HL Deb 31 May 1842 vol 63 cc995-9
The Duke of Wellington

said: Your Lordships must have heard with sorrow and indignation, the reports circulated of an attempt having been made last evening upon the life of her Majesty. It falls to my lot, on the part of her Majesty's Government, to inform your Lordships that such an attempt was last evening made on her Majesty's life as she was returning in her carriage, accompanied by his Royal Highness the Prince Consort, to her palace of Buckingham House, which attempt, by the blessing of Divine Providence, failed. It was made by a person stationed within a short distance of her Majesty's carriage, who fired a pistol at her Majesty. Her Majesty, as I have stated, by the blessing of Divine Providence, escaped unhurt. The person who committed this act—this atrocious act, I will call it—was immediately taken into custody, and his crime is now undergoing the usual course of legal inquiry, and in due form, he will be brought to justice. I avoid entering into the details of this painful transaction; I confine myself simply to the performance of the duty of stating the fact to your Lordships, and of moving your Lordships to concur in presenting to her Majesty an address of congratulation upon the occasion of this atrocious and treasonable attempt upon the life of her Majesty, which, by the interposition of Divine Providence, was defeated. I will, therefore, now propose, that such an address be agreed to, and I will afterwards move, that it be communicated to the House of Commons in a conference, for the management of which, Members of that House will be appointed. I recommend that the address should be in the following terms:— MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN; We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords spiritual and temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave humbly to approach your Majesty's Throne, to express our abhorrence of the late treasonable attempt against your Majesty's sacred person, and our heartfelt congratulations to your Majesty and to our country on your Majesty's happy preservation from the danger to which your Majesty has been exposed. Attached to your Majesty by every sentiment of loyalty, by a sense of the benefits we derive from your Majesty's just and mild Government, we acknowledge with gratitude and humility the merciful interposition of Divine Providence which has been manifested on this occasion; and we make our earnest prayer to Almighty God, that he will confer on your Majesty every blessing, and continue to watch over and guard a life so justly dear to us.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

said, I hardly know whether it be excusable in me for a single moment to prevent the adoption of a proceeding which must meet with the universal concurrence of this House; but in the absence of a noble Friend of mine, who I am sure would have been present on this occasion if he had not been at such a distance from London as prevented his becoming apprised of the event to which the attention of your Lordships has been directed, I trust I may be permitted merely to say, that every sentence uttered by the noble Duke on this sorrowful occasion, must find an echo in every one of your Lordships' bosoms. There can be but one feeling; there can be no hesitation; there can scarcely be a thought or the possibility of doubt as to the fit course of proceeding to be adopted; and it is quite a sufficient ground for that proceeding, that the noble Duke has stated a fact of so grave and so melancholy a nature as that which has become but too well known to your Lordships and to the country. It is far from my wish, or my intention in the present stage, to put any further question on the subject to the noble Duke; to ask. for information in the present state of the inquiry would be improper, and if required, it would be most expediently withheld. At the same time, with the feelings I entertain, it is impossible for one to avoid adding a hope, that after giving way to the feeling which prompts your Lordships immediately to go up to the throne, with the expression of the warm and deep sentiments common to us all, you will hereafter feel it your duty as legislators, not to stop here, but when you have contemplated the source, whatever it may be, of this extraordinary crime, to direct your attention, if it can be usefully so bestowed, to the causes which may have led to that which is as great a phenomenon in human nature, if we look to the absence of all motive, as it is the greatest of crimes, if we look to the character of the consequences which might unhappily, but happily did not, follow the attempt. At present, however, there can be but one feeling in the House, and we ought not to lose a moment in recording and giving effect to that feeling. I beg leave, therefore, to second the motion of the noble Duke.

The Duke of Wellington

moved, that a committee be appointed to draw up an address to her Majesty.

Lord Portman

My Lords, I beg your Lordships will allow me to interpose for a single moment, in order to state a fact which will tend to increase, if any fact can, the sentiments of gratitude to the Almighty, and of affection and admiration for her Majesty, which we all feel, and are about to express in the address proposed by the noble Duke. Her Majesty, my Lords, relying with full confidence on the protection of the Almighty, to shield her from any danger to which she might be exposed, mindful of the safety of those engaged in her Majesty's service, and probably thinking that the ladies who generally accompany her in her afternoon drives might yesterday run some risk, abstained from commanding the attendance of any of them. Whatever danger was to be encountered, her Majesty seemed to have resolved that no other lady than herself should be exposed to it. As an individual, my Lords, whose nearest and dearest relative is in waiting on her Majesty, and who might, but for her Majesty's magnanimous determination, have on that occasion been placed in a situation of peril, your Lordships will, I hope, think it not unbecoming in me to have mentioned a circumstance which is so truly ennobling to her Majesty, and which must render her still dearer not only to those amongst us whose relatives are in her service, but, I may venture to add, to all her subjects.

Lord Brougham:

On the subject of the proposed address there can be but one feeling in doors and out of doors; but I beg to have it distinctly understood that it is my deliberate opinion, in reference to what fell from my noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne), that the law of England, as it at present stands, is abundantly sufficient to repress such atrocities, and by condign punishment to prevent a repetition of them.

The Marquess of Lansdowne:

I did not mean to refer to the necessity of any new legislative enactment, but merely to say that all the circumstances connected with this crime should be minutely probed and made known for the satisfaction of the public mind.

Lord Brougham

I am not to understand my noble Friend, hen, to contemplate any change in the criminal law in consequence of this melancholy and atrocious event.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

Certainly not.

The question that a committee be appointed to prepare an address to her Majesty carried, and the committee named, the Peers forming it retired for the purpose of drawing up the address, and the House adjourned during pleasure.

In a few minutes the committee, headed by his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, returned to the House, and the Lord Chancellor resumed his seat on the woolsack.

The Duke of Cambridge

said, that he had been authorised by the committee of their Lordships to propose the address to her Majesty, which was precisely in the terms previously read by the Duke of Wellington.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

moved that it be communicated to the House of Commons, as the concurrence of that House desired.

Question carried.

The following noble Lords were appointed to communicate the address in a conference with the Commons:—

The Lord President of the Council; the Lord Privy Seal; the Duke of Richmond; the Duke of Wellington; the Marquess of Lansdowne; the Marquess of Normanby, and the Bishop of London.

Conference held, and

Lord Wharncliffe

reported, that the Peers appointed had met the managers on behalf of the Commons, and had placed in the hands of Sir Robert Peel the address to the Queen to which their Lordships had agreed.

Shortly afterwards, Sir Robert Peel and others brought up from the Commons the assent of that House to the address voted by the Lords to her Majesty.

On the motion of the Earl of Shaftesbury the joint address was ordered to be presented to her Majesty by the whole House, and that the Lords with white staves wait upon her Majesty to know her Majesty's pleasure when she would receive the address. It was subsequently announced that her Majesty would receive the address at three o'clock on the following day.

Back to