HL Deb 08 August 1901 vol 99 cc6-10

My Lords, I rise to move that an Address of sympathy be presented to His Majesty on the death of Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Frederick of Germany. The history which has given rise to this motion is a pathetic one. When the then Princess Royal, afterwards German Empress, left these shores in 1857, there was no person, either of contemporary experience or in history, before whom a brighter prospect extended itself of life and of all those things that could make life desirable. She had a devoted husband, himself one of the noblest characters of his generation, who probably centred upon himself more admiration than any man in his rank or in any rank in Europe. She had every prospect of becoming the Consort of the absolute Emperor of the greatest of the Continental Powers. She had every hope that she would share fully in his illustrious position, and in no small degree in the power that he wielded. This was before her eyes for nearly thirty years, and at the time she had all the enjoyments which were derived from her own great abilities, her own splendid artistic talents, and from the power which she exercised over the artistic, aesthetic, and intellectual life of Germany. She occupied a quite unexampled position. And then suddenly came the blow, first on her husband, and then on herself, of that fell disease which probably is the most formidable of all to which flesh is heir. Her dream of happiness, and usefulness, and glory was almost suddenly cut short. The blow which struck her husband struck herself in even greater degree; and she felt—she could not fail to feel—how deeply she shared in all the disappointment, all the suffering, which attached itself then to his history. And as her life went on, after he had been Emperor only for a few days, and while she was spending her life in retirement, necessarily thinking of the past which had been taken away from her, her health too failed. As she fell under the same blow, she passed through years of suffering to which the sympathy of all who were connected with her or who knew of her was richly paid. And after these many years have passed, the end has come at last. We have every reason to sympathise deeply with His Majesty and with the German Emperor in the terrible loss which they have sustained, and for the sad and pathetic history in which they have played a part, or, at all events, in which they have been sad and powerless observers. She was deeply valued in this country by those who knew her, and they were very many. Her artistic and intellectual charms were, we all know, of no common order, and she spread her influence over all who came within her reach. Her gradual disappearance from the scene was watched with the deepest sorrow and sympathy by numbers in her own country and this. There never was a case where our tender of sympathy could be made with more sincerity than in the present instance. I would that it could be of any practical, advantage. We have only to assure our Sovereign how deeply we feel for the sorrow which he has sustained, and to assure also the son of this distinguished, lady how fully we sympathise with the bereavement which he has undergone. We can only do it with the assurance of our great sincerity and of our regret that to this point this lamentable history should have come.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to express the deep concern of this House at the great loss which His Majesty has sustained by the death of His Majesty's sister, Her Majesty the Empress and Queen Frederick of Germany and Prussia, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland, and to condole with His Majesty on this melancholy occasion; and to pray His Majesty that he will be graciously pleased to express to His Imperial Majesty, William, German Emperor, King of Prussia, the profound sympathy of this House with the Imperial and Royal Family; to assure His Majesty that this House will ever feel the warmest interest in whatever concerns His Majesty's domestic relations, and to declare the ardent wishes of this House for the happiness of His Majesty and His Family.—(The Lord Privy Seal, M. Salisbury.)


My Lords, the noble Marquess has, with the eloquence and the appropriate language which always falls from his lips, moved the Address which you have before you. I can add nothing to what the noble Marquess has said; and yet at the same time it is right that those who sit on the opposite side of the House should make expression on this solemn occasion of their views of the motion. It falls to my lot as the temporary leader of this side of the House to do so. I wish the task were in better hands. In moments of this sort we have first to consider those from whose family a beloved member has been removed; and next it is our duty, as far as we can, to record our own estimation of the life and work of the person who has left us. The whole nation joins with us in mourning the death of this illustrious lady, who, though adopted by marriage into a Royal family abroad, was born a Princess of this land. Her Imperial Majesty had no ordinary character. Brought up with the greatest care and solicitude by her Royal and devoted parents, she early showed and had ever since showed the highest accomplishments, not only in art, but in literature. She was herself an artist of no small merit, and her power of criticism and of influence in art was even of a higher order. But in this age which has been so remarkable for the enormous number of persons who have joined in endeavouring to alleviate the sufferings of the human race, whether in peace or war, I will venture to think that no one stands in a higher position than that occupied by the Empress Victoria of Germany. During these wars in which her illustrious husband played such a splendid part she exerted herself to do all that she could to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded; and she has ever in peace used her endeavours to pro mote the same objects among the suffering poor of her country. No one, I am sure, will be remembered in future with more affection and devotion on this account than her late Majesty. She was always sympathetic and energetic with regard to other matters. There was nothing which stirred her sympathies and energies more than the education and improvement of the sex to which she belonged. She did much in that respect in her adopted country. But we cannot consider her life without remembering the beautiful simplicity and earnestness of it. She was devoted to duty. Although she suffered intensely, as the noble Marquess has said, during her life, not only when her noble husband was afflicted with the terrible disease which cut him off, and through whose illness she showed heroic devotion, but through the sad months and even years during which her own malady afflicted her she showed a patient endurance which, I am sure, will always remain an example for mankind. I cannot but refer to her great charm in private as well as in public life. It so happened that very early in my life, before her Royal Highness was married, I was honoured by making her acquaintance. I need hardly say that it is only on rare occasions that I have had the privilege of continuing that acquaintance but even within the last few years I have from time to time seen Her Majesty, and I shall always recollect, as one of the most delightful memories of my life, the charm and interest of her conversation. I do not wish to say more about this illustrious lady. This is the third occasion within thirteen months on which we have had to approach His Majesty the King to condole with him on a grievous loss in his family. Brother, mother, sister, to all of whom he was devoted, have been taken from that family circle where we know all the members are devoted to each other. We cannot find often in human life such frequent sorrows in such a short time. We give our earnest and warmest sympathy to His Majesty in the sorrow which has now befallen him. The whole of the nation, I am sure, will join with us in doing so; and I am quite sure that we shall also rejoice that in this address we approach His Imperial Majesty the German Emperor, who has just lost his illustrious mother. Not only do we admire him in the great position which he holds at the head of the German nation, but we always shall remember with deep gratitude the affection and attention that he showed during those sad days which preceded the death of our Queen. We therefore join heartily in the Address which the noble Marquess has moved, and which I have the greatest pleasure in seconding.

On Question, agreed to, nemine dissentiente. Ordered that the said Address be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with the White Staves.