HL Deb 31 March 1884 vol 286 cc1118-21

My Lords, it was my painful duty on Friday last to announce to your Lordships the death of His Royal Highness Prince Leopold, the Duke of Albany—a death rendered all the more lamentable by its suddenness and the youth of him who has thus passed away. I rise now to ask your Lordships to join in the Addresses of Condolence of which I have given Notice it was my intention to move. Ten years ago, the, question of a Parlia- mentary Grant gave occasion to the Leaders of both the political Parties in the two Houses of Parliament to speak of Prince Leopold in words of praise such as are not often applicable to so young a man. Public opinion has since that time pronounced its verdict, that there was no mere flattery and exaggeration in the words which were at that time used. Ill-health, which so often destroys the energy and faculties of its victims, in Prince Leopold's case only turned his thoughts into intellectual channels. He studied letters, science, and art in different lines; and, in imitation of his illustrious Father, and very much in the same spirit, he applied the results of those studies in persistent efforts to raise all classes, and especially the lower and poorer classes, in this country to a higher level of enjoyment and of knowledge. It was only three years ago that His Royal Highness became a Member of this House, and if he did not take a leading part in your Lordships' discussions it was exclusively owing to that judicious determination of the Members of the present Royal Family that it is better that they should not be mixed up in political and Party strife. In all other respects he was qualified to take a foremost part among your Lordships—he had the voice, the manner, the culture, and the thought necessary for a first-rate speaker. He took great interest in political questions, in home politics, in foreign politics, and especially in Colonial politics. He gave frequent assistance to the Queen in Her Majesty's manifold daily political work, and his own strong wish—I may say his concentrated ambition—was to be employed in the service of the State. I do not think it is here or now necessary for me to dwell upon the merits of his private life. There are many of your Lordships who know hill well his capacity for friendship, his affectionate feelings, and his simplicity and modesty of bearing, although associated with the consciousness of mental power. I ask your Lordships to join in these Addresses. They express not only your own feelings, as one of the greatest Bodies in the State, but they are typical of the universal sympathy full in this country, and in the great Dependencies of this country—of sympathy with the widowed Mother, the most prosperous Sovereign who ever ruled over this country, but who yet has received such heavy blows in her domestic relations; and they express feelings of sympathy with that young Widow, soon about to become for the second time a mother, who has seen in one short moment shattered the unalloyed happiness of a marriage which was based on mutual attachment and on love. My Lords. I beg to move the Address which stands in my name.


My Lords, I rise to perform the melancholy task of seconding, on behalf of the noble Lords who sit on this side of the House, the Motion which the noble Earl has made. I am sure that all your Lordships will be anxious at this moment to proffer your sympathy to the Sovereign and to the Widow, and to give expression to feelings which have found voice, not only among every class in England, but wherever the English tongue is spoken. The bitterness of a bereavement lies in the sudden contrast that a few hours may make, and there never was a contrast more sudden or more terrible than this. An exalted position, high intellectual powers, rapidly unfolding gilts of eloquence and culture, great popularity, a recent and happy marriage—all these things were his on Thursday night, and were all swept away in the few short hours of Friday morning. If ever the sympathy of subjects can carry any balm of consolation for so great a grief to those who have suffered so suddenly, I am sure it will be freely offered, and I am sure it will be kindly and graciously received on the present occasion, even though our words can do little to efface the sting which death has left. My Lords, the loss is not merely an individual loss; it is a loss to the whole nation, and to every class of it. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) has dwelt in vivid but fitting terms on the great powers possessed by the deceased Prince, and on his great anxiety to use them for the Public Service. He had given proof—though he was not able to do it in this House—he had given proof outside of many of the gifts which he had inherited from his Father, and which, by constant industry and culture, he was developing, and which promised a brilliant future. It was his lot to take part in many movements for the elevation and benefit of the people of this country. He threw himself into them with cordiality and heartiness, and, in addressing himself to subjects which, by the very generality of their interest, might have a tendency to become common-place, it was always his gift to touch, in his speeches upon these subjects, some new chord of sympathy, and to give proof of special penetration, of fresh and unhackneyed thought. There was every prospect, if life had been spared, of a career of devoted service to the public, of great and singular talents in a position singularly fitted for their effective exercise. All that hope has been cut off. We have now only to reverence his memory and mourn his loss. In carrying this Vote of Condolence to the foot of the Throne, and to the Wife whom he has left behind him, your Lordships will be expressing your sorrow for a grief which has smitten not only the Throne, but all classes of this country. Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to express the deep concern of this House at the great loss which Her Majesty has sustained by the death of His Royal Highness Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, fourth son of Her Majesty the Queen, and to condole with Her Majesty on this melancholy occasion: To assure Her Majesty that this House will over fool the warmest interest in whatever concerns Her Majesty's domestic relations; and to declare the ardent wishes of this House for the happiness of Her Majesty and of Her family." —(The Earl Granville.)

On Question, agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Ordered, That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.