Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Lords and Commons. As the head of the Executive, the Sovereign is directly dependent upon the will of Parliament. But this is only so in the last resort; and it may well happen that, through the working of Governmental procedure, not only is the Executive removed for long intervals from the control of the two Houses of the Legislature, but the head of the Executive, through its agents, may bave such an amount of initiating faculty habitually conceded to it that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to determine the limits within which the rights and claims of the two Houses of Parliament theoretically confine it. The true position of the Monarch in any European country at the present moment can only be ascertained by reference to the historical circumstances amidst which the institution of monarchy originally grew up in any particular country, and has since been modified in that country. The attributes of the Monarch have in only a few cases,— and those where the Constitution is new and as yet scarcely tried,—been invented for the purpose of attaining distinctly acknowledged political ends. In the oldest monarchy and that with the least broken, and therefore most characteristic, history—that of England, the Monarch simply retains to the full all the attributes, capacities, functions and dignity which revolutions and silent constitutional changes have not taken away. How much remains is an arduous question enough, and one upon which it will be seen further on that modern controversies are throwing much light. In the meantime, it may be said that in many respects the English . monarchy has been of late years, in outward form at least, hedged, protected, and even magnified by legislation, rather than infringed and diminished. That

[blocks in formation]

this is so is manifest from the pains which have been taken from the time of the accession of William IV. :—

1, to prevent all possible perplexities in the matter of providing for a regency:

2, to determine and particularise the proper designation of the occupant of the Throne:

3, to adjust the Royal income and make a satisfactory and just provision in the case of Royal marriages:

4, to protect the Royal household against interference from purely political quarters:

5, to determine and regulate from time to time the position and constitutional functions of the Royal Consort.

1. There are a variety of distinct cases in which a provision has to be made for securing the discharge of at least some of the formal duties of the occupant of the Throne when, by reason of infaucy, disease, absence, or other like event, the occupant is personally unable to discharge them. When the occurrence of the event, as probable or possible, can be clearly foreseen at a distance, and time is thus afforded for a deliberate arrangement, there is little difficulty in making a provision which shall insure the satisfactory fulfilment of the duties called for, without violating to a greater extent than necessary the routine and usages of the Constitution which are familiar to the public eye. But when a sudden and calamitous accident befals the occupant of the Throne, as in the case of the repeated illnesses of George III., it is not surprising that the pressure of the crisis affords to contesting parties opportunities for advocating all sorts of theoretical rights and practical measures dictated by motives not always regulated by a pure and simple desire to maintain in the most effectual way the easy working of the Constitution. Should calamities resembling those which afflicted George III. again assail an occupant of the Throne, though it is probable that much deference would be paid to the precedents of that reign, yet the hap-hazard and precipitate measures resorted to for providing for the discharge of the regal functions during the illness of the King will not probably be servilely followed without reopening afresh the question of claims and rights, looked at in the view, not only of the actual emergency, but of the personality of those on whose behalf they may be urged.

The principles for determining the question of a regency since the accession of William IV. have not been of an abstract character, but have in each case been laid down with reference to the actual circumstances of the case legislated for. The three cases legislated for since the accession of William IV. were, (1) the death of the King in the minority of the Princess Victoria; (2) the death of her present Majesty while her successor (the King of Hanover) was out of the realm; (3) the death of her present Majesty before any child of hers, being her successor, had reached the age of eighteen.

In the first case (1) the provision was that the Duchess of Kent should be sole Regent, uncontrolled by any Council other than the ordinary responsible Ministers of the Crown.1 In the second case, (2) that of providing for the absence from the realm of her Majesty's successor at the time of her decease, a precedent of Queen Anne's reign was followed, by which the administration of the government was to be com1 1 Will. IV. cap 2.

The Royal Title. 213

mitted to 'Lords Justices' until the King's arrival.1 In the third case (3) in the event of any child of Her Majesty succeeding to the throne before the age of eighteen, Prince Albert, as the surviving parent, was to be Regent, without any limitation upon the exercise of the Royal prerogatives,—except an incapacity to assent to any Bill for altering the succession to the Throne, or affecting the uniformity of worship in the Church of England, or the rights of the Church of Scotland.2 The attainment of full age on the part of several of Her Majesty's children, and the death of Prince Albert, have combined to render this statute obsolete; and during the joint lives of her present Majesty and the Prince of Wales no necessity can arise for a fresh Regency Act. In the event of the decease of either Her Majesty or the Prince of Wales before the child of the Prince of Wales who would first succeed him has attained the age of eighteen years, a Regency Act would be called for.

2. It may have been perhaps owing to an accidental convergence of political events that attention was called in a late Session of Parliament to the constitutional importance believed in some quarters to attach to the proper designation of the English Monarch. On the occasion of the passing of the 'Act to enable Her 'Most Gracious Majesty to make an addition to the 'Royal Style and Titles appertaining to the Imperial 'Crown of the United Kingdom and its I^pendencies,'3 by the force of which the Queen was enabled to assume in India the title of Empress of India, a parliamentary debate took place of some constitutional interest, as

1 6 Anne, cap. 7; 7 Will. IV.; 1 Vict. cap. 72.

» 3 and 4 Vict. cap. 22. » 39 and 40 Vict. o. 10.

expounding the method by which the Royal style and title could be altered, and the nature of the rival claims which might be asserted on behalf of the Houses of Parliament on the one hand, and of the Crown on the other, to take the initiative in the matter. In the Queen's Speech of the 17th of February, 1876,1 after reference had been made to the Prince of Wales's journey to India, and ' the hearty affection' with which he was received by the Queen's Indian subjects, the following passage occurred: 'At the time that the 'direct government of my Indian Empire was trans

• ferred to the Crown, no formal addition was made to the 'style and titles of the Sovereign. I have deemed tbo 'present a fitting opportunity for supplying this omis'sion, and a Bill upon the subject will be presented to 'you.' The same evening Mr. Disraeli, then Prime Minister, announced that he had 'to ask the House to'night to introduce a Bill which consists of only one 'clause, which will enable Her Majesty, by Proclama

* tion, to make that addition to her style and titles 'which befits the occasion.' Mr. Disraeli went on to quote the precedent of the Act of Union with Ireland, which Act contained a proviso enabling the Sovereign to announce by Proclamation under the Great Seal the style and title he would assume; in accordance with which proviso King George III. issued a proclamation under the Great Seal, and adopted the title of 'King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and 'Ireland and its Dependencies.' 'I have to ask the 'House to-night' (said Mr. Disraeli), 'to give me leave 'to bring in a Bill which will enable Her Majesty to 'exercise her high prerogative, and to proclaim the

1 Hantard, vol. ccxxvii. 408.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »