Titles Deprivation Act 1917
Parliament of the United Kingdom
|Long title||An Act to deprive Enemy Peers and Princes of British Dignities and Titles.|
|Chapter||7 & 8 Geo. 5 c. 47|
|Royal Assent||8 November 1917 |
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Titles Deprivation Act 1917 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which authorised enemies of the United Kingdom during the First World War to be deprived of their British peerages and royal titles.
The British Royal Family was closely related to many of the royal and princely families of Germany. In particular, the 1837 accession of Queen Victoria had caused the Kingdom of Hanover, which had been in personal union with the British crown for over a century, to pass to her uncle the Duke of Cumberland and his descendants, who simultaneously retained his British titles and princely rank. Similarly, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, whose German titles passed eventually to the descendants of their youngest son Leopold, Duke of Albany. Thus, during World War I, both Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover were British princes and dukes, even while they were also officers in the German Army (as was the latter's son, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick, who also held British princely rank).
In Parliament, beginning on 18 November 1914, Swift MacNeill, a Protestant Irish Nationalist and constitutional scholar who served as Member of Parliament for South Donegal, condemned the Dukes of Albany and Cumberland as traitors and demanding to know "what steps will be taken to secure that [they] shall no longer retain United Kingdom peerages and titles and a seat in the House of Lords." Despite meeting resistance from Prime Ministers Asquith and Lloyd George, MacNeil continued his campaign until losing his seat after the 1918 election. After MacNeill lost his seat, Horatio Bottomley, Member for Hackney South, took up the charge.
On 13 May 1915, King George V struck the names of seven German and Austrian royals (some of whom had never been British) from the roll of Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter; but peerage titles cannot be withdrawn except by Act of Parliament. In 1917, therefore, the Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act authorising the deprivation of peerage titles, as well as princely dignities.
Deprivation of titles 
The Act allowed the King to establish a committee of the Privy Council, which was to include at least two members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The committee was empowered to take evidence and report the names of British peers or princes "who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies". The report would then be laid before both Houses of Parliament; if neither House passed a motion disapproving of the report within forty days, it was to be submitted to the King, whereupon the persons named therein would lose all British dignities. Thereafter, a successor of a person thus deprived of a peerage would be allowed to petition the Crown for revival of the deprived title; the petition would be referred to a committee of the Privy Council, which would recommend whether the petitioner be reinstated or not.
Under the Act, the King appointed to the committee:
- The Lord Finlay (Lord Chancellor)
- The Viscount Sandhurst (Lord Chamberlain of the Household)
- The Marquess of Lansdowne
- The Marquess of Crewe
- The Lord Newton
- The Lord Stamfordham (Private Secretary to the Sovereign)
- The Lord Sumner (a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary)
The committee was established by an Order in Council issued by the King on 27 November 1917.
The committee issued its report on 1 August 1918 and it was thereafter laid before the Houses of Parliament. Since no resolution was passed by either House disapproving of the report, it was presented to the King on 28 March 1919, and, on the same date the King issued an Order in Council depriving the following persons of their titles (The names are listed in the form given in the King's Order in Council):
- His Royal Highness Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow
- His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, Earl of Armagh
- His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus (Duke of Brunswick), Prince of Great Britain and Ireland (son and heir of the Duke of Cumberland)
- Henry, Viscount Taaffe of Corren and Baron of Ballymote
In addition to the Dukedom of Albany and the Dukedom of Cumberland (the latter title being represented by two of the four people above), the title of Viscount Taaffe was also lost by its bearer. The Viscounts Taaffe had emigrated from Ireland to Austria in the 1700s and had served the Austrian emperor since that time, even while their Irish title was confirmed as recently as 1860.
No descendant of any of these four persons has ever petitioned the Crown for the revival of their titles.
- Short title as conferred by s. 4 of the Act; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act".
- "Westminster, 8 November 1917". London Gazette. His Majesty’s Stationery Office. 8 November 1917. pp. Issue 30374, Page 11592. Retrieved 28 November 2011. "The Royal Assent given to Titles-Deprivation Act, 1917."
- "Foreign Legislation-Great Britain". American Bar Association Journal 5. Chicago: American Bar Association. 1919. p. 289.
- Dod, Charles Roger (1902). Dod's Parliamentary Companion, Vol. 70. London: Whittaker & Co. p. 302. "Called to the Irish Bar 1876 and joined the Munster circuit, a QC 1893. Elected Prof Constitutional and Criminal Law, Kings Inns, Dublin 1882 and again 1885, and has examined in the Law School of Dublin University. Author of "The Irish Parliament What it was and what it did, "How the Union was Carried" and other works. Has sat for Donegal South since Jan 1887. An Irish Nationalist."
- MacNeil, Swift (18 November 1914). "ALIEN PEERS". Hansard. His Majesty's Stationary Office. pp. HC Deb 18 November 1914 vol 68 cc437–8W. Retrieved 28 November 2011. "Mr. Swift MacNeill asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he is aware that the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, in the peerage of Great Britain, and Earl of Armagh, in the peerage of Ireland, and a prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is in command of troops in the German Army, engaged in active hostilities against the Sovereign and people of the British Empire; whether he is aware that the first Duke of Cumberland, the paternal grandfather of the present duke, after his accession to the throne of Hanover, took the oath of allegiance in England, and sat in the House of Lords as a peer of Great Britain by hereditary right; whether the present Duke of Cumberland, who was born a British subject, has since divested himself of his British nationality and, if so, how and when; and whether, having regard to the fact that the present Duke of Cumberland is in arms with the enemies of the British Empire against the Sovereign of that Empire, and guilty of high treason, any and, if so, what steps will be taken to secure that he shall no longer retain British and Irish titles or peerages and a seat in the House of Lords; and (2) whether he is aware that the Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence, and Baron Arklow, in the peerage of the United Kingdom, prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is in command of troops in the German Army, engaged in active hostilities against the Sovereign and people of the British Empire; whether he is aware that the Duke of Albany was born in England, a subject of the British Crown, and succeeded, at his birth as a posthumous child, to these United Kingdom titles or peerages held by his father, who swore allegiance and sat as a peer of the United Kingdom in the House of Lords by hereditary right; whether the Duke of Albany has ever divested himself of his British nationality and, if so, how or when; and whether, having regard to the fact that the Duke of Albany is in arms with the enemies of the British Empire against the Sovereign of this Empire, and guilty of high treason, any and, if so, what steps will be taken to secure that he shall no longer retain United Kingdom peerages and titles and a seat in the House of Lords?"
- "Assails traitor dukes, M.P. suggests Cumberland and Albany be dropped". The New York Times. 13 April 1916. Retrieved 2 December 2011. "Premier Asquith replied that he did not believe the time of the House would be employed profitably with such legislation."
- Legge, Edward (1915). The public and private life of Kaiser William II. London: Eveleigh Nash. p. 135.
- MacNeil, Swift (31 July 1918). "Titles Deprivation Act". Hansard. His Majesty's Stationary Office. pp. HC Deb 31 July 1918 vol 109 cc422–4. Retrieved 28 November 2011. "Mr. S. MacNeill asked the Prime Minister whether any, and, if so, what, steps have been taken under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act, 1917 which received the Royal Assent on 8th November, 1917, for the striking out of the Peerage Roll peers who have, during the present War, borne arms against His Majesty or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies; and, if no steps for this purpose, as provided by Statute, have been taken, will he say what is the reason for the delay, having regard to the construction likely to be placed on the attitude of the Government in this matter?"
- Who was who: a companion to Who's who : containing the biographies of those who died during the period. London: A. & C. Black. 1967. p. 686.
- Bottomley, Horatio (1 May 1919). "Dukedoms of Albany and Cumberland". Hansard. His Majesty's Stationary Office. pp. HC Deb 01 May 1919 vol 115 cc316–7. Retrieved 28 November 2011. "Mr. Bottomley asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed to abolish the peerages of which the Dukes of Albany and Cumberland have recently been deprived; and, if not, whether the heirs of such dukes will ultimately become eligible for the assumption of the titles?"
- "Takes Garter Order from Enemy Rulers: King George orders Austrians and Germans Stricken from the Roll" (PDF). The New York Times. 14 May 1915. Retrieved 2 December 2011. "The King, as sovereign of the Order of the Garter," says an official announcement issued this evening, "has given directions that the following names forthwith be struck off the roll of the Knights of the order: The Emperor of Austria, the German Emperor, the King of Wurttemberg, the Grand Duke of Hesse, Prince Henry of Prussia, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and the Duke of Cumberland."
- Maer, Lucinda (16 November 2010). "Resignation, suspension and expulsion from the House of Lords". House of Commons Library. p. 3. SN/PC/5148. Retrieved 28 November 2011. "An Act of Parliament is needed to expel a peer"
- Lyon, Ann (20 March 2009). "Letters-How we stripped British princes of their peerages". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
- "At the Court at Buckingham Palace, the 28th day of March, 1919.". London Gazette. His Majesty's Stationary Office. 28 March 1919. pp. Issue 31255, Page 4000. Retrieved 28 November 2011. " Their Lordships do humbly report to Your Majesty that the persons hereinafter named have adhered to Your Majesty's enemies during the present war: —His Royal Highness Leopold Charles, Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow; His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus, Duke of (Cumberland and Teviotdale, Earl of Armagh; His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus (Duke of Brunswick), Prince of Great Britain and Ireland; Henry, Viscount Taaffe of Corren and Baron of Ballymote.""
- Text of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 and of the Order-in-Council of 28 March 1919 effecting the deprivation of titles.