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Volume 221: debated on Thursday 23 July 1874

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Message from Her Majesty [20th July]— considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Mr. Raikes, in pursuance of the Notice which I gave on Monday, and of the Orders of the House, I now proceed to make a Motion with regard to His Royal Highness Prince Leopold, which is, I believe, identical in every respect with the Motions which were made in the instances of his Royal brothers—His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught—and the Motion is this—

"That the annual sum of £15,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness."
The delicate state of health of Prince Leopold has prevented him from adopting a profession, which in the instance of his Royal brothers has been followed, I may say, by them with energy and success. Partly from that state of health, and in a greater degree, probably, from difference of temperament, his pursuits are of a different character from those of Princes who are called upon to deal with fleets and armies. Prince Leopold is a student, and a student of no common order. He is predisposed to pursuits of science and learning, and to the cultivation of those Fine Arts which adorn life and lend lustre to a nation. It would, however, be a great error to suppose that for a young Prince of his character there may not be an eminent career, and one not only creditable to himself, but most useful to his country. The influence of an exalted personage of intellect and culture upon a Community is incalculable. No more complete and rare example of that truth can be shown than in the instance of his illustrious father, the Prince Consort. We can now contemplate the public labours of the Prince Consort with something of the candour of posterity. He refined the tastes, multiplied the enjoyments, and elevated the moral sense of the great body of the people. Nor has his influence ceased since he departed from us. Public opinion has maintained the impulse it gave to our civilization, because it sympathized with it. The example of such a father will guide and animate Prince Leopold; and therefore I hope I may make this Motion, which I have read to the House, in answer to the gracious and confident appeal the Queen has made to the attachment of Her faithful Commons.

Mr. Raikes, I have very sincere satisfaction in rising to second the reasonable proposal which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman has not gone beyond the truth in the picture he has drawn of the high intelligence, the cultivated mind, and the refined pursuits of this Prince, and of his capacity to tread—in these most important respects—in the steps of his illustrious father. Sir, I hope that the House, in receiving this proposal, will never cease to bear in mind how eminently agreeable the manner and the matter of it are to the spirit of our institutions. As regards the matter of it, the proposal is one which is within those limits of moderation which have marked all the requests addressed on the part of Her Majesty to Her faithful Commons; and, as regards the manner of it, we cannot fail to recollect that this mode of coming from time to time to state—as the Princes and Princesses have attained successively to certain periods of life, the need which has appeared to arise on their behalf, is the manner which is most agreeable to the spirit of our institutions—most calculated to maintain the authority of the Sovereign over the junior members of the Royal Family, and most calculated also to maintain the constitutional control of this House in any and in every question connected with the disposal of the public funds. I would only venture on one slight suggestion more, and it is this—Upon every occasion the disposition of the House has been manifested in regard to these proposals in a way the most unequivocal. As the mode adopted by the Sovereign is the one most deferential to the powers and privileges of Parliament, so I venture to hope that on this occasion the method pursued by us will be the one most consistent with those feelings of loyalty and attachment which we all entertain towards the Throne. That reasonable and moderate offering which we are asked to make in the name of the nation will be most gracefully made—and will possess a double value if it be made—unanimously. As the method of approaching us is the method which we all feel to be the most considerate, so I trust the method of our reply will be that which we all know must enhance the value of the offering we make by the gracefulness, the readiness, and, I may also say, the enthusiasm with which it is made.

I have felt it to be my duty on several previous occasions, when similar Motions have been brought before Parliament, to trouble the House of Commons with a statement of the reasons which have compelled me, on principle, to oppose these grants to Members of the Royal Family. The soundness of those reasons I hold with ever-increasing strength. They have never been answered, and, in my opinion, they are unanswerable. If there are points on which I have not been able to make my position good, it has been for want of better information—the blame of which does not rest with me. The late Government refused—I think most unwisely and improperly—to give the information asked for by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke). He asked that the House and the country should have information which would prove that the Act of Parliament on which these proceedings all rest—the Civil List Act—had been carried out and worked in harmony with the spirit and the letter of that Act—a fact on which grave doubts had been thrown. It appears to me that a Government—from whichever side of the House they may come—should not only not desire to keep these matters back, but should take every opportunity of giving the information required. However that may be, I—in pursuance of those reasons which I have given to the House on several occasions, and which I do not intend to trouble the House with now—I now, on my own behalf, and on behalf of that small but gallant band who have previously voted with me against an overwhelming majority, make my protest against this Vote. We are not altogether so unimportant as our mere numbers would lead the House to suppose. On the last occasion there voted with me the Representatives of great commercial, popular, and intelligent communities, including those of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Manchester. The 22 Members, including Tellers, who went into the Lobby with me represented constituencies amounting in the aggregate to 3,000,000 inhabitants. On the grounds, therefore, which I have formerly stated, and which I will not now repeat, I beg to enter my protest in the strongest terms against this Vote, and having done so, I shall not, so far as I am concerned, trouble the House with further discussion on the subject.

Motion agreed to.

Resolved, Neminc Contradicente, That the annual sum of £15,000 be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the date of the coming of age of His Royal Highness.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock.