Monday, April 30, 2012

The Titles Deprivation Act of 1917

Duke of Cumberland
In early November 1917, the British Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act.  This law was given royal assent on November 8.

"Titles Deprivation Act 1917

1917 CHAPTER 47 7 and 8 Geo 5

An Act to deprive Enemy Peers and Princes of British Dignities and Titles.

[8th November 1917]

1 Forfeiture of title of peer or prince held by enemy.

(1)His Majesty may appoint a committee of His Privy Council, of which two members at least shall be members of the Judicial Committee, to enquire into and report the names of any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer or British prince who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies.

(2)The Committee shall have power to take evidence on oath and to administer an oath for the purpose, and may, if they think fit, act upon any evidence given either orally or by affidavit based on information and belief, the grounds of which are stated.

(3)Such report shall be laid upon the table of both Houses of Parliament for the space of forty days, and, if by that time there has not been passed in either House a motion disapproving of the report, it shall be taken as final and presented to His Majesty.

(4)Where the name of any peer or prince is included in the report, then from and after the date of the presentation of the report to His Majesty.”

(a)The name of such person, if he be a peer, shall be struck out of the Peerage Roll, and all rights of such peer to receive a writ of summons and to sit in the House of Lords or to take part in the election of representative peers shall cease and determine:

(b)All privileges and all rights to any dignity or title, whether in respect of a peerage or under any Royal Warrant or Letters Patent, shall cease and determine.

2 Power of successor to petition for restoration of peerage.

It shall be lawful for the successor of any peer whose name has been so removed, to present a petition to His Majesty praying to have the peerage restored and his name placed on the Peerage Roll; and His Majesty may refer such petition to a committee of the Privy Council constituted as aforesaid; and should the committee be satisfied that such person has incurred no disability under this Act, and is well affected to His Majesty's Person and Government, His Majesty may thereupon direct that the peerage be restored and the name of the petitioner be placed on the Peerage Roll; whereupon all rights and privileges of the holder of the peerage shall revive and be in force as if the name of the peer had never been removed from the Roll.

3 Savings.

(1)Nothing in this Act shall affect the title or succession of any person to any estates or other property.

(2)The powers conferred upon His Majesty by this Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any other powers of His Majesty.

4 Short title and definition.

(1)This Act may be cited as the Titles Deprivation Act 1917.

(2)In this Act, the expression "enemy" be construed as referring to the enemies of His Majesty in the present war, and, for the purposes of this Act, a person shall be deemed to have adhered to His Majesty's enemies if since the commencement of the present war he has voluntarily resided in an enemy country or if he has served in the enemy forces or in any way rendered assistance to the enemy."

In May 1915, George V removed the names of eight Germans and Austrians from the Order of the Garter.   Only an act of Parliament can withdraw peerages and the HRH and title of Prince or Princess followed by Royal Assent.

The Titles Deprivation Act applied to four people:  HRH Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow; HRH Prince Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland and Teviodale, Earl of Armagh; HRH Prince Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg; and Henry, Viscount Taaffe of Corren and Baron of Ballymote.

 Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing  1940, Washington, D.C.

Prince Charles Edward was the posthumously born son of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria.  In 1900, he succeeded his paternal uncle, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  As a grandson in the male line of a British sovereign, Charles Edward, who became known as Carl Eduard, was by birth HRH and a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The Duke of Cumberland his son, Ernst August, were also Princes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but as they descended in the male line from George III, they were HH in Britain.   (The HRH was for their status as members of the Hanover royal family.)

In 1837, when Victoria inherited the British throne, succeeding her uncle William IV.  William was also King of Hanover, but the succession to this throne was defined by Salic law, which allowed only male heirs.  The Hanover crown passed to the next in line,  Victoria's uncle (and William IV's brother), Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.   He became King Ernst August of Hanover.

Members of the Hanover royal family continued to be members of the British royal house, until the first world war.  Ernst August was succeeded by his only son, Georg V, who lost the Hanover crown in 1866, after siding with Austria in its war with Prussia.  The Hanover royal family went into exile, living at their estate at Gmunden, Austria. 

Thyra of Denmark, youngest sister of Queen Alexandra, married King Georg V's son and heir, Prince Ernst August, who succeeded as de jure King of Hanover, following his father's death in 1878.  He chose to be styled by his British peerage: Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale.

There was no love lost between the Hanovers and Prussian royal houses due to the animosity set in motion by Otto von Bismarck, who confiscated a portion of the family's fortune, the Guelph fund. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had three sons and two daughters.  The two eldest sons died young, and it was the third son, Prince Ernst August, who brought about a rapprochement with the Prussians.  The two daughters, Alexandra and Marie Louise married into the Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Baden families.

In Britain, the Cumberlands' children were styled by their British titles: princes and princess of Cumberland with the rank of HH.  On the Continent, they were HRH and Prince or Princess of Hanover.  In July 1914,  George V issued a Letters Patent that extended the HH to the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick's children, as a part of their British princely title, although they were styled as HRH as a part of their German titles.

All sought permission to marry, as required by the Royal Marriages Act.  In 1913,  Prince Ernst August married Princess Victoria Luise of Prussia.  They met in Berlin after Ernst August had asked to meet Kaiser Wilhelm II, to express his family's gratitude for the kindness shown to them following the death of his older brother, Prince Georg, who had been killed in a car accident in May 1912.  The accident occurred in Prussia, as the Prince was driving to Denmark to attend the funeral of his uncle, King Frederik VIII.

Prince Ernst August also met and fell in love with the Kaiser's only daughter, Princess Viktoria Luise.  They married on May 24, 1913.  This was the last major royal event before the first world war.  King George V and Queen Mary and Nicholas II of Russia were among the guests. 

As a member of the British royal family, he sought and received permission from King George V to marry.  A British representative was present for the birth of his first son, Prince Ernst August, born in March 1914.

The war changed everything.  The Duke of Albany, the Duke of Cumberland, and his son had become the enemies of the British crown.

On March 28, 1919, King George V issued an Order in Council, which deprived the three British princes and Viscount Taaffe of their British peerages.

Carl Eduard was the last member of his line to seek permission to marry.  His descendants have not.

The Titles Deprivation Act applied solely to four men, but not their descendants.   In 1931, the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg issued a non-binding, non-legal decree, restoring to himself and his male-line descendants the title Prince or Princess of Great Britain and Ireland.   He claimed that this was correct due to the position of being male-line descendants of George III. 

There was no real response from King George V.  Perhaps he rolled his eyes,  but the British royal house has never officially recognized this "decree." 

Since 1931,  most members of the Hanover royal family have sought and received permission to marry, according to the Royal Marriages.   The sole exception is Prince Georg Wilhelm, who married Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark in 1946.  The Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg made the request to King George VI on behalf of his son.  The British denied the application because there was still an "act of war" between the United Kingdom and Germany.   Prince and Princess Georg Wilhelm's descendants were also excluded from the Royal Marriages Act.

[Prince Georg Wilhelm's younger brother, Prince Christian, did not seek permission from Queen Elizabeth II, when he married 17-year-old Belgian commoner, Mireille Dutry, in 1963.]

In 1937,  Prince Frederika received permission to marry Crown Prince Paul of the Hellenes.   When her older brother, Prince Ernst August became engaged to Princess Ortud of Schleswig-Holstein, he asked for permission to marry.  On the day of the wedding, Prince Ernst August and Princess Ortrud received a telegram from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  The British couple addressed the newly married couple by their British royal titles.

In 1955,  Prince Ernst August filed a lawsuit in England regarding his British nationality.  He stated that he was entitled to British citizenship as a result of the Sophia Naturalization Act.  This lesser-known act was passed by Parliament in 1705.  Sophia was not born in England, and was not a citizen of the country, even though she was the heiress presumptive.  The act allowed Sophia to become a naturalized citizen, and she and "the issue of her body" became subjects.  Citizenship applied solely to Protestant descendants.

[The law seemed to be forgotten in 1947 when Prince Philip went through the naturalization process.  It was an unnecessary action as he was born a British subject as he was a non-Roman Catholic issue of Sophia's body.]

Ernst August lost the first round but prevailed in 1956.  This legal case had nothing whatsoever to do with the Titles Deprivation Act.  As he was born in 1914, he was far too young to take up arms against the British in the first world war.   But the final ruling in 1956 was based solely on the requirements of the Sophia Naturalization Act, and not the Titles Deprivation Act.   As stated above, the Titles Deprivation Act applied only to four individuals. 

There was a certain irony to the final ruling as the Sophia Naturalization Act had been superseded in 1949 with the passing of the British Nationality Act.  Thus,  descendants of Sophia born after this act became law are not entitled to British nationality (unless they had acquired through birth or other means as cited in the 1981 British Nationality.)

Those born before 1949 remained entitled to British nationality.

In 1956, at least 400 people (mostly German) were able to reap the benefits of this ruling.  Not only could they obtain British passports, as British nationals they were able to sue the Soviets and others for the loss of property during and after the second world war.

The present Prince of Hanover (Ernst August) has the right to petition Parliament for the restoration of Cumberland peerage.  In the 1990s, after several German magazines claimed he would seek reinstatement of the British peerages,  Prince Ernst August issued a statement denying the stories.  He said he had no plans to petition Parliament for restoration. 

Although the late Ernst Leopold Prinz of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (eldest son of Prince Johann Leopold, who was himself the eldest son of Carl Eduard), called himself Herzog von Albany, although he never made an official petition to the British Parliament.  His eldest son, Prince Hubertus, has no interest in pursuing the title.

Prince Ernst August and his siblings have received permission to marry from the British Sovereign.  He ceased to be a British dynast following his marriage to Princess Caroline of Monaco, a Roman Catholic.  Their only daughter, Princess Alexandra, was baptized as a Lutheran.   When Ernst August's younger sister, Alexandra, married Prince Andreas of Leiningen, she wore the Hanover bridal crown, a loan from Queen Elizabeth II. 

The Cumberland and Teviotdale and Albany peerages are in abeyance. The Taafe viscountcy is extinct, and cannot be recreated as Taaffe was an Irish peerage.

Albany is a special case because the peerage may have reverted to the Crown in 1954, with the death of Carl Eduard.  Neither of his sons sought permission to marry, according to the requirements of the Royal Marriages Act.    Thus, the marriages of Prince Johann Leopold and Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (who succeeded his father as head of the family, as Johann Leopold's marriage, was morganatic.) 

Even though the dukedom of Albany may be back with the Crown,  a British sovereign is unlikely to recreate it.

The 1953 edition of Burke's Peerage and Baronetage has an essay on this topic.


swiminbuff said...

Since the Dukes of Coburg do not request permission under the RMA would that not make their marriages invalid in the UK and thus their offspring illegitimate?
If their offspring were to be illegitimate in the UK would that not mean that the dukedom has now become extinct and could be regranted at some future date?

cyndi phillips said...

What a fascinating article...i truly enjoyed reading it. I have read, studied, and researched royalty for 30+ yrs, and it never gets too old reading about this topic. I have often wondered how these families, and the others who had to change titles following world war one must have felt having to relinquish titles that had been held by there families or generations. It may sound silly, but i spend time thinking about what these individuals, and others thought/felt about a wide range of topics. I think that is why i enjoy the memoirs and correspondence books. Oh, by the way, you had recommeded the book, "queen victorias sister" a month or so ago and it was indeed a fantastic read. I really enjoyed it....thanks.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Swim, the question of the Coburg marriages is a difficult one. The members of the family married according to the laws of Germany. The marriages are legal in the UK on that level .. the question would be for the succession of the title. The Royal Marriages act does include a clause about the act and inheritance of peerages. Technically, the Albany peerage (and the earldom and barony) reverted to the Crown when Prince Friedrich Josias died in 1998. The 1953 Burkes Peerage has an interesting article on this topic.