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LCO 2/3371A

 


 

FOREIGN OFFICE,   S.W.1. 13th April,   1946.

(T 6618/6618/379)


Dear Napier,

 

The Secretary of state would be grateful for an early expression of the views of the Lord Chancellor on the rather nice problem which has been set by the enclosed letter from Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg and ci-devant reigning Duke of Brunswick, applying for the consent required from His Majesty under the Statute 12 Geo.III cap.11, to the marriage of his son Prince George William with Princess Sophia, dowager princess of Hesse, Princess of Greece and Denmark. She is the widow of prince Christopher of Hesse who is stated on page 61 of the Almanach de Gotha, 1944 (the latest we have) to have been killed in an airplane crash in the war zone in October 1943.

In view of the conditions created by the war, Mr. Bevin feels extremely doubtful about the propriety of expressing The King's consent in the formal manner contemplated by the Statute, as was done when the Duke's daughter became engaged to Prince Paul of Greece in 1937 before the war broke out; and in view of His Majesty's wish to let the Duke know that from his personal point of view there is no objection to the marriage it has been suggested that an informal intimation to this effect might be conveyed to the Duke through our people in Germany, with an explanation that in present circumstances it is not possible (if such in fact is the position) for His Majesty to declare his consent in Council as could have been done in normal circumstances.

 

From the Dukes's point of view, and from whatever motives he may have acted, he has done the correct thing in applying to His Majesty, and The King would naturally not wish to appear discourteous by ignoring his letter. At the same time it would seem impossible to avoid the fact that the Duke is technically of enemy status, which to say the least of it must cast a certain doubt on the expediency of following in Council the procedure laid down by the Statute. The latter however declares specifically that "no descendant of the body of His late Majesty King George the Second, Male or Female (other than the issue of princesses who have married, or may hereafter marry, into Foreign Families), shall be capable of contracting Matrimony without the consent of His Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, signified under the great Seal, and declared in Council", and in face of this wording the adoption of the informal middle course which I have indicated would seem to be a means of saving The King from appearing discourteous but might be misinterpreted as being formal consent under the statute when in fact the statutory procedure has not been followed.

 

As the question involves a point in regard to the Succession Mr. Bevin feels bound to refer it to the Lord Chancellor for an expression of his views. I am afraid however that the matter must be regarded as very urgent.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

G.G. Fitsmaurice

(for W. E. Beckett)

(W.E. Beckett)

 

 

The Honourable,

Sir Albert Napier, K.C.B,

House of Lords.


Copy

(T 6618/6618/379.)

To His Majesty the King.

 

Sir.

 

My son George William Ernest Augustus Frederic Axel Prince of Hanover, Prince of Great-Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg, Royal Highness,  born at Brunswick on 25th March 1915  is engaged to be married to Her Royal Highness Sophia Princess dowager of Hesse, born Princess of Greece and Denmark,  born at Korfu on 26th June  1914 and the wedding is to be celebrated  in a short time.

 

Before taking any public or official steps  in this matter, my duty as a Descendant of His Majesty George the Second of glorious memory,  obliges me to conform to the terms of the Royal Statute XII George III chapter XI.

 

It  is then to  this  end that  I solicit hereby the consent of Your Majesty to the Union above mentioned, begging You to ratify this consent under the Great Seal of State, to declare it  in Your Privy Council and to enroll the same in the Registers of Licenses of Marriages and   of the said Privy Council, also with an extract  from the Council Register to  be forwarded on to me.

 

My intimate conviction of the sincere interest which Your Majesty takes in all that concerns me, as well as the veritable and true attachement with which You have always honoured me, assures me beforehand of the favourable reception which this request will not fail to meet with,   and   I eagerly seize this  opportunity to renew to Your Majesty the assurance of the high esteem and unalterable friendship with which I remain

 

Sir                                                            

 

Your Majesty's affectionate Cousin

signed Ernest August   (Duke of Brunswick)

Marienburg-Nordstemmen

22nd March 1946.



copies to Sir Eric Leadbitter, R.S. Wells Esq.

 

Dear Fitzmaurice,

 

I have consulted the Lord Chancellor as requested in your letter of the 15th April (T 6618/6618/379).

 

The Duke of Brunswick married Victoria, one of the daughters of Kaiser Wilhelm II and therefore is a granddaughter of the Empress Frederick, a Princess who married into a foreign family.  This raises a doubt whether the Act of 1772 (12 Geo 3 c. 11) applies at all to the children of the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick.  It may be that this point was not considered in 1937 when the Duke’s daughter was about to marry Prince Paul of Greece.

 

The Lord Chancellor suggests that the informal message from The King to the Duke of Brunswick should be to the effect that The King has no objection to the proposed marriage, but in view of the fact that a state of war still exists between Great Britain and Germany, and in view of the fact that the Duke’s son is the issue of a Princess who has married into a foreign family, His Majesty is advised that the case is not one in which it is practivable or necessary for His Majesty’s consent to be given in the formal manner contemplated by the Act.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

A. E. A. Napier

 

 

C. C. Fitzmaurice, Esq.




Lord Chancellor’s draft. a.e.a.n.  15/4/46

 

R has no objection to this ? but in view of the fact that a state of war still exists between GB and Germany & in view of the fact that the young man is the issue of a princess who has married into a foreign family it is not thought that the case is one in which any formal ? of consent with entry in the books of the PC is ness.y  or practicable.



The Lord Chancellor was doubtful whether the Act of 1772 does not apply to the son of the present Duke of Brunswick.

 

He thought it might be so, as regards the letter of the law, but wondered whether it could be within the intention of the Act that if any a male member of the British Royal family could, without The King’s consent, were to marry with the King’s consent, a person any foreigner who happened to be descended from the Empress Frederick, the issue of their marriage could marry as they pleased without the King’s consent.

 

a.e.a.n.

 

17th April, 1946

 


 

FOREIGN OFFICE, S.W.1., 17th April 1946.

 

Dear Lascelles,

 

I enclose the draft of a telegram which it is proposed, if The King approves, to send to Christian Steel at Berlin about the request or the Duke of Brunswick: for His Majesty's consent to the marriage of his son.

 

The matter has been referred to  the Lord Chancellor, who is in agreement with the course suggested in the second paragraph of the draft. There is a general feeling that The King should not be drawn, into the question more than is unavoidable, and it is considered that la view of the Duke's technical enemy status it would be difficult for His Majesty to read any written reply to his letter, or even an intimation that there is no objection to the marriage as far as His Majesty is personally concerned, since any intimation of this kind might later on lead to an argument as to whether such personal consent was effective, which would be very embarrassing.

 

Consideration has been given to the question  whether the Act of George III applies at all to the children of the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick, seeing that the Duchess, as the daughter of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, is the granddaughter of the   Empress Frederick, a Princess who married into a  foreign family, and that the terms of the Act parenthetically exclude, after a reference to the descendants of King George II, male or female, the issue of Princesses who marry into foreign families. The Lord Chancellor is afraid, however, that it would not be right to construe the Act as inapplicable, in face of the unbroken descent of the Duke himself from King George II. In any case, such a way out of the difficulty would hardly be practicable in view of the procedure followed (quite rightly, it would seem) when the Duke's daughter became engaged to the Crown Prince of Greece before the war.

 

 The situation is felt to be governed, therefore, by the Duke's technical enemy status. It is submitted that if the matter is explained to the Duke in the terms suggested in the draft telegram, he will understand that the difficulty about giving consent is not of The King's making and that the absence of consent is in no way attributable to His Majesty personally.

 

Yours sincerely,

(Sd.) P.J. Dixon

 

The Right Honourable Sir Alan Lascelles,

K.C.B,  K.C.V.O., C.M.G., M.C.

 



April, 1946.

MOST IMMEDIATE.

Mr. Steel, BERLIN.

 

The Duke of Brunswick has formally applied to The King by letter of March 22nd for the consent of His Majesty under the Act 12 Geo. III, cap. 11 to the marriage of his son Prince George William with Princess Sophia Dowager Princess of Hesse.  The marriage is understood to be taking place on April.....                      

                                        

Please convey to the Duke an informal intimation that in view of the fact that a state of war still exists between Great Britain and Germany, His Majesty is advised that the case is not one in which it is practicable for His consent to be given in the manner contemplated by the Act.

 

NOTE.

Fitzmaurice rang up to say that in the Foreign Office the opinion was held that it was contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the law as enacted by the Act of 1772, that a descendant of George III who through his mother was issue of a Princess who a had married into a foreign family but whose father was a descendant of George III hut not the issue of such a Princess, was outside the Act.

 

He asked whether we would agree to the message from The King to the Duke of Brunswick, through the Military Government, being framed so as not to raise this point nor to express his personal approval of the marriage, hut merely to say that as a state of war still exists, it is not possible for his consent to be given in accordance with the Act.     Fitzmaurice understood from Lascelles that this would be agreeable to The King. I said that we would agree.

 

I admitted on the telephone that the Lord Chancellor was inclined to share the Foreign Office view about the spirit of the Act.    I also admitted that if our view as to the letter of the law were correct and if the King were hereafter to consent to the marriage of the Duke of Kent to a person who was the issue of (say) the Empress Frederick, the descendants of that marriage would he outside the Act and the Duke of Kent's son would  be able, so far as the Act is concerned, to marry without the consent of The King.                             

 

a.e.a.n.

 

l8th April, 1946.



OUTWARD   TELEGRAM

[CYPHER]

P R I S E C

FROM FOREIGN OFFICE TO POLITICAL ADVISER TO COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, GERMANY (BERLIN)

No, 572

18th April, 1946.

D. 7.05 p.m. 18th April, 1946.

MOST IMMEDIATE

The Duke of Brunswick has formally applied to The King by letter of March 22nd for the consent of His Majesty under the Act 12 Geo. III, cap. 11 to the marriage of his son Prince George William with Princess Sophia Dowager Princess of Hesse.  The marriage is understood to he taking place on April 23rd.

Please convey to the Duke an informal intimation that in view of the fact that a state of war still exists between Great Britain and Germany, His Majesty is advised that the case is not one in which it is practicable for His consent to be given in the manner contemplated by the Act.

 


 

Note for file

 

marriage of Prince George William son of the Duke of Brunswick with Princess Sophia, Dowager Princess of Hesse.

 

For note by the Home Office regarding this marriage see 3236/15 (re-regd 3445/35)

 

Prince Ernest of Hanover v. Attny General

Claim for declaration that he is a British subject.  Judgment by Vaisey, J

see 3445/31

 


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