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Grant for the Prince Consort. 239
On the 27th of January following, both Houses of Parliament had questions before them relating" to the topic of the approaching marriage. In the House of Commons, Lord Melbourne's Government had proposed that an annuity of 50,000i. should be granted to the Prince, according to the analogy supplied by the case of the marriage of Prince Leopold with the Princess Charlotte, and the perhaps less closely analogous cases of the marriage of Queen Caroline to George the Second, Queen Charlotte to George the Third, and Queen Adelaide to William the Fourth. It seems to have been anticipated that the proposal would pass unchallenged, and all debate be avoided. It happened, however, that Air. Hume proposed to reduce the annuity to 21,000/., to which an amendment was carried by 262 to 158, on the motion of Colonel Sibthorpe, supported by Sir Robert Peel and several leaders of the Opposition, to reduce the annuity to 30,000/., at which sum it was consequently fixed. The matter is mainly of interest as marking the firm and deliberate control assumed by Parliament in a matter on which the feelings of the Sovereign might be supposed to be deeply engaged; and this relevancy of the event is not diminished by the undoubted fact that the division and controversy are mainly attributable to the accidental opposition of parties in the House at the time.
On the same evening, in the House of Lords, was brought forward the Bill for the naturalisation of the Prince, and it contained a clause giving to the Prince precedence for life next after Her Majesty, in Parliament or elsewhere, as Her Majesty might think proper. The Duke of Wellington took occasion of the omission of reference to this clause in the title of the Act, to move the adjournment of the discussion on the Bill, because of the very large powers which it proposed to confer on the Queen, of which the House had no previous notice. Lord Brougham opposed the clause in question on the ground that the power to fix the Prince's rank, according to constitutional precedent, rested not with the Crown, but with Parliament; and he further contended that if the measure passed the anomaly might arise that the Prince, supposing him to survive the Queen without issue, might take precedence of the Prince of Wales. The general result of the discussions and opposition was that when the Bill went into committee on the 3rd of February, its object was confined to that expressed in the title, the naturalisation of the Prince, the question of precedence being left to be dealt with by the exercise of the Royal prerogative. On the 5th of March following, letters patent were issued, which declared that the Prince should thenceforth ' upon all occasions, and in 'all meetings, except when otherwise provided by Ant 'of Parliament, have, hold, and enjoy place, pre-emi'nence and precedence, next to Her Majesty.' It was not till the 2nd of July, 1857, that the title and dignity of Prince Consort were granted to him by Royal letters patent.1 Mr. Martin relates that at the prorogation of Parliament on the 11th of August, 1840, the Duke of Sussex and others were disposed to question the right of the Prince to occupy the place beside the Queen both in the House of Lords and on the way there. The Prince occupied, however, in the House then, as on all future* occasions, the seat next the throne; and the Duke of Wellington, speaking to the Queen a few days afterwards, said 'I told you it was quite right. Let the
Precedence of the Prince Consort. 241
* Queen put the Prince where she likes, and settle it 'herself,—that is the hest way.'1 »
The question of the title of the Prince again came under discussion in the year 1845, when a paragraph suddenly appeared in one of the daily papers to the effect that the title of King Consort was ahont to be conferred upon the Prince, and it was added: 'This 'will, we presume, be preliminary to a demand for an 'increased grant.' On being questioned in the House of Commons by Mr. Peter Borthwick, on the 17th of February, as to the truth of the rumour, Sir Robert Peel said that the paragraph was wholly without foundation. It appears, however, from Mr. Theodore Martin's Life, and in a passage which cannot have been written without the distinct acquiescence of Her Majesty, that, as far back as 1841, Her Majesty had wished that the title of King Consort should be conferred upon the Prince. Mr. Martin cites the language of the Queen's published Journal for the 28th of December, 1841: • He ought to 'be and is above me in everything really, and therefore 'I wish that he should be equal in rank to me;' and goes on as follows: 'Unknown to the Prince, she had 'fully canvassed the subject with Baron Stockmar. She 'found him, however, strongly opposed to the sugges'tion; and, by Her Majesty's desire, he took means to 'ascertain the opinions of Sir Robert Peel and Lord 'Aberdeen. They both concurred in the conclusion he 'had himself arrived at. In common with himself, they
• felt how desirable it was to have a clear recognition of 'the status of the Prince. But although there was 'nothing in the Constitution expressly against such a
Life ./ the Prince Cont<>rt, vol. i. p. 93.
'title, a King Consort without joint sovereignty would 'be a novelty, and no provision for such a condition of 'things existed in the Constitution. It was therefore 'decided to abandon the project, and to leave to time 'and circumstance to suggest some solution of the 'difficulty, when the Prince should be better known by 'the nation, and the general current of opinion should 'justify some decided action.'1
In a letter to Baron Stockmar, dated the 9th of March, 1845, the Prince alludes to the newspaper rumour and the question put in the House of Commons by Mr. Borthwick. He says, in the course of the letter, that the subject had not been discussed at Court, but that Sir Robert Peel had been startled, and was afraid that the authority cited by the newspaper had emanated from the Court. The Prince says further that he had seized the opportunity to discuss the question with Sir Robert Peel thoroughly, and 'the upshot 'was, that it is power and not titles which are esteemed 'here, that the public are inclined to attach ridicule to 'everything of the sort, that there is a lack of good 'precedents, that there are great constitutional diffi'culties,' and the like.
Looking back upon the whole of this discussion from a time at which the rivalries of political parties have changed their objects and directions, and at which personal jealousies and misunderstandings, as directed against the Prince Consort, are almost forgotten, it is to be regretted that Parliament did not in the Naturalisation Bill assume the right of definitely assigning the rank and precedence of the Prince, instead of affording
1 Life of the Prince Contort, vol. i. p. 257.
Note by the Queen. 243
a precedent in favour of an extension of the Royal prerogative. The ambiguous position of the Prince could not in any way reduce his political influence, while, by tending to drive him into greater obscurity behind the Throne, it might have diminished his sense of public responsibility. The position of the Prince in the eyes of foreigners was also a legitimate matter of Parliamentary concern; and when it is remembered how many international differences and even wars have arisen from uncertainties in the matter of etiquette, no pains ought to have been spared in abating narrow political prejudices and enmities, for the sake of conferring on the Prince an intelligible and substantial dignity as nearly equivalent to that of the Queen as was possible in the nature of things. The following note,1 which Mr. Martin appends as 'a memorandum by the 'Queen, May, 1856,' is a sufficient comment on the personal and international inconvenience resulting from the want of courage and energy displayed by Parliament, and the successive Governments of the day, in respect of ascertaining the true position of the Prince Consort. 'When I first married, we had much difficulty on the 'subject, much bad feeling was shown, several members 'of the Royal Family showed bad grace in giving pre* cedence to the Prince, and the late King of Hanover 'positively resisted doing so. . . . When the Queen 'was abroad, the Prince's position was always a subject 'of negotiation and vexation; the position accorded to 'him the Queen always had to acknowledge as a grace 'and favour bestowed on her by the Sovereigns she 'visited. While, in 1856, the Emperor of the French
1 Life of the Prince Contort, vol. i. pp. 61, 62 note.