« AnteriorContinuar »
in case the crown should descend to any of the children of Frederick Prince of Wales, under the age of eighteen years. A council of regency was also nominated by the Act; but the King was empowered to add four other members by instrument under his sign manual, to be opened after his death.?
u. The proceedings during the reign of George III. (icorge III. have a special importance as recent precedents. In 1765 First Reco an alarming illness led the King to consider the necessity 1765. of providing for a regency in case of his death. At first he wished Parliament to confer upon him the unconditional right of nominating any person as regent whom he might select. But by the Regency Act, as ultimately passed, the King was empowered to nominate, under his sign manual, either the Queen, the Princess Dowager of Wales, or any descendant of George II. residing in this kingdom, to be guardian of his successor (while under eighteen years of age) and 'regent of the kingdom. A council of regency was appointed by the Act, which also defined its powers and those of the regent.
12. On two occasions during the illness of George III., Proceedings in 1788–9, and again in 1810, the name and authority on the king's of the Crown-through the means of letters patent under 1788. the great seal affixed by the authority of both Houses of Parliament-were used for the purpose of opening Parliament when the King was personally incapable of exercising his constitutional functions. In 1788, in the discussions concerning the appointment of a regent, Mr. Fox “advanced the startling opinion that the Prince of Wales had as clear a right to exercise the power of sovereignty during the king's incapacity as if the King were actually dead; and that it was merely for the two Houses of Parliament to pronounce at what time he should commence the exercise of his right.'+ Mr. Pitt, however, firmly maintained the
absolute right of Parliament to make what provision it thought fit for carrying on the government, and the Duke of York, in the House of Lords, disclaimed the right on behalf of the Prince, who understood too well the sacred principles which seated the House of Brunswick on the throne, cver to assume or excrcise any power, be his claim what it might, not derived from the will of the people, expressed by their representatives and their lordships in Parliament assembled.'? A regency bill was introduced
in the Commons and sent up to the Lords, but the king's Second sudden recovery put a stop to all further proceedings. In Regency Jer in 1610. 1810, when the King was seized with his last mental
disorder, the proceedings of Parliament were grounded generally upon the precedent of 1788. An Act was ultimately passed—the royal assent being given by cominission under the great seal authorized by a resolution of both Houses—by which the Prince of Wales was empowered to exercise the royal authority as regent, in the name and on behalf of the King, but subject to many
important limitations, particularly specified.? Regency 13. By the statute i William IV. c. 2, the late Duchess of Act
, 1. Vill. Kent was appointed guardian and regent in the event of 1830. her present gracious Majesty coming to the throne before
attaining the age of eighteen years; and, contrary to former precedents, no provision was made for a controlling council, but the regent was left to carry on the government through the responsible ministers of the Crown, and to act upon their advice alone.
14. On the accession of her Majesty, the King of of Queen
Hanover became presumptive heir to the throne, and an Victoria, Act was passed providing that in the event of the Queen's
decease, while her successor was out of the realm, the government should be carried on in his name by lords justices until his arrival.3
1 Parl. Hist. xxvii. 678, 684. : For a short but comprehensive summary of the important proceedings relative to the Regency under Geo. III. see Vay. Const. Hist. i. 175. 215.
3 1 Vict. c. 72.
15. The last occasion on which Parliament exercised Second its powers of appointing a regent was on the Queen's Regency
Act, 1940. marriage, in 1840. An Act was passed by which, in the event of any child of her Majesty succeeding to the throne under the age of eighteen, Prince Albert, as the surviving parent, was appointed regent, without any council of regency, or 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.
From this general view of the history of regencies we must now return to the particular period of which this chapter more especially treats.
Under Edward IV. and Richard III., Parliament has Parliament no history. The nobility, thinned by civil war and the under hands of the executioner, and split up into contending and Richard
3 & 4 Vict. c. $2.
and the customs duties on merchandise were exacted with Benevo. the greatest rigour. He also extorted frequent tenths from lences.
the clergy, and, discarding the specious appellation of
loans,' by which former kings had endeavoured to disguise the forced contributions of their subjects, he compelled the richer classes to make apparently voluntary gifts, under the new and less plausible name of benerolontar. As already mentioned no complaint of any kind appears in the parliamentary records of his reign, but it is evident from a passage in the remarkable address presented to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, when invited, in 1483, to assume the Crown, that the nation, though hitlicrto silent, had not been insensible to the illegality. For certainly wce be determined,' say the authors of the address, ‘rather to aventure and committe us to the perill of oure lyfs and jopardye of deth, than to lyve in suche thraldome and bondage as we have lyved long tyme heretofore, oppressed and injured by extorcions and newe imposicions ayenst the lawes of God and man, and the libertee, old policee and lawes of this realme, wheryn every Englishman is enherited.'? Accordingly, in Richard III.'s only Parliament, benevolences were
declared by statute to be for ever illegal.” Sir John
Our consideration of the growth of constitutional Fortescue's
government during the 15th century may be appropriately
Sir John Fortescue, chief justice of the King's Bench under
in the laws of the kingdom, impose talliages and other hardships upon the people whether they would or no, without their consent, which sort of government the civil laws point out when they declare “ Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem." But it is much otherwisc with a king whose government is political, because he can neither make any alteration or change in the laws of the realm without the consent of the subjects, nor burthen them against their wills with strange impositions, so that a people governed by such laws as are made by their own consent and approbation enjoy their properties sccurely, and without the hazard of being deprived of them, either by the King or any other. The same things may be effected under an absolute prince, provided he do not degenerate into the tyrant. Of such a prince, Aristotle, in the third of his Politics, says, “ It is better for a city to be governed by a good man than by good laws." But because it does not always happen that the person presiding over a people is so qualified, St. Thomas, in the book which he writ to the king of Cyprus, “De Regimine Principum,” wishes that a kingdom could be so instituted as that the king might not be at liberty to tyrannize over his people ; which only comes to pass in the present case ; that is, when the sovereign power is restrained by political laws. Rejoice, therefore, my good prince, that such is the law of the kingdom which you are to inherit, because it will afford, both to yourself and subjects, the greatest security and satisfaction.' And again : 'As the head of a body natural cannot change its nerves and sinews, cannot deny to the several parts their proper energy, their due proportion and aliment of blood; neither can a king, who is the head of a body politic, change the laws thereof, nor take from the people what is theirs by right, against their consent. Thus you have, sir, the formal institution of every political kingdom, from whence you may guess at the power which a king may exercise with respect to the laws and the subject. For he is appointed to protect his subjects in their lives, properties, and laws; for this very end and purpose he has the delega