THE PLACE OF THE KING IN THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION.
Address by the Horn. SIR GEORGE W. Ross, LL.D., Senator of Canada, before the Empire Club of Canada, on May 23rd, 1910.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be present tonight, as I deem it a privilege to be permitted to address the Empire Club. Although I do not appear as frequently as usual on a public platform since my appointment to the Senate, my heart is still with Canada and the Empire, and for the little while that my voice can be heard I hope to keep these two topics somewhat prominently before my fellow-citizens. I have taken up (at the suggestion of Mr. Hopkins upon whom I will lay the blame for any failure in my address) as a subject for this evening: "The Place of the King in the British Constitution."
We have only one person having supreme authority over the British Empire, and it is well for us to know what place he occupies under the constitution, how he receives his authority, and upon what conditions he holds his high position as King of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dominions beyond the Seas. I have stated that the King is the only person in the British Empire whose authority is supreme. While this is theoretically true, and while perhaps it was practically true in the case of the Norman Kings, yet under our system of Parliamentary government which originated under Edward I (1295), the power of the King has been subject to certain limitations which every constitutional monarch is bound to observe. Notably the King has no power to levy taxes or to impose any burdens upon the people without the consent of Parliament, and it was because of his violation of this principle, among other things, that Charles I precipitated the crisis which led to his overthrow and execution. But while this limitation is accepted by the monarch and controls in practice his authority, theoretically his supreme power still remains. This view is very clearly expressed in Bagehot's admirable work on the British constitution in which he says
"The Queen could disband the army, could dismiss all the officers from the General downward, dismiss all the sailors, sell all the ships of war and naval stores, could make peace by the sacrifice of Cornwall, Nova Scotia, or any other Province, could declare war with closest friends and make every citizen, male or female, sit in parliament, could dismiss most of the civil servants, and pardon all offenders, and by disbanding her forces could leave our shores defenceless against foreign nations."
We now happily enjoy a constitution in which the abstract has become obsolete, and the more modern and the more practical elements of government prevail. Under the theory of the British constitution the King is an hereditary monarch, but this also is a theory, as purely hereditary claims do not give him an indefeasible right to the Crown. May in his Constitutional History says
"The power of Parliament over the Crown is distinctly affirmed by statute law and recognized as an important principle of the constitution." This power is exercised not only in the way already indicated as to the granting of supplies, but also in controlling the right of succession to the Crown. For instance, in 1688, the Stuart Dynasty was deposed and William and Mary declared by Parliament to be the rightful heirs to the British Crown, although not strictly in the line of hereditary succession. So it may be truly said that British monarchs are the choice of the people through their representatives in Parliament just as much as if they were directly elected by popular vote. The acquiescence in their succession in our day is merely an affirmation of the principle of the Revolution of 1688.
But the right of succession has still another limitation. The great religious movement known as the Reformation, followed by the quarrel of King Henry VIII with the Pope, introduced Protestantism into the British Islands during his reign, but more particularly under his resolute daughter, Queen Elizabeth, Protestantism in the form recognized as the Church of England, became the established religion of the realm, and although divided in its modes of worship between the class known as Puritans and Anglicans, there was no difference of opinion among Protestants as to the necessity of restraining the aggressiveness of the Roman Catholic Church or the Papacy as it was then called. Many of the troubles that existed under the Stuart Dynasty were owing to the real or assumed partiality towards the Roman Catholic religion of the last two of the Stuart kings. As William and Mary had no direct heirs, Parliament under the Act of Settlement declared that the right to the British Crown should only pass to those heirs of the reigning monarch who were Protestants and in communion with the Church of England. Moreover, it declared that should the King marry a Roman Catholic or become a. Roman Catholic himself, his right to the Crown should be forfeited. This precaution to maintain the line of Protestant succession was an expression of the public opinion of the age. Even in the reign of the Stuarts the King was required to express his abhorrance of the Roman Catholic Church and its doctrines, but to a Stuart an obligation of this kind was not considered very binding. This Declaration which every King and Queen has taken since the days of Charles II is as follows:--
I, Edward, do solemnly and sincerely and in the presence of God, profess, testify and declare that I do believe that in the sacrament of our Lord's Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the Consecration thereof by any person whatsoever and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint or the sacrifice of the Mass as they are now used in the Church of Rome are superstitious and idolatrous, and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify and declare that I make this Declaration and every part thereof in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation or mental reservation whatsoever and without any dispensation already granted to me for this purpose by the Pope or any other authority or person whatsoever and without any hope of any such dispensation from any person whatsoever, and without thinking I sin or can be acquitted before God or man o any part thereof, although the Pope or any other person or persons or power whatsoever should dispense with or annul the game or declare that it was null and void from the beginning.
It is worthy to note that members of Parliament were also required to make a similar Declaration for many years when sworn before the Speaker of the House. It is well known that His late Majesty objected to this declaration as being an unworthy censure on a large class of his loyal subjects, and before his Coronation an effort was made to relieve him from making it. Since the accession of His present Majesty the agitation for relief has been revived, and I sincerely trust will be successful. Roman Catholicism has not, in modern times at least, in the British Empire exhibited any qualities which would justify reflecting upon its doctrines in the terms contained in this Declaration, and Protestantism, as I understand it, is too broad and tolerant to base its recognition by the state upon reflections on any other form of religion.
The King being the supreme authority in the realm, it necessarily, follows that the King never dies, hence the practical unity of the expression. "The King is dead, long live the King." The death of the King in constitutional usage is simply the demise or the transfer of the Crown to the next heir, a transfer which takes place immediately on the decease of the reigning monarch, or at least as soon as his hereditary successor is sworn in. You will therefore have seen that a British King as a constitutional ruler must be of the Protestant faith according to the communion of the Established Church and whose successor attains the throne upon conditions regulated by Parliament.
We will now proceed to consider some of the prerogatives of the King. First, let me mention that he is the head of the Imperial Parliament, and as such one of the three estates of the realm. All legislation is enacted in his name and every statute of the Imperial Parliament runs in this wise: "The King, by and with the advice arid consent of the Lords, temporal and spiritual, and the House of Commons, enacts as follows." He is also the head of the Parliament of Canada, and our statutes run "The King, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons, enacts as follows." Similarly in all Legislative Assemblies of the Provinces of Canada with the exception of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The preamble to every statute of Canada recognizes the King as the source of authority. It is worth while here to notice the significance of the statement that the King acts "by and with the advice and consent of, etc." That means that in legislation the King acts openly by the authority of Parliament, that in all matters pertaining to the Government of the Empire he takes the "advice" of Parliament, and that in addition to its advice he has the "consent" of Parliament to declare what laws are binding upon the people of whom he is the supreme head.
Under such a form of government no Star Chamber could exist, and no ordinances could be issued by the King himself which would carry with them any more authority in law than the dictum of any private citizen. It is true that the Executive Government has the power to issue what is called Orders-in-Council, which are as binding as an Act of Parliament, providing Parliament has given authority to the Executive Government to make such Orders. These are signed by the King on the advice of his Government, then attested by the signature of some responsible Minister. The signature of the King alone to an Order-in-Council would not render it operative unless the recommendation on which it was based was signed by one of his Ministers. As in his assent to Acts of Parliament when approved by both Houses is an evidence that they are the will of the people, so his assent to Orders-in-Council when recommended by his Cabinet and signed by a Minister still shows that he is under the control and direction of Parliament, and that as a King he can do no wrong, for his acts are the acts of his Ministers for which they alone are responsible.
Another prerogative of the King is that no meeting of Parliament can be held without his authority. Every writ calling for the assembly of Parliament runs in the King's name, as for instance, "George V, by the Grace of God, etc., to our beloved and faithful Senators of the Dominion of Canada and members elected to serve in the House of Commons, greetings;" then follows the proclamation mentioning the time at which Parliament is to assemble. Then as a reiteration of his authority as the head of Parliament the King delivers what is called his Speech, containing reasons for calling upon the members of Parliament to meet and legislate for the good of the realm. Until this Speech is delivered Parliament is not supposed to transact any business. The King must be present that Parliament might know why it has been called.
But while Parliament recognizes the King's precedence by regarding the Speech from the Throne as the first order of business, it asserts its independence of the Royal authority in calling it together, by transacting some informal business before proceeding to the consideration of the Speech from the Throne. That is to say. Parliament may say that while it is important to consider the business to which His Majesty has called attention, it is more important to take up other business which may have been omitted from the Speech and which His Majesty might not perhaps desire Parliament to consider. Even the imperious Charles I could not stifle the independence of Parliament, although he might dispense with its advice for several years at a time. Under our present constitution, however, there is no danger that Parliament will be ignored either by the King or by his representative in Canada, the Governor-General, inasmuch as supplies are only voted for one year, and a Government with a civil service looking into an empty treasury, and postal and other public services for which there was no money, would be driven by the very stress of its financial embarrassments to ask Parliament for the usual supply. In the administration of a Government as well as in the commerce of the country an empty treasury exercises an unmistakable influence.
By a curious usage of the constitution the King is the only citizen of the British realm who is prevented from entering either House of Parliament. I think the last time a British monarch entered the House of Commons was when Charles the First, with some of his officers, attempted to arrest five members of the House who had offended him, and on finding that the offending members were not present he demanded of the Speaker to know where they were, to which the Speaker replied (thus showing that he did not regard the King as having any authority in the House) "I have no eyes to see nor tongue to speak except as the House directs me." "Well," said the King, "since I see all the birds are flown I do expect, as soon as they return, you to send them to me"--whereupon the King left the House, some members as he went calling out "Privilege, Privilege," meaning that the King had acted contrary to the privileges of the House.
The restriction imposed upon the King as to entering the House while Parliament is in Session applies to the Governor-General of Canada and the Lieutenant-Governors of-the Provinces. The principle underlying this restriction is that the Parliament must be perfectly free to legislate for the people without any suspicion that his presence would unduly influence the people's representatives in their deliberations. The supplies voted by Parliament are theoretically supplies voted to the King for the maintenance of the army and navy and the necessary expenses of the King's Government. From this it follows that the King's signature (the same applies to the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governor of the Provinces) is necessary before the monies voted by Parliament can be applied, and in this respect the King is bound by the Parliamentary rule that monies ordered by Parliament to be applied to any specific purpose cannot be ordered by-him to be applied to any other purpose. It sometimes happens, however, that emergencies arise in which the supplies voted for some specific purpose or purposes were insufficient. In that case the King is empowered by Act of Parliament to draw upon the treasury by Order-in-Council on the understanding that such expenditure will afterwards be submitted to Parliament at its next meeting for approval.
The next prerogative of the King is, that he alone can dissolve Parliament, and it would appear that he has authority to do so without the advice of his Ministers. George III dismissed the Coalition Government of 1784 and 18o7, and William IV dismissed Lord Melbourne in 1834. In the first two cases the action of the King was confirmed by the nation in the general election which followed. In the case of Lord Melbourne the action of the King was reversed and Lord Melbourne and his Government were recalled. In both cases the action of the King was considered arbitrary. They both, however, illustrate the sovereignty of the people and their constitutional right to govern through Ministers possessing their confidence.
In Canada no Ministry has been dismissed by the GovernorGeneral since Confederation, but several cases have arisen in which a Lieutenant-Governor dismissed his Ministers and appealed to the electors for confirmation of his action. In March, 1878, His Honour Luc Letellier de St. Just dismissed his Ministers and called upon Henri G. Joly to form a new Government. M. Joly accepted the task, appealed to the country and was sustained by a small majority. In the course of eighteen months this majority vanished and M. Joly asked for another dissolution of the Assembly but was refused and he accordingly resigned. M. Letellier's action in dismissing Ministers that had a working majority was severely criticized by the supporters of the dismissed Ministers, and Sir John Macdonald, then Premier of Canada, took the view that as the electors did not support the new Ministers in sufficient numbers to give them a working majority, that Letellier's usefulness as Lieutenant-Governor was gone and he was accordingly dismissed. In 1900 the Hon. Mr. McInnes. Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, dismissed his Ministers and called upon the Honourable Joseph Martin to form a new Government. Mr. Martin appealed to the country and was defeated. Mr. McInnes expected that the country would sustain the dismissal of his former advisers, but as he failed in obtaining the support of the electorate he was himself dismissed and a new Lieutenant-Governor appointed in his place. The constitutional practice seems to be that where the head of the Executive Government dismisses his advisers and fails to be supported by the electors that his immediate retirement from office is necessary in order to maintain harmony afterwards in the administration of the Government. In the case of the King, the only amends practicable is the restoration of the Ministers possessing the confidence of the country.
The next prerogative of the King is his right of veto on all legislation passed by the other estates of the realm. The President of the United States has a similar right over the legislation of Congress, but may be over-ruled by a vote of twothirds of both Houses. The King's veto, however, cannot be over-ruled, but out of deference to the authority of Parliament this right has been held in abeyance for over two hundred years and has not been exercised by any British monarch since the reign of Queen Anne. Only one Act of the Parliament of Canada has so far received the Royal veto. This was an Act reducing the salary of the Governor-General from $50,000 to $32,000. The British Government held, rightly, that so long as Canada was under the Crown the office of Governor-General should be maintained with proper dignity. The right of veto or disallowance of Provincial legislation is exercised by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister of Justice. In all, eight Bills passed by the Ontario Legislature have been disallowed. The principle governing disallowance of Provincial legislation is set forth in a memorandum of the Deputy Minister of Justice on page 532 of "Parliamentary Government in the Colonies," by Alpheus Todd, (2nd Edition).
Another prerogative of the King is the nomination of some person to select the various Ministers and other officers required for the services of the state. The person so nominated by the King is called the First or Prime Minister. Before the Revolution the King nominated all the Ministers of State, at the same time designating some Minister as head of the Government. The King nevertheless exercises the privilege of objecting to any person proposed as a new Minister as not Persona grata and, usually, such objection prevails. King George III had contracted a strong dislike to Charles James Fox, and for a long time declined to accept him as a Minister. The late Queen also objected to Sir Charles Dilke, it was said on moral grounds, and notwithstanding his great ability, he has never been admitted to the Cabinet.
In the choice of a Prime Minister the King is not necessarily confined to Members of a House of Lords or the House of Commons, although I am not aware of an instance in which the King has gone outside of either of these bodies in the selection of his Prime Ministers. A similar practice prevails with regard to the selection of First Minister in the Dominion and in the Provincial Assemblies, although not invariably followed. Mr. Oliver Mowat was selected to form a Government in r 8; 2 on the retirement of Mr. Blake, although he was not a member of the Legislative Assembly. But while the choice of the King is limited by usage and practically by the necessities of the case, the Prime Minister in forming his Cabinet has a greater range of action, and it not infrequently happens that a Prime Minister calls to his Council men occupying public positions who do not hold a seat in the Parliament of which he is leader. In 1896 Sir Wilfrid Laurier called to his Cabinet no less than five persons who had no seat in the House of Commons at the time. These were the Hon. W. S. Fielding, Sir Louis Davies, Hon. Clifford Sifton, Sir Oliver Mowat and Hon. A. G. Blair.
The Prime Minister and certain of his colleagues holding the most important offices in the state, constitute the Cabinet, and are called Privy Councillors and are entitled to be addressed as the Right Honourable. The British Cabinet usually consists of from eighteen to twenty members and the Administration of from forty to fifty in addition, all of whom retire with the Cabinet in the event of its resignation. In Canada the Cabinet consists of fifteen members having the rank of Ministers and are called the King's Privy Councillors. Following an old practice the King has the right to enroll as Privy Councillors distinguished publicists who are neither members of the Cabinet nor of the Administration. That honour has been conferred upon a small number of Canadians, including Lord Strathcona, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir Richard Cartwright, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, and Sir Elzear Taschereau. A Privy Councillor, like a Peer, has the right to be admitted to the presence of the King to tender his personal advice on matters of state, but the right is seldom exercised.
Meetings of the Cabinet are both private and secret. They are private inasmuch as no person is present at such meetings excepting members of the Cabinet alone. Formerly the King presided at meetings of the Cabinet but since the reign of George I that practice has been discontinued. George I had no knowledge of the English language, and so he absented himself for a very good reason as he could not understand the discussions, and his successors have not exercised the privilege, which I assume it would be quite constitutional to do. A meeting of the Cabinet may be held anywhere, either in the Capital or in any other place within the realm. I said a moment ago that Cabinet meetings were secret. Ministers are sworn not to divulge the business of the Cabinet to any person, and this privilege applies to a Minister even before Courts of justice should any transaction of the Cabinet be called in question. A Minister may refer to proceedings of the Cabinet in Parliament-the consent of the King having been first obtained. The decisions of the Cabinet when signed by the King are called Orders-in-Council and are as binding as an Act of Parliament, providing they do not exceed the power conferred upon the Cabinet by Parliament.
Another prerogative of the King is the right to declare war and make treaties with foreign countries. All treaties are made in the name of the King-of course, with the advice of his Councillors. William III claimed the right of making treaties without advice, as he insisted upon being his own Foreign Minister. Treaties made by the Government are binding upon the nation without reference to Parliament unless they involve some change in commercial relations which effect the customs duties enacted by Parliament. A similar rule prevails in Canada. The practice is, however, in my opinion very objectionable because Treaties sometimes impose the most serious obligations upon the country and are not entirely beyond the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts of law. The American system of submitting treaties to the Senate of the United States for ratification, or if of a commercial character then to both Houses, is much to be preferred even though in some cases it involves delays that may be inconvenient. Government by the people followed to its legitimate conclusion involves the control by the people through their representatives of every important matter affecting their interests. I should gladly see a change made in the practice now prevailing in 'the Parliament' of Canada.
The King has a right to peruse all despatches and correspondence affecting his relations with foreign countries. He considers himself, under the constitution, to be specially responsible for maintaining peaceable relations between the Empire and sister nations, and as it is his prerogative to declare war it is necessary that negotiations or diplomatic interviews which may lead to war should be reviewed by him. It will be remembered that in 1851 Lord Palmerston expressed an opinion with regard to the coup d'etat by which Napoleon III became Emperor of the French. The correspondence in question was not referred to Her Majesty, and as a consequence Lord Palmerston was dismissed from his post of Foreign Secretary and strict orders were given by Her Majesty that such an offence should not be repeated. It will also be remembered when despatches of a somewhat irritating character, passed between the Governments of the United States and Great Britain with regard to the celebrated Trent affair that Her Majesty revised the despatch which Lord John Russell proposed to send to the Government of the United States, and suggested certain modifications in the language used by Lord John Russell, which enabled the Government of the United States to recede from the position it had taken in this matter without loss of dignity. Had it not been for Her Majesty's action in all probability war against the United States would have been declared. It is said that a British monarch reigns but does not rule. In this case the monarch ruled, greatly to the interest both of Britain and the United States. As an evidence of the feeling to be overcome, it is said that when Lord Palmerston entered the council at which this despatch was first considered, he remarked to his colleagues as he threw his hat on the table: "You may stand the attitude of the United States but I'll be damned if I will."
The King is also the head of the Army and Navy and Commander-in-Chief of all the military forces of the nation. In the days of the Plantagenets the King usually led his forces on the field of battle. The last King to fight the battles of his country personally was George II, at Dettingen. But while Kings do not now camp with the armies on the field of battle, their interest in the defensive forces of the country does not appear to have abated. Her late Majesty invariably attended all great military and naval reviews, and as an evidence of her love for her Army she ordered that her funeral should be conducted with military honours and so her body was borne to its last resting place like that of a common soldier on a gun carriage, as was the body of His late Majesty King Edward VII.
The King is the fountain of honour. Peerages, Knighthoods and ecclesiastical titles of the rank of Bishop and upwards are conferred with his approval. Nominations to the Bench are made by the Lord Chancellor with the approval of the King and without reference to his Cabinet. Bishops and Archbishops are appointed in a similar way on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The King is the head of the Episcopal Church in England and bears the title of "Defender of the Faith." At his Coronation he also swears to "maintain the true profession of the Gospel and the Presbyterian Reformed Religion established by law." By the Union Act with Scotland (1707) the King is also required to swear to maintain the Presbyterian Church in Scotland as established by law.
It is interesting to recall how the title "Defender of the Faith" first came to be used by the King of England. When the Reformation movement took hold of Germany Henry VIII evidently foresaw that if it succeeded the Pope would no longer be head of the Church, and in his zeal for Roman Catholicism he wrote a pamphlet defending the position of the Pope and his right in perpetuity to the headship of the Church. Pope Clement was so pleased with Henry's defense of his position that he styled him "Defender of the Faith." Later the King became enamoured of Anne Boleyn and in order to marry her sent Cardinal Wolsey to Rome to secure the Pope's consent to a divorce from Catharine. This Pope Clement refused. As a consequence Henry rebelled against papal authority in England and secured a revision of the Ritual then in use, established a form of Protestantism and assumed for himself the headship of the new Church, retaining still the title of "Defender of the Faith"-a title which his successors have retained down to the present day. As the head of the Church of England the consent of the King and also of Parliament must be obtained to any revision of the Litany of the Church and Book of Common Prayer, and no assembly of the Bishops in Convocation can be held without the consent of the King. In the self-governing Colonies, however, the Church of England has the same liberty in regard to its services and the appointment of ecclesiastics as any other Protestant Church.
As the head of the Church the King is also invested with the monopoly of printing the authorized version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. That is, the copyright of the Bible is vested in the King and an authorized version thereof cannot be printed or published without his license. Licenses are now granted in his name to the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and to certain societies such as the British and Foreign Bible Society. For the safety of Protestantism and the realm it was held by Parliament down to a recent date that no person could be trusted to hold any office either in a municipal corporation or in the Civil Service or in the Army and Navy, unless he was a communicant of the Church of England. Section 12 of the Corporation Act required all persons elected or chosen to any of the offices or places named in the Act, such as Mayor,. Recorder, Town Clerk, Magistrate, etc., to have taken the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England within one year prior to such election, and under the Test Act (1672) all persons, peers and commoners, holding civil or military office, or receiving pay from His Majesty, or holding command or places of trust under His Majesty, were required to take certain oaths and also to take the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England in some parish church upon some Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, immediately after divine service and sermon. By these two Acts known as the Corporation and Test Acts all Non-conformists and Dissenters were excluded from Municipal and judicial offices and also from Parliament. The Acts applied with particular severity to Roman Catholics and for over one hundred years an agitation was continued to secure their repeal. But religious prejudices die hard, and it was not until 1829, when the agitation became so strong as even to alarm the Duke of Wellington, that the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed relieving Roman Catholics and Dissenters from the disability under which they laboured. But the Emancipation Act did not quite clear the atmosphere. A Quaker could not sit in Parliament because he was required to take an oath, rather than to affirm, as the tenets of his religion were opposed to taking an oath. This disability was removed in 1833. The Jew could not enter Parliament because he was required to swear allegiance "on the true faith of a Christian." This disability was also removed in 1858. In 1866 an Act was passed prescribing one oath for members of Parliament in lieu of the several oaths required to be taken previous to that time, and which does not raise any question about religious scruples. It is interesting to note in this connection that since the Quebec Act of 1774 was passed, Roman Catholics in Canada were not required to subscribe to the Test and Corporation Oaths as in England, and were therefore not debarred, as in England, from sitting in the Parliament or from occupying any municipal or judicial office in the gift of the Crown.
Similar disabilities, at one time, as to religious obligations attached to matriculation into the great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Every student before being enrolled was requested to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles. The consequence of it was that for many years Dissenters were excluded from the advantages of a University education. This restriction was afterwards modified permitting Dissenters to pursue their studies at Oxford or Cambridge, but without the right to a degree unless they had subscribed, at the close of their examination, as formerly in the case of matriculants. In 1871 all tests for admission to the Universities were abolished except in the case of those who were proceeding to Holy Orders. A remnant of this disability attached for many years to King's College, Toronto, before it assumed the name of the University of Toronto, and students not members of the Episcopal Church had to obtain a special permit to attend what is now the University of Toronto before being admitted to its lectures.
As the King is the head of the Courts of Justice the verdict of a jury in criminal matters can only be set aside by the King. He alone has the right of pardon either in the case of capital punishment or minor offences of a criminal character. That right in England he exercises on the advice of the Home Secretary, and in Ireland on the advice of the Lord-Lieutenant. The Governor-General, as his representative, on the advice of Council exercises a similar power', and the Lieutenant-Governors of the Provinces with regard to statutes within the right of the Province. As the King is the head of the Criminal Courts he is therefore not amenable to the Court for any offence. In theory he is the Court itself and so the King can neither try himself for an offence nor pass any sentence, which would be binding, upon him. The King is in theory the owner of every acre of land over which a British flag floats except such lands as he has surrendered by deed or lease. You are quite familiar with the term "Crown Lands." That simply means the King's lands, and every patent to a portion of such lands means the surrender by the King of his right and interest therein. He is also the owner of the beds of all tidal rivers in Great Britain, and proprietor of all of that part of the shore surrounding the coasts which lies between high and low water mark. Any new land discovered by any of his subjects becomes his. If an island were to arise within three miles of the British coast it would immediately become the property of the King. The sturgeon and the whale are popularly known as Royal fish. When they are cast upon the coast of England the sturgeon's body becomes the property of the King, while the whale is divided between the King and the Queen, the former taking the head and the latter the tail.
I have not quite exhausted all the prerogatives of Royalty known to the British Constitution, but I hope I have said enough to render tolerably clear what are the chief functions of Royalty in a political sense. Directly, the King does not appear to possess much power in legislation or in the government, and yet it is well known that Her late Majesty exercised great influence over her Cabinet and did much to shape its policy. She possessed during her whole reign, in a marvellous degree, the confidence of her Ministers, and although she did not appear as a great force in the political movements of the times, it was well known that her advice was sought, not simply because she was Queen and in authority, but because of her intense interest in every public question that came before Parliament, and because of her sagacity in suggesting how it might best be disposed of.
His late Majesty was also a great force in the politics of the Empire. He will go down to history as "ward the Peace-maker," because of his wonderful powers of conciliation and for the friendly relations which he maintained with all the nations of Europe. Gabriel Hanotaux, who was French Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1894 to 1898, said of him: "It was King Edward who thawed the frozen heart of Old England. He broke the ice in political customs. When he became King he asked England to descend from the pinnacle on which she was placed and persuaded her to enter into relations with the rest of the world in obedience to the example set by his own accessible and human character." But apart altogether from his constitutional functions the King exercises an enormous social influence. It is well known that Her late Majesty purged the Royal Court of the malodorous associations by which it was discredited during the reign of her two predecessors, but more particularly during the reign of George IV. The scrutiny of the character of all persons who wish to approach His Majesty at any Court function is a deterrent against misdoings by those whose social status gives them a claim upon such privilege. Moreover, as Royalty is, and has been for the last half century, most active in promoting charities of all kinds, in giving its imprimatur to art and science and public enterprises, it has become a stimulus to the social advancement of the world and particularly to the Empire, and men of distinction and wealth have been stimulated to serve their country because of the generous services of Royalty in moral and social reform.
And now, what does it matter whether the King reigns or rules so long as he maintains the dignity of his position and performs his duties in the interest of the Empire. Great Kings and Queens have enhanced the power and influence of the British Empire in all ages of its history, and we need have no fear that His Majesty King George V will tarnish the honour of the Crown or be unfaithful to any of its responsibilities. The Empire has already passed through many a crisis. At present great questions are pressing for settlement which may affect its stability and its influence. But let us not be afraid. British Statesmen have so far been equal to every emergency, and if the movements at first appear to be a disturbing influence, they may finally resolve themselves into elements of strength. Of its future no Canadian need have any doubt. A glorious Empire
"Like some tall cliff that rears its awful form,
Prone from the vale and midway cleaves the storm,
Though round its base the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head."