HL Deb 25 January 1878 vol 237 cc454-6

rose to ask the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government a Question of which he had given Notice a day or two ago —namely, Whether the recent mission of the Earl of Roden to Rome to attend the funeral of the late King Victor Emmanuel II. was intended as a tribute of Her Most Gracious Majesty's personal respect, or whether it was meant to represent the feeling of Her Majesty's Government and of this Empire towards a Monarch of Her Majesty's House, the Sovereign of a great Constitutional country, and our faithful Ally during the Crimean War? Considering how that matter affected the susceptibilities of a great nation, some explanation was, he thought, required. He had reason to believe that very distinguished individuals belonging to the English Army would have been willing to attend the funeral. The Crown Prince of Germany and a Marshal of Franco who was with the Italian Army in the Crimean War, together with the son of her President, were sent to represent their respective countries, while this country was represented by a Member of the Royal Household. He was quite sure that no slight to the Italian nation was intended by that fact; but that it arose in deference to precedents and time-honoured customs which were too much respected in this country. He admitted that, if a Peer were to be selected, no more fitting Member of their Lordships' House than the Earl of Roden could have been chosen; but it had been represented to him that the Italians resident in London and the English resident in Italy felt deeply the fact that at the funeral of the first King of United Italy — the first King of Liberal and Constitutional Italy—the first King, he might almost say, of Protestant Italy, as compared with another Power that ruled in the same Kingdom—England was not represented by a Member of the Royal House or by some of those gallant and distinguished soldiers who wore the Star of Italy on their breast. The fact that the duty had been intrusted to a simple Lord of the Bed Chamber—although a more amiable and better-hearted Peer could not be found—required some explanation. The late King had died full of honours and in the prime of manhood, and his death was as deeply lamented throughout Italy as that of the great and good Prince who died some years ago in this country.


My Lords, no Notice appears on the Paper with regard to the subject which the noble Lord has introduced, although I saw a Notice in reference to it some days since. I am not, therefore, prepared to enter into the question at any length, but will give your Lordships such information in respect of it as I possess. I believe that all the strict rules of etiquette observed and expected on such an occasion as that referred to wore observed in the appointment of a Peer, a Member of the Royal Household, to fill the functions which fell to the lot of the Earl of Roden. The noble Lord who has just spoken seems to think that it was a duty which should have been entrusted rather to a Prince of the Blood or some one equally distinguished. I would observe that ceremonials such as Royal funerals, marriages, and coronations are now very numerous among foreign nations, and attendance is expected at them by those who are Representatives of Royalty in a far greater degree than in any preceding generation—a fact which probably may be attributed to the rapid means of communication which now prevail; and if we laid down as a rule that on occasions of this kind Princes of the Blood only should represent Her Majesty it would be quite impossible, unless the Royal Family was far more numerous than they are at present in England, to fulfil the wishes of the noble Lord. I think I need hardly say or assure your Lordships that nothing could be further from the thoughts of Her Majesty and the Government than the idea of treating the memory of the late King Victor Emmanuel with indifference. The late King was not only a personal friend of the Queen, but her faithful Ally, and a Sovereign whose memory Her Majesty faithfully cherishes, and who in life she delighted, to honour. So far from there being any feeling of dissatisfaction with the appointment—under, of course, the advice of the Government—of the Earl of Roden, a Member of the Royal Household, to be Her Majesty's Representative, I can inform the House that, on the contrary, Her Majesty has conferred upon the new King of Italy the greatest distinction in her power—namely, the Order of the Garter—and that that high distinction received from so illustrious a Monarch as our own has been appreciated by the King of Italy in the most marked manner. That will show that no feeling of the kind suggested can subsist between the two Royal Families, and I believe the sentiments of the Royal Families respectively represent the feelings of the two nations.