HL Deb 09 November 1820 vol 3 cc1727-32

The order of the day being read, the report of the committee on the Bill was brought up by the earl of Shaftesbury.

The following is a copy of the Bill, as amended by the committee:

Bill entitled, An Act to deprive Her Majesty, Caroline Amelia Elizabeth, of the Title, Prerogatives, Rights, Privileges, and Exemptions of Queen Consort of this Realm; and to dissolve the Marriage between His Majesty and the said Caroline Amelia Elizabeth.

Whereas, in the year 1814, her majesty Caroline Amelia Elizabeth, then princess of Wales, and now Queen Consort of this realm, being at Milan in Italy, engaged in her service, in a menial situation, one Bartolomeo Bergami, a foreigner of low station, who had before served in a similar capacity:

And whereas after the said Bartolomeo Bergami had so entered the service of her royal highness the said princess of Wales, a most unbecoming and degrading intimacy commenced between her said royal highness and the said Bartolomeo Bergami; and her said royal' highness not only advanced the said Bartolomeo Bergami to a high situation in her royal highness's household, and received into her service many of his near relations, some of them in inferior and others in high and confidential situations about her royal highness's person, but bestowed upon him other great and extraordinary marks of favour and distinction, and conferred upon him a pretended order of knighthood, which her royal highness had taken upon herself to institute, without any just or lawful authority:

And, whereas also, her royal highness, whilst the said Bartolomeo Bergami was in her said service, further unmindful of her exalted rank and station, and of her duly to your majesty, and wholly regardless of her own honour and character, conducted herself towards the said Bartolomeo Bergami, both in public and private, in various places and countries which her royal highness visited, with indecent and offensive familiarity and freedom, and carried on a licentious, disgraceful, and adulterous intercourse with the said Bartolomeo Bergami, which continued for a long period of time, during her royal high-ness's residence abroad; by which conduct of her said royal highness, great scandal and dishonour have been brought upon your majesty's family and this kingdom.

Therefore, to manifest our deep sense of such scandalous, disgraceful, and vicious conduct on the part of her said majesty, by which she has violated the duty which she owed to your majesty, and has rendered herself unworthy of the exalted rank and station of Queen Consort of this realm; and to evince our just regard for the dignity of the Crown, and the honour of this nation:

We your majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, in parliament assembled, do humbly entreat your majesty that it may be enacted j and be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that her said majesty, Caroline Amelia Elizabeth, from and after the passing of this act, shall be and is hereby deprived of the title of Queen, and of all the prerogatives, rights, privileges, and exemptions appertaining to her as Queen Consort of this realm; and that her said majesty shall, from and after the passing of this act, for ever be disabled and rendered incapable of using, exercising, and enjoying the same, or any of them; and moreover, that the marriage between his majesty and the said Caroline Amelia Elizabeth be, and the same is hereby from henceforth for ever wholly dissolved, annulled, and made void, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatever.

The Lord Chancellor was proceeding to read the Amendments made to the Bill, when

Lord Ellenborbugh

said, that as all the modifications in the bill, consisted merely in verbal alterations he called upon those noble lords who had voted for the second reading, under an idea that the preamble and enactments would undergo a material change, to vote for the rejection of the bill.

The Earl of Lauderdale

wished to say a few words with regard to what had occurred on leaving out the divorce clause. Their lordships had been distinctly told by a noble lord of the highest political talents, and a person for whom he entertained the greatest respect, that his rea- son for voting, with a view to keep in that clause, arose from his wish to stop the measure altogether. Now, after such a declaration, he would ask those noble lords who really objected to the clause, and who wished to remove it from the bill, but had thus been disappointed, whether they could with propriety aid this trick and manœuvre by voting against the third reading?

Earl Grey

said, that to be accused of tricking and manœuvring, when he openly avowed the object of his conduct, appeared to him the most extraordinary charge ever made in that House. If tricks and manœuvres were to be referred to, what was to be said of the tricks and manœuvres of those who, in order to obtain votes for the second reading of the bill, held out an expectation, that the divorce clause would be abandoned in the committee, and that the bill would undergo very material alterations and modifications? Had it not been for that expectation, many a noble lord would not have voted for the second reading. But the noble and learned lord on the woolsack, after a very eloquent speech in support of the divorce clause, concluded with voting against it; and in this conduct he was imitated by several cabinet ministers, who had themselves introduced the clause. This, however, he supposed they had sufficient reason for doing. He agreed with the noble lord (Ellenborough) that those who voted for the second reading of the bill, in hopes of its being altered in the committee, had been grossly deceived. He hoped that those noble lords who had given a pledge that they would not vote for the bill with the divorce clause, would now redeem that pledge, and get rid of the bill altogether. The Earl of Lauderdale had not said that his noble friend had been guilty of any unworthy trick or manœuvre. What his noble friend had done was a parliamentary trick often practised in the best of times; and he would refer to his noble friend whether such trick and manœuvre had not always been, when resorted to, met in the way he had endeavoured to meet it, by warning those against it whom it was directed, not to yield to it.

The Earl of Liverpool

said, with respect to the divorce clause, he would also ask, if any one could fairly accuse him of trick or manœuvre? Had he not, from the beginning, represented that this was not an act for personal relief, but for the remedy of a great public grievance?

Had he not stated that, though, in his own opinion, there was no just objection to the divorce clause, even as a public measure, yet, if it were hostile to the religious prejudices of any considerable number of their lordships, he did not think it a matter of so much importance as to make him go counter to those prejudices? Whether his conduct had been right or not, no person could impute to him that he acted from unfair motives, or in any other than the most open and undisguised manner.

After some further conversation, the amendments were agreed to. The duke of Hamilton then moved, that the words "adulterous intercourse," be omitted; which being put, was negatived.—The earl of Carnarvon also moved, as an amendment, that after the words alluding to her royal highness's residence abroad, these words should be inserted:—"That after her royal highness's return to this country, 50,000l. per annum of the public money had been offered to her, together with the proffered homage of both Houses of Parliament." The amendment was put and negatived.

Lord King moved, that the words previous to the words "great scandal and dishonour," should be omitted, and the following words substituted:—"And whereas certain commissioners were appointed to proceed to Milan, who, together with one Vimercati, have collected a mass of false and infamous evidence, which appears, during many days and weeks to have been detailed at the bar of the House of Peers, whereby"—then would follow the original words of the clause "great scandal and dishonour have been brought upon your majesty's family and this kingdom." If this amendment were acceded to, he should move this further addition to the clause, "That the persons who acted as such commissioners at Milan, shall forbear to hold, and for ever after shall be disabled and rendered incapable of holding, any place of profit or emolument under the Crown." If this motion were carried, the bill would still be a bill of Pains and Penalties, but the punishment would be inflicted upon the proper, and not upon the undeserving object.

This amendment was also negatived.

Lord Kenyon

rose to propose an amendment. His object, he said, was to get rid of the divorce clause. Could he by any means have brought himself to con- sent to the present bill, which he considered most odious, unjust and unchristian, still he could never assent to the divorce clause. His objections to that clause rested essentially on religious principles. It appeared perfectly clear to him, that the measure, as it now stood, was inconsistent with the doctrine delivered by our Saviour. Even had crimes of the most aggravated nature, specified in the bill, been proved by the most unexceptionable testimony, he should still conscientiously object to the divorce clause. Whatever might be its expediency in a political, he should still vote against it in a religious point of view. National expediency ought never for a moment, to be put in competition with the interests and duties of religion. Our Saviour has said, that, "Whoso putteth away his wife, except for fornication, causeth her to commit adultery." The husband himself might therefore, according to this passage, be the occasion of his wife's guilt; and he would ask whether a man so circumstanced, could, with justice apply for relief? He was aware that some of the learned prelates, had put a different interpretation on the text, and he lamented that they had done so: but others of, at least, equal authority, held the same opinion of it as he did. This gave him much pain as he had but too much reason to know that, by their conduct on that occasion, they had materially lowered themselves in the estimation of the serious and religious part of the community, who could not comprehend how there could be a different rule of christian morality, between the prince and the subject. Cases of this kind were not unprecedented. There was one which occurred in the time of his revered father, in which it appeared that the wife, long before the alleged offence, had been deserted by her husband, who had also, as in this case, released her from all responsibility to him. Application was made to this House for a bill of divorce; but, on those circumstances appearing, it was instantly rejected; and a learned prelate, who was present at that discussion, bishop Horsley, scouted all idea of relief, under such circumstances. What man holding christian principles, or believing in the christian faith, could grant a divorce even for adultery, to a husband, who is stated by the Divine Author of Christianity to have caused the adultery? The divorce clause was then plainly opposed to the words already quoted, and he must, most unequivocally reject the explanation of the text, given by a learned prelate on a former clay, that it applied only to local circumstances, and to a particular institution of the Mosaic law. He could not coincide with it; because he had always I learnt to consider our lord's sermon on the mount, in which those words were; used, as a summary of christian morality and as precepts of universal application, to remain in force so long as the christian religion should endure—which it would to the end of the world. The noble lord I added, if your lordships agree to the bill, in its present shape, you will, in effect, decide, that the principles of christian morality are to be interpreted differently for the monarch and his subject. But it must not, cannot be. By these principles I have been guided thus far in the performance of my duty, and by these principles I shall endeavour, by the blessing of God, to shape my conduct during the remainder of my life—nor will I sacrifice these principles, which I consider of paramount importance, to any notion of; temporal expediency. For the sake therefore of recording my sentiments, I now I move, that all the words after "any of I them" be omitted—viz. "and moreover that the marriage between his majesty and the said Caroline Amelia Elizabeth be, and the same is hereby, from henceforth, I for ever, wholly dissolved, annulled, and; made void, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.'"

This motion was negatived, and the House adjourned.