HL Deb 30 June 1879 vol 247 cc945-6

My Lords, the Question I have to put might have been suggested to anyone on this side of the House, or on the other, by something which fell from the noble Earl the Prime Minister a week ago, as to what might be done, at the proper time, to mitigate a great, a rare, a terrible bereavement. As to the merit or demerit of those who accompanied the late Prince on a fatal and memorable day opinions vary, controversies multiply, new details are produced, new inquiries are demanded; and the only true course would seem to be that of avoiding praise and blame with strict impartiality. That which is manifest, that which all classes of society, all shades of judgment, may unite in is, that the late Prince sacrificed his life in a manner glorious, if glory can belong to any human action, for the civilization of Africa, and for the service of Great Britain. But the essential point to be remarked is, that the debt of honour and of gratitude incurred by us falls not on individuals, even the best and highest, but on the community in general. I do full justice to the individuals and the personages who are organizing a Memorial, and, according to my humble means, I shall contribute to their effort. But, unless there is a national proceeding of some kind, the nation will not have acted on the subject. It will have continued mute, where its expression was desirable and necessary. If we glance at monuments in the Abbey, raised during the last century to Naval or Military excellence, their value is seen to reside, not so much in their sculptural or classical perfection, which has often been debated, but in the simple terms " accorded by the King and Parliament of Great Britain." As regards the late event, by a well-known form the Court has already done its part, and it rests for the public to endorse and share in the acknowledgment, by whatever mode the Government may deem the most emphatic and appropriate. At present, no more, perhaps, can be expected of the Government than a statement that some proceeding is contemplated; and that it will not make individual zeal, however just, seasonable, and well-directed in itself, a ground for overlooking a debt of State which can only be discharged by the Executive and Legislature. The noble Lord concluded by asking Her Majesty's Government, Whether it was intended by a public funeral, or any other form of national acknowledgment, to do honour to the memory of the late Prince Imperial?


It is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government—using the formal phrase in connection with such ceremonies—to propose a public funeral of the remains of the late lamented Prince; but what is contemplated at present is, that when his body arrives at Portsmouth, or, perhaps, I should rather say Sheerness, in the ship Orontes, it shall be transferred to another of Her Majesty's ships for conveyance to Woolwich, where it will be received with the honour and respect which it deserves. I am sure it will interest your Lordships to know that the Royal Artillery, with which Force the lamented Prince was connected, has expressed, in a most becoming manner, sympathy with those who are suffering under this great misfortune, and their anxiety to attend the funeral of one whom they regarded as a brother in arms. Members of the corps will accompany the body from Woolwich to Chislehurst, and then, in due course, to the grave. The date of the funeral must necessarily depend upon the ceremonies at Chislehurst, and which are not in any way under the control of the Government.