HL Deb 01 August 1910 vol 6 cc593-7


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Denman.)


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I interpose for a few moments in respect of this Bill. I am aware that you have other matter in anticipation which is of more interest to a great many members of your Lordships' House, but there is a point in convection with this Bill which I think ought to be taken note of. I say taken note of advisedly, because I am aware that no change can be made in the Bill in this House whatever may appear to have been overlooked in its composition. What I submit is that there is a case which has not been considered by the framers of the Bill, and which ought to have been taken into consideration in the settlement effected. It is a point which ought now to he settled, instead of being left to be discovered at a later time when it might be connected with very embarrassing circumstances.

This Bill is of a far-reaching character. It not only provides for the ordinary Civil List of the Sovereign, but contains also provisions with respect to his children and even. a provision drafted in consideration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales. Still further, it provides for the contingency of the Prince of Wales dying after marriage and leaving the Princess of Wales a widow.

It provides an income for the Princess of Wales in that event—an event which we should all deplore. That partakes of what I may call a large family arrangement, and it is an unusual part of a. Civil List Bill. The arrangements to be made on the marriage of the eldest son of the Sovereign are usually left until that event is at hand. In this case there is no direct provision with respect to the marriage, though there is in the Bill the provision, to which I have called attention, with respect to the Princess of Wales if she is left a widow.

I imagine that the reason no provision is made with respect to the Prince of Wales's marriage is that the Prince of Wales is in the enjoyment of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, and those revenues have, thanks to very careful management, considerably increased. They now amount to something like£80,000 per annum, and may soon be expected to reach£100,000. It may be within the memory of your Lordships that when the late King was married£100,000 was the amount provided by Parliament for his household maintenance, made up of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall and such sum as it was then necessary for Parliament to vote. The sum of£100,000 was then regarded as sufficient for the establishment of the married Heir Apparent. I suppose it is thought that the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, which will soon reach that amount, may be left as the future endowment of the Heir Apparent when he married.

It becomes, therefore, necessary to consider what is the situation of the Duchy of Cornwall and the law governing its passage by descent. The Duchy of Cornwall differs from other dignities in this country. It is not only the creation of the Royal prerogative. It is really by adoption, if not by creation, a Parliamentary institution; and the Duchy is limited to the flius primogenitus of the Crown. That has, of course, received construction in the course of the centuries that have since elapsed. The question arose whether, supposing the eldest born son of the King died in youth, the second born son became primogenitus. It is now conclusively established that the second born son in these circumstances becomes primogenitus in law and succeeds t o the Duchy of Cornwall. The point arose in conned ion with Henry VIII, on the death of his brother, Prince Arthur, a case in regard to which there was a conflict of testimony. The point arose again on the death of Henry, the eldest son of James I. In that case it was decided that Charles, afterwards Charles I., became flius primogenitus, and he became Duke of Cornwall and enjoyed the revenues of the Duchy. Our present King also was the second born son of his predecessor. That was devolution from brother to brother.

But there is another case which might become of great practical importance, which is not recognised in the Bill, and which, apparently, has not been in the consideration of the draftsman. If the eldest son of the King dies, leaving not only a widow but a son, does that son become flius primogenitus? It is well recognised in our legal history that the son does not succeed the father in this case, as the brother succeeds the brother. It is a contingency which we all hope will never happen in this case, yet it is one which within the sad experience of many of your Lordships has happened. We all know instances in which the eldest son has died in the lifetime of his father, leaving a grandson to be the heir to the grandfather. But in the case of Royalty that grandson would not succeed to the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall. The Black Prince died in the lifetime of his father, and Richard of Bordeaux did not succeed to the Duchy of Cornwall, although he was, by a singular anomaly, created after his father's death both Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.

In the history of our Royal Family an instance has occurred much more near to us. On the death of Frederick Prince of Wales in the lifetime of George II, Frederick's son, afterwards George III, was created Prince of Wales, but did not succeed to the Duchy of Cornwall and never enjoyed the revenues of the Duchy, and those revenues, under the legal interpretation of the Statute creating the Duchy, reverted to the King. The consequence is that if such an unhappy event occurred as the death of the present Prince of Wales, and he left a son, the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, which would amount to£100,000 or more, would pass to the King, leaving the grandson unprovided for. The King would receive an immediate addition of about£100,000 a year to his Civil List, practically doubling his Privy Purse. No doubt if such an event happened steps would have to be taken to provide for the contingency; but it is rather remarkable that this contingency, which might become one of considerable importance, is not provided for in this Bill. I cannot but think that this contingency, somehow or other, did not come within the contemplation of the framers of this Bill. They overlooked it perhaps. When the surrender of the Royal estates was effected for the purposes of the Civil List, there would have been no hesitation, I imagine, in coupling with it a surrender of this contingent remainder, this being made, of course, the basis of an arrangement for the sustentation of the children of the Prince of Wales in the unfortunate event of the Prince of Wales dying in the lifetime of his father. That would have been within the scope of this Bill according to the idea in which it has been framed. But nothing, of course, can be done now. I thought it right, however, to draw your Lordships' attention to the point, so that in future, if it ever became possible to reconsider it, the matter might be taken in hand, and that it might at all events be prepared for by knowledge beforehand. It ought not to be dealt with in circumstances when ignorance and other conditions might exist which would render a settlement agreeable to all parties at that time a matter of some difficulty.


My Lords, in his interesting speech my noble friend has alluded to a possible, though not, I think, a probable contingency, and one which I sincerely hope may never occur. The point, as I understand it, which he has raised is whether provision should be made to meet the contingency of the eldest son of the Sovereign dying during the lifetime of the Sovereign and leaving a son. In such a case, although the son would be Heir Apparent to the Throne, he would not be Duke of Cornwall, nor would he be entitled to the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall. Under the Charter the settlement of the Duchy of Cornwall is limited to the eldest son of the King. Under the present practice the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, when there is no Duke of Cornwall, go to the Crown; and I may mention that Queen Victoria enjoyed this revenue for the first four years of her reign, before the birth of King Edward. The point has been raised elsewhere with a view to making some provision for diminishing the amount of the Civil List in case the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, on such a contingency happening, were paid to the Crown; but this contingency is so remote that I think it might be left to be dealt with by Parliament when the occasion arose, if ever it did arise. It was much less remote in 1901, when this matter was before. Parliament, than it is now, and it was not considered necessary to make any alteration then; and still less, I think, is it needful to make any alteration at the present time. Therefore, even were this House able to make any alteration, I doubt whether your Lordships would desire that it should be made.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.