HL Deb 25 July 1878 vol 242 cc202-5

Order of the Day for the Queen's Message to be taken into consideration, read.


My Lords, in asking you to consider the Queen's Gracious Message, I have to move— That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to thank Her Majesty for the most gracious communication which it has pleased Her Majesty to make to this House of the intended marriage between His Royal Highness Arthur William Patrick Albert, Duke of Con-naught and Strathearne, Earl of Sussex, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Her Royal Highness Princess Louise Margaret Alexandra Victoria Agnes of Prussia, third daughter of His Royal Highness Prince Fried-rich Carl Nickolaus of Prussia, and to assure Her Majesty that this House, always feeling the most lively interest in any event which will contribute to the happiness of the Royal Family, will concur in those measures which may be proposed for the consideration of this House to enable Her Majesty to make a further provision for His Royal Highness on this occasion. My Lords, the duty and affection which your Lordships' House, and I may say the country generally, have always felt towards the Royal Family are sentiments I need not at all dilate upon. They have their origin, I think, in two principal reasons—the one public, and the other private. The first is the conviction of the country that the sustained order of our national life, which characterizes this country, and which is the Lest security for the liberty and welfare of the community, is mainly owing to our Monarchical institutions; and the private reason is that I think the undisguised details which reach the people of the domestic life of our Royal Family are such as to excite the liveliest interest in the English people, who are always interested in the happiness of the hearth. The lady who is betrothed to our Prince is the daughter of an illustrious and Imperial House; but I believe that these splendid accidents have nothing to do with the union which is soon about to be solemnized. It is a union of the heart and of the affections. The time has gone by when the balance of power formed one of the clauses of Royal marriage treaties. With regard to that lady, I believe there are some noble Lords present who have had the advantage of making her acquaintance, and I know they will agree with me that I use no language of flattery when I say she is distinguished by her intelligence and her accomplishments, and for winning simplicity, both of thought and manner. The Duke of Connaught is known to us all. He sits amongst us as his Peers. He is known to the country for his spotless life. He is devoted to a noble Profession. He is not a soldier of parade, but of service. When the terrible contingency of war seemed to be hovering over this country, the Duke of Con-naught was the first to express a hope that he might be allowed to be sent forth to defend the honour and the interests of his country. I am happy to think that this terrible contingency has now disappeared. That is a circumstance which will only add to the satisfaction the country will feel at this union. I, therefore, beg now to place in the hands of your Lordships the Address which I have moved.


I should like to add a few words to what has fallen from the noble Earl opposite. I think I speak for those behind me, as well as for myself, when I say that I entirely concur in the sentiments he has expressed with regard to the loyalty of this country, and the value which the nation places upon our Monarchial institutions. In speaking of Royal or high marriages, the difficulty is to avoid unmeaning compliment towards the persons about to contract them. Now, my Lords, about seven years ago, it was my lot to propose to this House an Address somewhat similar to the present, in which Parliament was asked to make some provision for Prince Arthur, as he then was. At the time, I remarked very shortly that there was scarcely a young man of any class who had secured more completely the goodwill of those with whom he had associated, either in his own Family or Profession, or in the society in which he moved; and I alluded to the good service he had done the Royal Family by his demeanour in North America, which had largely aided in strengthening and maintaining the feeling of attachment borne by the people of the Dominion towards the Sovereign and this country. I venture to think that now, after the lapse of seven years, no one can say that they were words of flattery on my part; for the illustrious Prince has during that period fully maintained the good opinion of him which I then expressed. The noble Earl opposite has alluded to His Royal Highness's connection with the Army. The Duke of Connaught is one of the few persons serving in all arms of the Service; and in each one of each he has been equally appreciated, his popularity being especially increased by his demeanour and excellent conduct during his sojourn in the sister Kingdom of Ireland. I have not the advantage of a personal knowledge of the illustrious lady to whom he is about to be allied; but I understand, from what has been said, that the noble Earl's statement is entirely shared in by those who do know her. It is a great satisfaction to us to remember how much those Princesses who have become Englishwomen by marriage with the sons of our Sovereign have endeared themselves to the country of their adoption, and there is every reason to believe that the same happy result will be accomplished in the present instance.


As a military Member of this House, and as one who has seen something of the service of the Duke of Connaught, I desire to say that the opinion I have heard expressed by officers of all classes is that His Royal Highness, by his careful, punctual, and zealous performance of his duties in every branch of the Army, had shown his determination to make himself an efficient soldier for the service of his country. At Gibraltar, the officers there—never thinking that their words would be repeated here —spoke of him in the highest terms as a subordinate officer connected with the Adjutant General's Department—a post with which he identified himself so as to win the approbation, not only of the General commanding, but of every officer with whom he came in contact. I feel that your Lordships will pardon my occupying your time in saying these few words, to which I will only add that the conduct of His Royal Highness has afforded the brightest example to every young officer in the Service.

Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message of Tuesday last considered accordingly.

Then an humble Address of thanks and concurrence ordered, nemine dissentiente, to be presented to Her Majesty thereupon; the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.