§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, it is my duty first to move an humble Address to His Majesty, the terms of which with your Lordships' permission I will read:
§ "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to convey to His Majesty the deep sympathy felt by this House in the grievous affliction which He has sustained by the death of the late King, His Majesty's Father, of blessed and glorious memory:
§ "To assure His Majesty that the example of unselfish public service which our late Sovereign displayed and His untiring endeavours for the welfare of all His people, will ever be held in affectionate and grateful remembrance:
§ "To express to His Majesty our loyal devotion to His Royal Person and our firm conviction that under the blessing of Divine Providence He will, throughout His Reign, promote the happiness and protect the liberties of all His people."
§ Subsequently I desire to move the following Address to Her Majesty Queen Mary:
§ "That an Address of condolence be sent to Her Majesty tendering to Her the deep sympathy of this House in Her bereavement, and assuring Her that this House shares Her sorrow in the irreparable loss which the nation has sustained and that all its members will ever hold in their hearts towards Her Majesty the deepest feelings of reverence and affection."364
§ My Lords, we meet here this afternoon, as it were, to say farewell in Parliament to one whom we can ill afford to lose. For more than five and twenty-years King George was Sovereign and truly father of all who owed allegiance to Him, and we can as yet scarcely measure the full significance of the place He had come to hold amongst us. These islands have known Kings from the beginnings of their history, but I doubt whether throughout the centuries there has been any whose lot was cast in times at home and abroad of such continuing anxiety. Always mindful of the obligation laid upon Him to be the guardian of His country's rights and liberties, and faithful to the spirit of the Constitution of which He was the sworn upholder, King George constantly pointed the path of moderation when the fires of Party strife blazed dangerously. In the hard test of war we recall how much of the will to endurance was inspired by His leadership and example, as in more recent years we acknowledge how greatly it was due to His encouragement that the nation never lost confidence in itself to win through the darkest days of industrial depression. Strong in His own faith, He was able to inspire others with a courage which matched His own: and so events that brought adversity to other Monarchs served only here to strengthen the foundations of the Throne, and to increase the stature of the King.
§ But His death has been more than the passing of a great King. In every sense of the word He and those He ruled belonged to one another, for the years had brought a singular quality of understanding from which grew the most complete confidence between them. Throughout His Reign His subjects had seen in what fashion He devoted himself to the multifarious duties of His high station, and came more and more to realise what it meant to them and to all they cared for most that such an example should be set before them. Therefore to-day there is no home under the British flag that does not miss His presence and feel a sense of personal loss.
§ First gentleman in the land, He taught us that only he who serves can rightly claim that title; it was through service that He became the familiar friend and 365 counsellor of all His people. They learnt by countless acts of pimple kindness that no interest, sorrow, or joy of theirs was outside His thought, or too humble for His sympathy, and they were not slow to repay so great a debt by spontaneous and deep affection. Something of this they had an opportunity of showing last year, when all classes of the King's subjects in all parts of His Dominions seized the occasion to manifest the full measure and strength of what they felt towards Him. It was characteristic of the King's natural humility that this exhibition of the Empire's love should have been to Him at all surprising. The words He spoke only last Christmas, a short month ago, from Sandringham showed that at last He realised what we then, by the only means open to us all, had meant to say to Him, and with what feeling He had received our message.
§ My Lords, the King dies, but the King's place is filled, for the Crown is the keystone of our Imperial fellowship, and that which is the hallowed object of the highest loyalty of the whole British Commonwealth, the very symbol of its unity, can never die. King Edward comes to the Throne no stranger here or in the wider confines of His Empire. We have long known how powerful is the appeal made to His sympathies by everything that affects the lot of the least fortunate of His fellow-men. As did His Father, He brings to His new responsibilities a personal knowledge gained by direct contacts that is of inestimable worth. While to-day we sympathise with the King in the loss of a beloved. Father, and proffer to Him our respectful loyalty on the occasion of His Accession, most earnestly do we pray that His Reign may be long in years and abundantly blessed in the love and prosperity of all His subjects.
§ My Lords, at this time there is one thought uppermost in all our minds, which finds expression in the Address that I have the honour to move to Her Majesty Queen Mary. We must naturally be reluctant to intrude upon the privacy of the great sorrow felt by those nearest to the late King, and we all know how limited is the capacity of mere human sympathy to redeem the sadness of it. Yet none the less we would wish to convey to Her Majesty how deeply we have revered that royal partnership, perfect 366 in the intimacy of home as in the full light of public life, which death has so suddenly dissolved. There will have been none of your Lordships present in Westminster Hall just now who had not in mind the last time King George came to His Palace of Westminster and addressed His Parliament in that historic Hall of William Rufus. And those of us who then attended on His Majesty will not soon forget that part of His Speech where He paid tribute to the help of Her, who had been Queen and wife for so many years, and by that acknowledgment gave the world a glimpse of what Her help had been. My Lords, we may humbly ask Almighty God to help and comfort Her, and to give healing power to the tide of sympathy and gratitude that flows to Her from the hearts of all Her people. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to convey to His Majesty the deep sympathy felt by this House in the grievous affliction which He has sustained by the death of the late King, His Majesty's Father, of blessed and glorious memory;
§ To assure His Majesty that the example of unselfish public service which our late Sovereign displayed and His untiring endeavours for the welfare of all His people, will ever be held in affectionate and grateful remembrance:
§ To express to His Majesty our loyal devotion to His Royal Person and our firm conviction that under the blessing of Divine Providence He will, throughout His Reign, promote the happiness and protect the liberties of all His people—(Viscount Halifax.)
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, upon me falls the privilege and the duty of supporting the Motion which with a rare dignity has been proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax. I shall try to complete my task with appropriate brevity, but with a sympathy which is not less profound than that expressed by the Leader of the House. Your Lordships are united in the desire to receive and to pass this Motion, and any lengthy commendation of it would, in consequence, be both inopportune and superfluous. It is nevertheless advisable—if only to indicate the universal sympathy which is felt for Her Majesty Queen Mary and the members 367 of the Royal House at the great loss they have sustained in the death of the beloved Head of their Family—that, as representing the Opposition Party in your Lordships' House, I should speak briefly in support of it.
The death of King George, the faithful and long-trusted Head of the State, is for many of us a personal as well as a great public loss. But my individual feelings at the ending of a long, serviceable and nobly completed life are not restricted to the grief which comes with the knowledge that henceforth a revered and guiding personality will not be seen among us. I have, in addition to this natural human sorrow, a sense of quiet inner rejoicing for the rare quality of the life that was; a feeling of glad pride in the duty so long continued and so loyally and courageously performed; and of satisfaction that in Him great ends were so nobly served. King George, in His proper Person, set before us an inspiring example of dignified simplicity, of encouraging fidelity to the anxious and exacting responsibilities of His great position. Associated as I am, and as we all are, with our fellow countrymen in their sorrow, I have nevertheless a personal feeling of joyful gratitude for the triumph in Him of the human spirit and for all that that implied and was.
My Lords, I feel that it is appropriate for me on this occasion to say a few words from the standpoint of the Labour Party, which I specially represent. We honoured the King as the responsible Head of the State, and we were always meticulously careful not to cause Him embarrassment, either by associating His name with our own proposals, or by connecting Him with those of other Parties. We regarded Him as the symbol of the nation's unity and character; we thought of Him as being the impartial friend and the chief servant of His people, as separated from and as living above the noisy storms and perplexing divisions of the political arena. And on that high plane we were content to leave Him, expecting from Him, and receiving from Him, the impartial consideration that belonged to His detached position, and giving to Him in return a full, spontaneous and never-varying loyalty. It is a sound and accepted principle of our 368 British life that the Head of the State should be no respecter of Parties; that He should be detached from, and be unaffected by, the passionate and dividing enthusiasms which form a necessary and desirable part of our daily political experience. King George exactly fitted His time and its requirements, and He received from His people a spontaneous affection and trust.
It was the fate, and perhaps also the good fortune, of the King to rule over this State at a most interesting and crucial period in the world's history. It was a time of rapidly expanding vision, of many acute crises and of beneficent change. During His Reign the principles on which our State is founded were subjected to frequent and severe strain. They bore the burdens placed upon them without disaster; our ancient ways were justified and even strengthened by our experience. In His own Person King George was the living symbol of the free spirit and the free institutions of a free and responsible people. He had the united support of His subjects in whose affection and trust He had great happiness, and He was assured of a personal security such as no armed protection could have given. I cannot, my Lords, without presumption, speak of the late King as a man, for I did not know him as he was known to most of your Lordships; but it is permissible I hope for me to say that on the few occasions when I had the privilege of meeting Him I was received by Him with the unaffected, spontaneous and genial courtesy of a great gentleman. There is nothing further that I need say. On behalf of my noble friends, and also on behalf of those whom they and I represent outside these walls, I very regretfully and sincerely commend this Motion to your approval.
I beg, finally, especially to associate myself and my noble friends with that part of the Motion which congratulates His Majesty King Edward VIII on His Accession to the Throne. His Majesty will, I hope, not resent my saying that from the day of His birth the older among His subjects have watched with keen interest and ever-increasing satisfaction His development, His industry, His wide sympathies and, above all, His 369 constant and careful preparation for the great task that He now has to face. Perhaps more closely than any previous Monarch He knows the needs of the poorer sections of His people. He has seen them on the tragic field of battle, and in the mills, mines and Melds of his country; He has seen the housing conditions under which many of them live, and He has seen something of their sufferings when faced with the grim realities of unemployment. It may well be that at this hour His Majesty distrusts the extent of His own powers as He looks upon the tasks that face Him and the demands that will be made upon His strength. May He be helped by the assurance that we this day convey to Him that behind Him, now and in the future, are the understanding, sympathy and trust of His people, whose satisfaction in His proved qualities may well be greater at this time than is His own faith in Himself. I beg to support the Motion.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, in the absence of Lord Crewe through illness I have been asked to support, on behalf of all those who sit in this part of the House, the two Motions before your Lordships which have already been moved and supported. Like Lord Crewe, I was in the Liberal Cabinet before the War and there learned, as has been said by Lord Snell, His late Majesty's complete impartiality and desire to help every Party in the State. I learned, too as a Minister, as all Ministers have done, His intense devotion to duty. Nothing would ever prevent His Majesty from fulfilling every duty, large or small, from answering every question, every letter, on the day it was received. It was marvellous how He got through the work.
But, more than that, as your Lordships will well remember, dark shadows spread across our land before the War began, and all those who had to do with those dark days will agree—and I am sure that history will record—that, while preserving strictly every constitutional duty and principle, His late Majesty's intervention, initiative and wise counsel saved this land from great perils in a way in which no other man could have saved it. So it was that we entered upon the War a united people and a united nation. Those of us who, like so many of your Lordships in this House, spent those four years on the Western Front, cannot for 370 get the visits of our late Sovereign and the short addresses that He gave to the troops. Noble Lords who were there will remember that there was not one of us whom He addressed—and in His many visits to the front line, regardless of all risks and discomforts, He addressed altogether hundreds of thousands of troops—who was not heartened and did not find the tasks before him less hard. Indeed, we owe Him a deep debt for that.
And when, as happened to so many of us, we were found in hospital after some time in the front line, when wounds befell us, the Queen would come and visit us in hospital. I am sure that I speak for tens of thousands of soldiers whom Her Majesty the Queen visited in hospital when I say that they owe more to Her than they can ever repay. To each one She spoke as though She cared for him deeply for himself—as indeed She did. Without doubt, as many of those who had charge of the front-line hospitals have told, Her Majesty actually saved the lives of hundreds of dying men whose failing spirit was revived by this gracious Lady's kindly words. We do not forget these things, and all of us without exception, and especially those to whom I have referred, join in our profound sympathy with Her Majesty in the great loss that has befallen Her. During all that time His present Majesty was sharing to the full the dangers of the front line. Therefore in our darkest hour, as individuals and as a country, we can truly say that we owe more than can ever be stated in words to the late King, the Queen, and His present Majesty for Their help and example in those dark days of peril and war.
When the War came to an end it so happened, my Lords, that I was brought into close contact with His late Majesty and got to know Him well. I may be permitted to say that it was impossible to converse with Him, as I did, year after year and not to realise that you could say of His late Majesty, as you could hardly say of anyone else whom I have met, that He was so unselfish a man that He cared more for each one of His subjects than He cared for Himself. He loved the sea with a passionate love. The lifeboats were His constant care and interest, and for forty-six years He was closely identified with them. He cared deeply, of course, for the Royal 371 Navy and the Mercantile Marine, and for His yacht "Britannia." Those who saw Him at the wheel with the spray dashing aross His face as the yacht He loved so well forged forward in a stiff breeze, realised to the full how greatly the King could enjoy all healthy sports. He loved all good things; He hated all that was mean and unfair. I suppose it is not untrue to say that, while this Realm and this Empire have lost a great Sovereign, every man, woman and child has lost in His late Majesty a real, true, devoted and unselfish friend.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, it is perhaps natural that on this memorable occasion I should say some words as representing the Lords Spiritual in your Lordships' House; but, if I might say so, it is perhaps more natural that they should be spoken by one whom His late Majesty honoured with a friendship of more than forty years, and who had the privilege of standing at His side as His spirit was passing into the unseen world. It may be that history will not speak of His Reign as a happy reign, for indeed it was marked throughout by great crises, each one of them most formidable and one of them the bitterest ordeal through which this country has ever had to pass; but assuredly it was happy because of the constancy and courage with which through these very difficulties He was able to inspire His people, and because of the love and loyalty which they showed to Him. I doubt very much whether any Monarch in our long history has ever enjoyed an affection so intimate and personal. It was the knowledge of this, as I well know, that inspired and cheered Him during all those anxieties.
Your Lordships may remember the words which He used on the Christmas Day before the Silver Jubilee Year. They are worth remembering. He said:If I may be regarded as in some true sense the head of this great and widespread family, sharing its life and sustained by its affection, this will be a full reward for the long, and sometimes anxious labours of My Reign.My Lords, in the celebrations of that memorable year He received that reward in full measure, pressed down and running over. I know how deeply it 372 moved and stirred His heart. The tribute was the more remarkable because He was the last man to claim that He had received conspicuous gifts, either of body or of mind—the last man who had ever attempted to court popularity. He was content to be at all times, and to all persons, just Himself; but it was that natural self of His that won so remarkably the respect and affection of His people. By one of those instincts that move through a free people they discerned in their King just the sort of man that each one of them would wish to be—simple, sincere, straightforward in speech and act, loyal to home and friends, a lover of sport, yet unflinching in devotion to duty, and, as a basis of all great character, mindful of God.
Your Lordships must have noticed how in almost every tribute, public or private, from any part of the world, which has been paid to His Majesty, the two words have always been combined, "respect" and "affection." I think there is something very significant in that constant combination. Other Monarchs, by their personal charm, sometimees perhaps by their amiable weaknesses, have been regarded with affection. Others, by more serious qualities, have won respect. For example, in the case of Queen Victoria of ever blessed memory that respect became, as Her life was prolonged, a profound reverence. But to King George respect and affection were given in equal measure—the respect giving depth to the affection, the affection giving warmth to the respect.
Let me in a closing word lay some emphasis upon His steadfast devotion to duty. I do so, my Lords, because it was revealed in a most moving manner in the very last day of His life. At noon on that day, propped up in His chair, looking so frail and weak, He received his last Privy Council. To the Order constituting a Council of State He gave in his old clear tones the familiar "Approved." Then He made deliberate and repeated efforts, most gallant but most pathetic, to sign His last State Paper with His own hand. Then, when the effort was too great for Him, he turned to His Council with a last kindly and kingly smile. My Lords, it was a scene which those of us who beheld it will never forget. I hope I have been guilty 373 of no impropriety in describing it. I think it is worthy of record, for it shows that what rallied Him in His last conscious hour was this old and undeviating response to the claim of duty.
May I say but one word about Her Majesty Queen Mary? I would like to give my personal testimony to the truly wonderful fortitude and courage which Her Majesty has shown, as I have seen, during these last most anxious days. The one who might have been expected to be most overwhelmed was the one from whom, to all those surrounding the King, there radiated calmness and strength. Truly admiration must blend with the sympathy with which She is this day surrounded. We pray with all our hearts that She may be spared for many years of beneficent activity, to be in ever fuller measure as these years pass the true Queen-Mother of Her people, and to enjoy Her secured position in their hearts.
My Lords, I think the death of King George was certainly fortunate in its time and in its manner. He was spared any lingering weakness. The memory was fresh in His heart of that overflowing gift of the love of His people which He had received. As I looked upon His face for the last time on Tuesday morning I saw that there lay upon it a most beautiful tranquillity and peace. Truly, my Lords,Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wailOr beat the breast, no weakness, no contempt,Dispraise or blame, nothing but well and fairAnd what may quiet us in a death so noble.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and ordered accordingly: The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the Question which I have now to propose to your Lordships is:
"That an Address of condolence be sent to Her Majesty tendering to Her the deep sympathy of this House in Her bereavement, and assuring Her that this House shares Her sorrow in the irreparable loss which the nation has sustained and that all its members 374 will ever hold in their hearts towards Her Majesty the deepest feelings of reverence and affection."
§ Moved, That an Address of condolence be sent to Her Majesty Queen Mary tendering to Her the deep sympathy of this House in Her bereavement, and assuring Her that this House shares Her sorrow in the irreparable loss which the nation has sustained and that all its members will ever hold in their hearts towards Her Majesty the deepest feelings of reverence and affection.—(Viscount Halifax.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered accordingly: The said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Halifax), the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, the Marquess of Salisbury, the Marquess of Crewe and Lord Snell.