avec toutes les lignes,
sous la direction
48, Cranson Avenue,
3d June 1950.
I have the honour to apply for your assistance in connection with certain consents under the Royal Marriage Act 1772. Under this Statute certain persons are required to obtain the Sovereign's consent prior to marriage if under the age of 25 years or if over that age the alternative of non-disapproval by Parliament.
The marriage set out on the accompanying sheet did not receive [sic] consent through the Home Office and the consents do not appear in the Home Office lists in the Public Record Office; & I have been directed to enquire of the Foreign Office as the marriages concerned were of foreign subjects.
In two cases - those of H.R.H. Pss. Victoria Eugenia of
Battenburg and of H.R.H. Pss. Beatrix of Great Britain &c and of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha there was the additional factor of the husband being a Roman
I would be most obliged if you would give both confirmation that the consents were given, the precise date, and the form of consent or date of laying notice of marriage before Parliament if such be the case.
I have the honour to be,
Philip M J Thomas
(P. M. Thomas, director)
His Majesty's Under Secretary of State
The Royal Marriage Act 1772
Stat. 12 Geo. III cap. 11, ss 1 & 2.
I have searched the Notes and various files and the Registers have been searched but no trace can be found of the marriages 4-8 or the second marriage of 3.
The 2nd Duke of Albany
served with the German Army during the 1914-18 war and was deprived of his
British titles in 1919 (see 271202/esp. 27 [=HO 45/18402]).
It seems not improbable that his children wouldn't trouble about
obtaining consent !
3rd August 1950.
With reference to your letter of the 3rd June last addressed to the Foreign Office, I am directed by the Secretary of State to say, as regards No. 1 on the list enclosed with your letter, that the Royal Consent to the marriage of H.R.H. Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, on 21st December 1878 is on record, being No. 18 on the list H.O. 124 at the Public Record Office.
No consent was held to be necessary to the marriage of Princess Ena of Battenburg to the King of Spain as her father had been naturalized a few days after the marriage with Queen Victoria's daughter, who therefore married into a foreign family (No. 2. on the list).
There is no record of a Royal Consent being asked for or given to the second marriage of Princess Victoria in 1905, but she was marrying for the second time into a foreign family. (No. 3 on the list).
So far as the others are concerned, it is observed that Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, son of Queen Victoria, became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; his daughter married into a foreign family and no consent is on record here. (No. 4 on the list).
Regardiong No. 5 to 8 on the list, I am to remind you that the second Duke of Albany lost his rights of succession to the British Crown by fighting against this country in the 1914-18 War (Titles Deprivation Act, 1917) and this loss of rights applied also to his issue.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
(sgd) J. C. Grant
avec toutes les lignes,
sous la direction
De Bangkok, en voyage, 27.X.1950
As from 48, Cranson Avenue,
I have to acknowledge with thanks your letter 920840/3 dated
Items 3 & 4. Although the Duke of Edinburgh was
Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Act none the less applies to His issue
as they are not 'issue of a daughter who has married with a foreign
family'. If you can confirm that in
fact in both these cases no consent was given by King Edward VII, the issue of
these two marriages are perforce by the law of England, illegitimate. See
Heseltine v. Lady Augusta Murray; 2 Addams 399, & Sussex Peerage Case;
(1844), 11 Cl. & F 85.
Items 5 to 8. I note that according to your letter, it has been considered that on account of the Titles Deprivation Act, the Duke of Albany and his descendants lost their rights of succession to the throne of England. The Statute 7 & 8 Geo V, cap. 47 however did not apply to the succession to the Throne at all. Even if it had the Resolutions of the Privy Council thereunder have no permanent effect for the Statute allows a restoration of the heirs upon petition. The issue of H.R.H. the Duke of Albany remain legitimate according to the law of England but if their marriages were not given consent their issue are illegitimate and un-apt to succeed, not by reason of the Titles Deprivation Act but of the Royal Marriage Act. Of course, as a consequence of the lack of consent under the Royal Marriage Act the descendants would lose the right of remainder to the Peerages of Albany &c which are not extinct but merely in suspense.
The issue of H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland, Duke of
Brunswick and Luneburg are in like case; though it will be noted that at least
one of his children has sought and obtained His Majesty's consent viz:- H.M.
The Queen of the Hellenes. Her brother
also sought the necessary consent, (Prince Geogre of Hanover & Great
Britain) in 1946 but this was not given as, I understand, it was considered
unnecessary on account of the State of war.
I should be interested to learn whether, subsequent to the refusal of
consent, the request to marry was laid in Parliament for the requisite
time. Otherwise Prince George's issue
are by the law of England, bastard and they have thereby lost rights of
succession to both the Throne and the remainder of the Peerages of Cumberland
and Teviotdale &c.
Items 9 & 10. There appears to be no consent in H.O. at the Public Record Office, for the marriage of H.R.H. Princess Helena to H.R.H. Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein &c (5.7.1866) or of H.R.H. Princess Marie Adelaide to H.H. Francis Duke of Teck (12.6.1866). Please advise.
I trust that you will not be too greatly inconvenienced by these further queries; they touch upon a matter of highest importance in Constitutional theory.
I have the honour to be,
14th December, 1950
with reference to your letter of 27th October last on the subject of Royal Marriages, I am directed by the Secretary of State to say that, so far as items Nos. 3 and 4 on your original ist are concerned, he has nothing to add to his letter addressed to you on the 3rd August, and that items 5 to 8 raise questions of constitutional law on which he regrets he is unable to assist you. No Royal consents to the two 1866 marriages referred to as items 9 and 10 are on record in this Department; the Home Office records prior to 1879 are at the Public Record Office and are open to inspection.
I am, Sir,
(sgd) J. C. Grant
P.M.J. Thomas, Esq.
920840 = HO 45/25238
Lists, Notes and other Memoranda
The following documents are within
This file should be brought up on every occasion of a Royal Marriage, & treated as a General file.
Note and lay by.
F. J. Dadd
(c) Royal Marriages
The Secretary of State had
originally no special duties in connection with the marriage of a
member of the Royal Family, but he was brought into the matter by the
passing of the Royal Marriages Act, 1772, (12 Geo. III cap. 11). This
Act provides that no descendant of King George II, (other than the
issue of princesses who marry into foreign families) shall be capable
of contracting a valid marriage without the previous consent of the
Sovereign signified under the Great Seal and declared in Council, such
consent to be set out in the licence and register of marriage and
entered in the books of the Council:* and annuls any marriage
contracted without such consent.
* The Act also provides
(sec. 2) a procedure by which a Royal personage above the age of 25 can
marry in spite of the King refusing consent, but this does not concern
the Home Office.
Under this procedure the action to be taken in Council is a matter for the Privy Council Office, but the requirement of a document under the Great Seal necessarily involves the Home Office, since a Sign Manual warrant countersigned by the Secretary of State is required as the authority for passing any document under the Great Seal. (Great Seal Act, 1884). And when there is any possibility of a doubt as to whether a given case falls within the Act or not the Secretary of State is called upon to advise, after taking the opinion of the Law Officers if necessary.
As to the question in what cases
the Royal Consent is necessary it is to be observed that the terms of
the Act are both wide and precise: :it applies to every descendant of
George II except the issue of princesses who have married into a
foreign family."' There can be no doubt as to whether a given person is
a descendant of George II or not, "and the' only questions that have
arisen or can arise relate to the interpretation of the words "married
Into a foreign family." No doubt the framers of the Act took for
granted that when a British princess married a foreigner the bridegroom
would usually be a reigning Sovereign or the heir of a reigning
sovereign and that in any event his descendants would be foreign
princes living in their own country and (having regard to George Ill's
large family of sons) of no practical importance in the line of
succession. It was not until more than one of Queen Victoria's
daughters married foreign princes who settled in England and became
naturalised British subjects that points of doubt as to the application
of the exception began to arise.
Whether the children of such a
marriage as that last mentioned come within the exception as the issue
of a princess who has married Into a foreign family depends in practice
on whether their rather became naturalised before or after his
marriage. See 136,042/32 [=HO 45/10332/136042], where it was held that the Royal Consent was
not required for the marriage of Princess Ena of Battenberg to the King
of Spain because her father had been naturalised by Private Act of
Parliament a few days after his marriage with Queen Victoria's daughter
(Princess Beatrice): and compare also 111,794/2 [=HO 45/11101], on which the Law
Officers advised that the King's consent was not required for the
marriage of Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Princess Alice and
Great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, because Princess Alice had
married a foreign prince (the Grand Duke of Hesse) who was not
naturalised in this country. This case is the more remarkable as
Princess Victoria's father (Prince Louis of Battenberg) had been
naturalised before his marriage: but in spite of this the fact that her
mother was the daughter of a British Princess who had married into a
foreign family was held to bring her within the exception in the Act.
Another instance is the marriage of Lady Helena Cambridge: she was the
granddaughter of Princess Mary of Cambridge who had married the Duke of
Teck before his naturalisation, and she was therefore within the
exception (B.17,152/9) [=HO 144/964/B17152].
Where however a British princess
marries a foreigner who was naturalised before his marriage she does
not "marry into a foreign family" within the meaning of the exception,
and her issue to all generations require the King's consent to their
marriages. See B.10,982/1 [=HO 45/9841/B10982]; Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein was
naturalised a few days before his marriage to Princess Helena and on
the Attorney General advised that the Royal Consent to his daughter's marriage was necessary.+
+ It will probably be convenient to give a list of the
Princesses who have married foreigners so as to distinguish in the
concrete the cases in which their issue do and do hot require the Royal
consent for their marriages.
All the descendants of a British prince require the consent, even if he has become a foreign Sovereign and his family have lived abroad for generations. Thus the Hanoverian Royal Family, who are descended from George III's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who succeeded to the throne of Hanover on the accession of Queen Victoria, have regularly obtained the King's consent to their marriages: in 1957 Princess Frederica of Hanover, great-great granddaughter of George III and 3rd cousin once removed of the King, asked his consent to her wedding with the Crown Prince of Greece, It seems absurd that the King's consent should be obtained for a purely foreign marriage of this kind; one can only suppose that as the marriage would not be valid in the British Dominions without it, the object is to secure the position of the issue as Princes or Princesses of Great Britain (which rank is much valued on the Continent) and possibly to retain their place in the line of succession to the British Throne. Obviously the absence of the Royal Consent required by British law could not affect the validity of a marriage contracted abroad so far as the law of the country of domicile of the parties is concerned.
It should be noted here that the Act applies to all marriages in which one of the parties is a descendant of George II, whether contracted in Great Britain or abroad. See as to this the decision of the House of Lords, given after taking the opinion of the Judges, in the Sussex Peerage case (xi Clark and Finelly, 85 ff. ). In this case the claimant was the son of the Duke of Sussex, a son of George III, and Lady Augusta Murray: his parents had been married at Rome by an Anglican clergyman with the rites of the Church of England: and it was shown by expert evidence that the marriage was valid by the lex loci. The decision of the House of Lords was that the marriage was invalid and the claimant illegitimate for want of the Royal Consent under the Act of 1772.
It should also be carefully noticed
that in England the marriage of a member of the Royal Family is
probably not valid unless it is celebrated according to the rites of
the Established Church, This point arose on the occasion of the
marriage of Lady Iris Mountbatten, granddaughter of Princess Beatrice
and great granddaughter of Queen Victoria, because the parties wished
to be married in a Reman Catholic church.+ As the marriages of members
of the Royal Family are expressly excepted from the various Marriage
Acts (under which alone marriage with other than Anglican rite is
legally recognised), the question to be determined was whether marriage
in a Roman Catholic Church was valid at common law as being a contract per verba de praesenti; and the Law Officers
advised that in view of the decision of the House of Lords in R. v.
Millis (x. Clark and Finelly 534) such a marriage was probably not
valid,° and there should be a Church of England ceremony in addition to
the Roman Catholic one (837,735/1) [=HO 144/21548].
+ In two previous cases English princesses had been married with a Roman Catholic ceremony (Princess Marie of Edinburgh to the Crown Prince of Roumania, and Princess Ena of Battenberg to the King of Spain;) but in both cases the marriage took place abroad, and therefore no question of British marriage law could arise.
° The decision of the House of Lords was founded on the view that under the ancient common law a contract per verba de praesenti was not sufficient to constitute marriage without the presence of a priest in holy (i.e. Anglican) orders. This is almost certainly wrong historically, but as a matter of law the decision of the House of Lords must be accepted., See the discussion in Pollock and Maitland's History of the English Law (2nd ed.) cap. vii, p. 264 (copy in 837,735/1)
Note that this applies to all members of the Royal Family, i.e., to all persons to whom the Royal Marriages Act applies, whether they come within the exception for the issue of Princesses who marry into foreign families or not: the effect of the exception is simply to remove the additional restriction imposed on Royal personages by the Royal Marriages Act; it does not exclude the persons so excepted from membership of the Royal Family and consequently does not touch section 45. of the Marriage Act, 1836, which provides that the Act (which makes marriages otherwise than in the Church of England legal) shall not apply to the marriage of any of the Royal Family.
This restriction depends on the marriage law of England, and therefore applies to England alone. It is clear from the unanimous opinion of the Judges given to and adopted by the House of Lords in the Sussex Peerage case that anywhere outside England (e.g., in Scotland) a Royal marriage contracted in accordance with the lex loci would be valid for all purposes and everywhere, provide the Royal Consent had been duly given. The Act expressly contemplates that a marriage under it will be celebrated with Anglican rites and on the authority of an Archbishop's licence, but this is not essential to validity provided the marriage is otherwise in accordance with the law; see the express opinion of the Judges on this point in XI Clark and Finelly, 148.
In the case of a carriage coming within the Act the procedure is as follows. His Majesty declares to the Council his consent to a marriage between A and B, and that he has ordered his consent to be signified under the Great Seal and entered in the books of the Council. An Order in Council is then made for entering the instrument (which is set out in an Appendix to the Order) in the books of the Council, and the Clerk of the Council notifies the Home Office. The Home Office then prepares the instrument of Consent and a Sign Manual Warrant directing the Lord Chancellor to seal it, and sends then when complete to the Clerk of the Crown. A Sign Manual Warrant is also prepared directing the Archbishop of Canterbury to grant a special licence for the marriage notwithstanding that the usual oaths have not been taken before the grant of the licence. The Warrant states that His Majesty is well assured that there is no impediment to the marriage. When this Warrant has been signed by His Majesty and the instrument of consent sealed, the Home Office sends both of them to the King's Proctor and requests him to procure the Archbishop's license.+ When the licence is received the Royal Marriage Register* is procured from the Lord Chamberlain's Office, and prepared for the forthcoming marriage (see 685.603/4) [=HO 45/16405]. The licence and Register must be sent to the ecclesiastical authority (of the Chapel Royal, Westminster Abbey, or wherever the ceremony is to take Place.) the Register is returned to the Lord Chamberlain's Office, and the consent is preserved in the Home Office records.°
+ The fee for the licence is paid by the bridegroom, or by the bride's family if the bridegroom is a foreign Royalty. (327,366/7 = ? and 376,204/3 =HO 45/17903).
* It is held on the advice of the Law Officers that
marriage of members of the Royal Family are outside the Registration
Act, (221,759/4 =HO 45/24625). They are therefore not registered in the ordinary
civil register, but in a special one which is kept in the Lord
° In the case of Princess Patricia of Connaught (376,204/1 = HO 45/17903) the consent was sent to her by mistake, end as she had kept it for some years before this was discovered and regarded it as an heirloom she was allowed to retain it.In one or two cases applications have been made to the Home Office for permission to photograph the licence register or consent for Press purposes, but these have been refused - see 426,865/6 [=HO 144/1759/426865] and 685,603/11 [=HO 45/16405].
The Secretary of State's duties in
the matter of procuring the licence and seeing to the Register are even
more obviously than most of those mentioned in this section of relic of
his original functions as the King's personal secretary. The King's
Proctor advised (B17,152/4) [=HO 144/964/B17152] that an Archbishop's licence is necessary
for a marriage under the Royal Marriages Act. The unusual course of
peremptorily ordering the Archbishop to issue it was presumably adopted
on the ground that when the Sovereign in Council has formally given his
consent to a marriage the parties ought not to be put in the position
of applying to the Archbishop for a licence with the (theoretical)
possibility of a refusal. It is a curious survival into the 20th
century of the direct authority in ecclesiastical affairs which was
exercised by the Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns.#
# In this connection it may be observed that the Act (25 Hen. 8. c.21) which empowers the Archbishop to grant these licences also provides (section 11) that if the Archbishop refuses a licence to any person "that ought of a good just and reasonable cause to have the same" (1) the Chancellor may summon him to show cause for his refusal on paine of a fine to be "limited" by the King, if he fails to do so, (2) the King by writ under the Great Seal may authorise any two "Spiritual prelates or persons" to grant the licence, and proceed to enforce the fine so fixed.
It nay perhaps be noted that before the marriage of the Duke of Kent and Princess Marina (presumably a member of the Greek Church) the parties signed a declaration to the effect that any children of the marriage should be brought on in the Protestant Faith. The declaration was sent to the Home Office a copy was placed in the Home Office records and the original sent to the Privy Council Office for incorporation in the books of the Council (677,196/36) [=HO 144/19713].
In two cases where an English Princess married the reigning Sovereign or the Heir apparent to the throne of a foreign country, - (vis. the marriage of Prinoess Marie of Edinburgh to the Crown Prince of Roumania and the marriage of Princess Ena of Battenberg to the King of Spain) she executed before the marriage a voluntary renunciation of her rights of succession to the British Crown. This was unnecssary and indeed had no legal effect whatever, since the bridegrooms being Roman Catholics the ladies by the fact of their marriage were excluded from the succession in virtue of the provisions of the Bill of Rights (1 William and Mary Sess. 2, c.2.): and there is nothing in the files to show why an act of renunciation was thought desirable at all except that a letter from Queen Victoria's Private Secretary in 49,089/6 [=HO 144/20/49089] says that "it was considered better that the act of renunciation of the Crown should be voluntary." See 49,089/6 and 136,042/32 [=HO 45/10332/136042], which show the form of the renunciation. there is nothing for the Home Office to do in the matter.
Extract from Warrants Notebook
The controlling Statute is 12 Geo.
III cap 11. The procedure
When (a) is completed and Sealed it is sent by hand with a letter to the King's Proctor, for preparation of (c), which is sent to H.O. in due course and Consent returned to H.O.
The Lord Chamberlain then forwards the Royal Marriage Register which is then prepared in H.O. (formerly this used to be done by the Ecclesiastical Authorities, e.g. at Westminster Abbey or at the Chapel Royal: practice was altered in 1935 on 685,603/4). Both the Licence and Register are returned to Lord Chamberlain, and the Sealed Consent remains for a time at H.O. Eventually these Consents are sent to Public Record Office, in batches.
Note as to engrossing of Consent Wt: B.36714/43 [= ?].
Royal Marriage: Memo as to Roman Catholic wedding 837,735 [=HO 144/21548] (1941)
Request to photograph Marriage Licence refused by H.M. 426,865/6 [=HO 144/1759/426865] (Princess Mary's wedding 1922).
When Royal Weddings do not take place in this country no further action has to be taken following the Sealing of the Consent: no Archbishop's Licence is issued and of course there is no Register to prepare - for case in point see 806,654 [=HO 144/21098] (1937) [Princess Frederika of Hanover and H.R.H. Prince Paul, Crown Prince of Greece.]
As to necessity for Special Licence of Archbishop of Canterbury in certain cases see 376,204 [=HO 45/17903] (Treasury Solicitor's letter of 11.2.1919)
Memo in case of Lady May Cambridge, October 1931. (592,858 [=HO 144/16357]).
Copy of a Special Licence in 113,219/6 [=HO 45/10293/113219].
The Procurator-General pays the Archbishop's Fee for Fiat; the Fee for the Licence and the Sealer's Fee were formerly paid by the Sovereign, now by Procurator General, who recovers the whole amount from H.O. We in turn collect the amount from the Royalty concerned. Fees total £63.7.6 vizt. 10 gns. to Archbishop and £52.17.6 to Faculty Office. (See 113,219/10; 127,366/7 [=HO 45/10319/127366]; 685,603/12 etc.).
Cases in which formal Consent of Sovereign unnecessary.
H.S.H. Prince George of Battenburg and Countess Nada Torby 111,794/25 [=HO 45/11101].
Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of George II, married in 1736 Augusta, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha, who was then aged 17. The marriage was performed in the Chapel Royal by the Bishop of London and the breakfast lasted until midnight. Then followed the bridal chamber reception.
The Prince of Wales was accompanied by the King and Queen with a large retinue. Frederick wore a night gown of silk brocade in gold and silver, and had on a cap of the finest lace. The bride was sitting up in bed in a lace nightdress with her bridesmaids standing around. The Prince got into bed and sitting up together in bed the Prince and Princess spent half an hour receiving company.
George III married Charlotte of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz, aged 17, on September 8th, I76l. The wedding was
performed in the Chapel Royal by the Archbishop of Canterbury at 9p.m.
and the subsequent entertainment was kept up until 2 a.m. But at the
prayers of the young bride the reception in the bridal chamber was
dispensed with and it was never revived for any subsequent royal
It may be useful to have on record
the following information, dealing as it does with the legal position
of the wife and children of a Royal Prince whose marriage was not
approved by the Sovereign.
Augustus, sixth son of George III,
married, in despite of the provisions of the Royal Marriage Act, 1772,
Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Dunmore, in
1793 in Rome. In December, 1793, the ceremony was repeated in London.
A son was born in 1794 and George
III got the marriage annulled by the Court of Arches on the ground that
it was contrary to the Royal Marriage Act. George III refused to
create Augustus a Duke until he had given up the Lady. When he agreed
to this in 1801 he was created Duke of Sussex and Lady Augusta was
granted an annuity of £1,800 on condition that she did not use the
Royal Arms. She was allowed by royal licence to change her name to
Lady D'Ameland. The son and daughter born of the marriage were called
The Duke died in 1843 and in the following year his son, Sir Augustus D'Este (William IV having knighted him and given him an annuity of £500 out of the Civil List) entered a claim before the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords to succeed to his father's peerage. The decision of the Lords was that the Royal Marriage Act applied to a marriage of a member of the royal family wherever celebrated, but in giving their judgment the Law Lords declared that Parliament ought never to have passed the Royal Marriage Act and that the mother and children were deeply injured persons, observations which according to contemporary press reports were received with cheers.
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