the bill a second time, and reserve any objections for the next stage of the measure, when of course it would be perfectly open to any noble Lord to enter into a discussion of its merits. That is the course I propose. I am sorry that any objection was taken, or difficulty raised on this question; but I still feel it desirable to have it fully canvassed.
§ The Duke of Wellington
I repeat, that not a word is mentioned in the title of this bill as to the precedence of Prince Albeit, though every other naturalisation bill referred lo the subject of the rank of the Prince who was to be allied in marriage to the Queen.
§ The Duke of Wellington
Yes, and the precedence was always mentioned in the title; but nobody could have a notion from the title of this bill, that such a subject was included in it.
could bear testimony to the fact, that his noble and learned Friend left town at one o'clock to day, under the impression, that this bill was a mere matter of course. He quite agreed, that it was very unpleasant to have such a measure not expedited as much as possible, but for this the House was not to blame, but the framers of the measure. The question which arose was of great novelty in a constitutional point of view, as this measure conferred a precedence new in amount, and in a totally new way. In former bills the precise precedence of the Prince was fixed. This bill at once naturalized Prince Albert, and enabled her Majesty to affix him any rank she chose. He had a constitutional objection to such a course. It ought to be taken by Parliament, and not by the Crown. In his humble apprehension, it must be much more gratifying to the illustrious individual about to be united in marriage to the Queen, of whom he spoke with the highest respect, to have his rank conferred by the Parliament, which consisted of the Queen as well as the Lords and Commons, but of the Lords and Commons as well as of the Queen. When the Princess Charlotte married, she was heir presumptive to the Throne. The grandfather of the Princess was in an unfortunate state of mind, totally past recovery. Her father was King to all intents and purposes. He had been 579 separated from his wife for years and years, and consequently there was not the least chance of any further issue. There was this remarkable feature also in that case, which clearly proved, that the Princess was considered as the heir apparent; and as it was connected with that department over which his noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) had a control, he wondered he did not bear it in mind. What did Parliament do? It fixed 50,000l. a-year on her husband. Would any man living believe, that such a sum would be given to any other than the husband of the heir apparent? It was really a joke to say so. He should not enter into a discussion of this subject at present, merely premising, that he should not be in the slightest degree swayed by the fact, that no objection was taken to this step by the illustrious persons affected by it in point of rank. The matter was probably put to them in such a way that their delicacy would not permit them to oppose the arrangement which was proposed. Observe, too, that an infant's assent (that of the son of the King of Hanover) was necessary to be gained to this proposal. His noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor), conversant with courts of equity, would feel the force of this objection. Prince Albert would not only have precedence of the Dukes of the royal blood, but of the Prince of Wales. Suppose (which God forbid !) that the Queen had paid the debt of nature before any issue of the approaching marriage was born, we should have a King and a Prince of Wales, while Prince Albert would be placed in the anomalous position of a foreign naturalized Prince, the husband of a deceased Queen, with a higher rank than the Prince of Wales. He should support the noble Duke's motion.
§ The Lord Chancellor
This bill gave her Majesty the power of fixing the rank of Prince Albert, as that on the marriage of the Princess Charlotte conferred on the reigning Monarch the power of assigning a rank to Prince Leopold next to the Dukes of the blood royal. The omission of reference to the subject of precedence in the title of this bill was purely accidental; and he found, by looking at the Acts, that the noble Duke was quite right in asserting, that this point was noticed in the titles of former naturalization bills. He apprehended, that noble Lords had no objection to passing a naturalization 580 bill; and he, therefore, hoped, that the second reading would be passed, while the discussion on the matter alluded to could be reserved.
said, that under the clause the words were so wide, that the Queen might create Prince Albert King Consort. It was distinctly laid down by Lord Coke, that the Monarch of this country could create or invent any new title except the King of any portion of the country. If the noble Duke pressed his motion he should vote with him; but he was sure, that it was not the intention of the noble Duke to throw any captious obstacles in the way of the progress of the bill.
§ The Duke of Wellington
My Lords, I do not wish to discuss the principle of the measure. I think, however, that I was justified in making this application to your Lordships in consequence of the unfortunate arrangement in the title. But the noble and learned Lord asks, why not agree to the second reading, and make the objections in the committee? That is exactly the thing that ought not to be done. I do not think, that the House is now in a state to be able to come to a decision on the second reading of the bill. I object to the principle of the bill, but I will not go into a discussion on the present occasion. I propose, therefore, that this debate be adjourned. To-morrow will be too early a day to fix, and, as Thursday is generally considered a holiday, I must move, that this debate be adjourned to Friday.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, that he must object to giving a foreign Prince precedence over the blood royal. The noble Viscount said, that the illustrious persons next interested had not shown any disinclination to the proposed course. He wished to ask if the noble Viscount was sure of the fact as regarded an illustrious person not now in this country? He believed that he was summoned to this Parliament as the Duke of Cumberland.
§ Debate adjourned.