Изображения страниц

Debate on the Royal Titles Bill.


addition to her style and title which she deems ex

pedient and proper.' A somewhat vehement debate ensued, in the course of which it was argued that the House was entitled to know the nature of the style and title to be assumed before the Bill was passed. Mr. . Disraeli resented this argument, and replied that if he gave the information which was required, 'we shall ‘not pass a Bill enabling Her Majesty to use and

assume a title which she thinks expedient, but that on the contrary we shall be binding Her Majesty down to use only that one we shall have passed. .... It would • be an invasion of the just prerogative of the Crown, • which certainly ought not to be rudely touched.' Whether in consequence of the expression of opinion in Parliament, or from a reconsideration of the constitutional question at issue, Mr. Disraeli retreated from this position on the Bill being brought forward for its second reading. By means of a protracted and curious exhibition of antiquarian learning, he intimated that the new title to be assumed was that of Empress of India; and though this title was on a variety of grounds,--etymological, historical, political, social, and moral,- assailed with caustic criticism from various parts of the House, the Bill finally became law.

The only comment that need be made upon this incident, as marking an era of constitutional significance, is that it shows that the Houses of Parliament still continue firm in their claim, as predominantly asserted at the time of the passing of the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, to oblige the Crown to draw all its dignity, as well as its powers, from Statute or Common Law, not from unascertained custom, and still less from occasional or capricious assumptions.

3. The value of the policy of separating the per. sonal income and expenses of the occupant of the Throne from the revenue and expenditure which is properly of a public rather than a personal character has been recognised from the time of the Restoration, and is recommended by very obvious considerations, as well as fortified by experience often of a distressing kind. So long as the personal and public income and expenses of the Crown were commingled, it was impossible for Parliament to apply an adequate check to an uncontrolled exercise of the Royal prerogative in certain directions, and it was also productive of occasional hardship to the Monarch, so often as an accidental excess in the public claims reduced the amount of money available for his private necessities. The story of the Civil List from the time of Charles the Second to that of its final settlement in the present reign is that of a series of partial and tentative efforts on the part of Parliament to substitute a definite grant of money to the Crown for certain portions of its hereditary revenues, and therewith to charge those revenues with expenses which had heretofore been payable out of the general fund at the disposal of the Crown. The settlement on the accession of King William IV. at last inaugurated a system of more decisive action in this matter than Parliament had as yet ventured upon. For the first time, the King surrendered the interest of the Crown in the sources of public revenue which yet remained to it, and accepted in its stead a Civil List of 435,0001. The future espenditure of this amount was divided into five different classes, to each of which a specific annual sum was appropriated, including 75,0001. for pensions. The The Crown Lands.


Civil List was at the same time relieved from a number of public charges, such as judicial salaries, and the salaries and pensions of the diplomatic service. The Act provided that the hereditary revenues were, with a few exceptions, to be carried to the Consolidated Fund,

-a Fund originally created by the Act of the 27th Geo. III. cap. 47, by which various duties and taxes were to be carried to and constitute a Fund to be • called the Consolidated Fund.' It may be noticed here that Mr. Gladstone, in his comments on Mr. Martin's Life of the Prince Consort,' has incidentally thrown some doubt on the permanent validity of any such settlement of the hereditary revenues of the Crown. The passage may be here cited, though the point raised is at present too purely problematical to need further discussion.

“There is, indeed, one genuine Crown right which " has been somewhat disparaged of late years, and that • is its title to the Crown Lands. By degrees, it be

came the custom for the Sovereign, on accession, to • surrender the life-interest in these properties to the • State, in return for a life-income called the Civil List. • But this transaction in no way affected the legal right

of the next heir to resume the lands on the expiry of • the arrangement. It is undeniable that members of • Oppositions, and the blamable connivances of party, • have of late years, in various instances, obtained by • pressure from the Governments of the day arrange‘ments which touch the reversionary interest. The • question is too complex and many-sided for exposition ' here; but it may be said with truth, first, that the

? 1 Will. IV. cap. 25.

• State has dealt liberally as a tenant under a life-lease • with the estates given to its control; and, secondly, • that the subject is in a constitutional view a small one.'?

This may, however, be a convenient place to notice that the legal position of the Sovereign towards the Crown estates, as contrasted with his position towards what are known as his private estates, has very recently been matter of Parliamentary discussion and legislation. An Act, called the Crown Private Estates Act, was passed in the year 1862, and a supplementary Act, for the purpose of explaining and amending the former one, in 1873, which had for their general purpose the relieving of the Sovereign from some disabilities which might in law be held to attach to his dealings with his private property, in the same way as they did attach to his dealings with the Crown estates. On the first of these Acts being read a second time in the House of Lords, on July 4, 1862, the Lord Chancellor explained that, down to Queen Anne's time, the Sovereign had unlimited power of disposition in reference to Crown lands; but in the first year of that reign an Act was passed limiting the power of the Crown to granting leases for thirty years or for three lives. The operation of that Statute, however, was confined to England. An Act of the 39th and 40th of George III. gave full powers to the Crown to deal with estates acquired by means of the private property of the Sovereign; and by an Act of the 1st and 2nd of the present reign, the restricting provisions of the Statute of Anne were extended to estates of the Crown in Scotland and Ireland. Acciden

i Gleanings of Past Years, by the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, vol. i. p. 82. 1879.

Private Estates of the Crown.


tally, it happened that the extended capacity conferred by the Act of George III.'s reign was omitted from the Statute of Victoria ; and the result was, that private estates of the Sovereign in Scotland or Ireland would not come within the provisions of the Act of George III., but would fall under the restrictions of the Statute of Anne. The Crown was consequently unable to deal with land in Scotland or Ireland acquired by the private property of the Sovereign. The intention of the Act of 1862 was to give to the Sovereign the same right over his private estates in Scotland which the Act of George III. had given in reference to those in England ; and to provide that any such estates held by the Crown should be owned in the same way as if they were held by subjects of the Crown. The only comment made in the House was made by the Marquis of Bath, who objected that the provision of the Bill which subjected the private estates of the Crown to all rates and taxes was unconstitutional. When, on June 30, 1873, the Lord Chancellor moved the second reading of the explanatory and amending Act,2 he said that its principal object was to make it clear that Her Majesty or any future Sovereign should have the

power of transmitting her private estates to any 'member of the illustrious family that now ruled this 6 country; and that they should continue private estates

in the event of the person who held them succeeding to the Crown.' On the second reading being moved in the House of Commons on July 21, Mr. Gladstone, then Prime Minister, said that some misapprehension

· Hansard, vol. clxvii. 1412. Also 25 and 26 Vict. cap. 37. ? Hansard, vol. ccxvi. 1550.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »