1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Civil List
CIVIL LIST, the English term for the account in which are contained all the expenses immediately applicable to the support of the British sovereign’s household and the honour and dignity of the crown. An annual sum is settled by the British parliament at the beginning of the reign on the sovereign, and is charged on the consolidated fund. But it is only from the reign of William IV. that the sum thus voted has been restricted solely to the personal expenses of the crown. Before his accession many charges properly belonging to the ordinary expenses of government had been placed on the civil list. The history History of the civil list dates from the reign of William and Mary. Before the Revolution no distinction had been made between the expenses of government in time of peace and the expenses relating to the personal dignity and support of the sovereign. The ordinary revenues derived from the hereditary revenues of the crown, and from certain taxes voted for life to the king at the beginning of each reign, were supposed to provide for the support of the sovereign’s dignity and the civil government, as well as for the public defence in time of peace. Any saving made by the king in the expenditure touching the government of the country or its defence would go to swell his privy purse. But with the Revolution a step forward was made towards the establishment of the principle that the expenses relating to the support of the crown should be separated from the ordinary expenses of the state. The evils of the old system under which no appropriation was made of the ordinary revenue granted to the crown for life had been made manifest in the reigns of Charles II. and James II.; it was their control of these large revenues that made them so independent of parliament. Moreover, while the civil government and the defences suffered, the king could use these revenues as he liked. The parliament of William and Mary fixed the revenue of the crown in time of peace at £1,200,000 per annum; of this sum about £700,000 was appropriated towards the “civil list.” But from this the sovereign was to defray the expenses of the civil service and the payment of pensions, as well as the cost of the support of the royal household and his own personal expenses. It was from this that the term “civil list” arose, to distinguish it from the statement of military and naval charges. The revenue voted to meet the civil list consisted of the hereditary revenues of the crown and a part of the excise duties. Certain changes and additions were made in the sources of revenue thus appropriated between the reign of William and Mary and the accession of George III., when a different system was adopted. Generally speaking, however, the sources of revenue remained as settled at the Revolution.
Anne had the same civil list, estimated to produce an annual income of £700,000. During her reign a debt of £1,200,000 was incurred. This debt was paid by parliament and charged on the civil list itself. George I. enjoyed the same revenue by parliamentary grant, in addition to Anne, George I.
and George II. an annual sum of £120,000 on the aggregate fund. A debt of £1,000,000 was incurred, and discharged by parliament in the same manner as Anne’s debt had been. To George II. a civil list of £800,000 as a minimum was granted, parliament undertaking to make up any deficiency if the sources of income appropriated to its service fell short of that sum. Thus in 1746 a debt of £456,000 was paid by parliament on the civil list. On the accession of George III. a change was made in the system of the civil list. Hitherto the sources of revenue appropriated to the service of the civil list had been settled on the crown. If these revenues exceeded the sum they were computed to produce annually, the surplus went to the king. George III., however, surrendered the life-interest in the hereditaryGeorge III. revenues and the excise duties hitherto voted to defray the civil list expenditure, and any claim to a surplus for a fixed amount. The king still retained other large sources of revenue which were not included in the civil list, and were free from the control of parliament. The revenues from which the civil list had been defrayed were henceforward to be carried into, and made part of, the aggregate fund. In their place a fixed civil list was granted—at first of £723,000 per annum, to be increased to £800,000 on the falling in of certain annuities to members of the royal family. From this £800,000 the king’s household and the honour and dignity of the crown were to be supported, as well as the civil service offices, pensions and other charges still laid on the list.
During the reign of George III. the civil list played an important part in the history of the struggle on the part of the king to establish the royal ascendancy. From the revenue appropriated to its service came a large portion of the money employed by the king in creating places and pensions for his supporters in parliament, and, under the colour of the royal bounty, bribery was practised on a large scale. No limit was set to the amount applicable to the pensions charged on the civil list, so long as the sum granted could meet the demand; and there was no principle on which the grant was regulated. Secret pensions at the king’s pleasure were paid out of it, and in every way the independence of parliament was menaced; and though the more legitimate expenses of the royal household were diminished by the king’s penurious style of living, and though many charges not directly connected with the king’s personal expenditure were removed, the amount was constantly exceeded, and applications were made from time to time to parliament to pay off debts incurred; and thus opportunity was given for criticism. In 1769 a debt of £513,511 was paid off in arrears; and in spite of the demand for accounts and for an inquiry into the cause of the debt,Indebted-
civil list. the ministry succeeded in securing this vote without granting such information. All attempts to investigate the civil list were successfully resisted, though Lord Chatham went so far as to declare himself convinced that the funds were expended in corrupting members of parliament. Again, in 1777, an application was made to parliament to pay off £618,340 of debts; and in view of the growing discontent Lord North no longer dared to withhold accounts. Yet, in spite of strong opposition and free criticism, not only was the amount voted, but also a further £100,000 per annum, thus raising the civil list to an annual sum of £900,000.
In 1779, at a time when the expenditure of the country and the national debt had been enormously increased by the American War, the general dissatisfaction found voice in parliament, and the abuses of the civil list were specially singled out for attack. Many petitions were presented to the House of Commons praying for its reduction, and a motion was made in the House of Lords in the same sense, though it was rejected. In 1780 Burke brought forward his scheme of economic reform, but his name was already associated with the growing desire to remedy the evils of the civil list by the publication in 1769 of his pamphlet on “The Causes of the Present Discontent.” In this scheme Burke freely animadverts on the profusion and abuse of the civil list, criticizing the useless and obsolete offices and the offices performed by deputy. In every department he discovers jobbery, waste and peculation. His proposal was that the many offices should be reduced and consolidated, that the pension list should be brought down to a fixed sum of £60,000 per annum, and that pensions should be conferred only to reward merit or fulfil real public charity. All pensions were to be paid at the exchequer. He proposed also that the civil list should be divided into classes, an arrangement which later was carried into effect. In 1780 Burke succeeded in bringing in his Establishment Bill; but though at first it met with considerable support, and was even read a second time, Lord North’s government defeated it in committee. The next year the bill was again introduced into the House of Commons, and Pitt made his first speech in its favour. The bill was, however, lost on the second reading.
In 1782 the Rockingham ministry, pledged to economic reform, came into power; and the Civil List Act 1782 was introduced and carried with the express object of limiting the patronage and influence of ministers, or, in other words, the ascendancy of the crown over parliament. Not only did the actCivil List Act 1782. effect the abolition of a number of useless offices, but it also imposed restraints on the issue of secret service money, and made provision for a more effectual supervision of the royal expenditure. As to the pension list, the annual amount was to be limited to £95,000; no pension to any one person was to exceed £1200, and all pensions were to be paid at the exchequer, thus putting a stop to the secret pensions payable during pleasure. Moreover, pensions were only to be bestowed in the way of royal bounty for persons in distress or as a reward for merit. Another very important change was made by this act: the civil list was divided into classes, and a fixed amount was to be appropriated to each class. The following were the classes:—
1. Pensions and allowances of the royal family.
2. Payment of salaries of lord chancellor, speaker and judges.
3. Salaries of ministers to foreign courts resident at the same.
4. Approved bills of tradesmen, artificers and labourers for any article supplied and work done for His Majesty’s service.
5. Menial servants of the household.
6. Pension list.
7. Salaries of all other places payable out of the civil list revenues.
8. Salaries and pensions of treasurer or commissioners of the treasury and of the chancellor of the exchequer.
Yet debt was still the condition of the civil list down to the end of the reign, in spite of the reforms established by the Rockingham ministry, and notwithstanding the removal from the list of many charges unconnected with the king’s personal expenses. The debts discharged by parliament between 1782, the date of the passing of the Civil List Act, and the end of George III.’s reign, amounted to £2,300,000. In all, during his reign £3,398,061 of debt owing by the civil list was paid off.
With the regency the civil list was increased by £70,000 per annum, and a special grant of £100,000 was settled on the prince regent. In 1816 the annual amount was settled at £1,083,727, including the establishment of the king, now insane; though the civil list was relieved from some annuities payable to the royal family. Nevertheless, the fund still continued charged with such civil expenses as the salaries of judges, ambassadors and officers of state, and with pensions granted for public services. Other reforms were made as regards the definition of the several classes of expenditure, while the expenses of the royal household were henceforth to be audited by a treasury official—the auditor of the civil list. On the accession of George IV. the civil list, freed from the expenses of the late king, was settled at £845,727. On William IV. coming to the throne a sum of £510,000 per annum was fixed for the service of the civil list. The king at the same time surrendered all the sources of revenue enjoyed by his predecessors, apart from the civil list, represented by the hereditary revenues of Scotland—the Irish civil list, the droits of the crown and admiralty, the 4½% duties, the West India duties, and other casual revenues hitherto vested in the crown, and independent of parliament. The revenues of the duchy of Lancaster were still retained by the crown. In return for this surrender and the diminished sum voted, the civil list was relieved from all the charges relating rather to the civil government than to the support of the dignity of the crown and the royal household. The future expenditure was divided into five classes, and a fixed annual sum was appropriated to each class. The pension list was reduced to £75,000. The king resisted an attempt on the part of the select committee to reduce the salaries of the officers of state on the grounds that this touched his prerogative, and the ministry of Earl Grey yielded to his remonstrance.The civil list of Queen Victoria was settled on the same principles as that of William IV. A considerable reduction was made in the aggregate annual sum voted, from £510,000 to £385,000, and the pension list was separated from the ordinary civil list. The civil list properQueen Victoria’s civil list. was divided into the following five classes, with a fixed sum appropriated to each:—
|Salaries of household||131,260|
|Expenses of household||172,500|
|Royal bounty, &c.||13,200|
In addition the queen might, on the advice of her ministers, grant pensions up to £1200 per annum, in accordance with a resolution of the House of Commons of February 18th, 1834, “to such persons as have just claims on the royal beneficence or who, by their personal services to the crown, by the performance of duties to the public, or by their useful discoveries in science and attainments in literature and art, have merited the gracious consideration of the sovereign and the gratitude of their country.” The service of these pensions increased the annual sum devoted to support the dignity of the crown and the expenses of the household to about £409,000. The list of pensions must be laid before parliament within thirty days of 20th June. Thus the civil list was reduced in amount, and relieved from the very charges which gave it its name as distinct from the statement of military and naval charges. It now really only dealt with the support of the dignity and honour of the crown and the royal household. The arrangement was most successful, and during the last three reigns there was no application to parliament for the discharge of debts incurred on the civil list.
The death of Queen Victoria rendered it necessary that a renewed provision should be made for the civil list; and King Edward VII., following former precedents, placed unreservedly at the disposal of parliament his hereditary Civil List Act 1901. revenues. A select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider the provisions of the civil list for the crown, and to report also on the question of grants for the honourable support and maintenance of Her Majesty the Queen and the members of the royal family. The committee in their conclusions were guided to a considerable extent by the actual civil list expenditure during the last ten years of the last reign, and made certain recommendations which, without undue interference with the sovereign’s personal arrangements, tended towards increased efficiency and economy in the support of the sovereign’s household and the honour and dignity of the crown. On their report was based the Civil List Act 1901, which established the new civil list. The system that the hereditary revenues should as before be paid into the exchequer and be part of the consolidated fund was maintained. The amount payable for the civil list was increased from £385,000 to £470,000. In the application of this sum the number of classes of expenditure to which separate amounts were to be appropriated was increased from five to six. The following was the new arrangement of classes:—1st class, Their Majesties’ privy purse, £110,000; 2nd class, salaries of His Majesty’s household and retired allowances, £125,800; 3rd class, expenses of His Majesty’s household, £193,000; 4th class, works (the interior repair and decoration of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle), £20,000; 5th class, royal bounty, alms and special services, £13,200; 6th class, unappropriated, £8000. The system relating to civil list pensions, established by the Civil List Act 1837, continued to apply, but the pensions were not regarded as chargeable on the sum paid for the civil list. The committee also advised that the mastership of the Buckhounds should not be continued; and the king, on the advice of his ministers, agreed to accept their recommendation. The maintenance of the royal hunt thus ceased to be a charge on the civil list. The annuities of £20,000 to the prince of Wales, of £10,000 to the princess of Wales, and of £18,000 to His Majesty’s three daughters, were not included in the civil list, though they were conferred by the same act. Other grants made by special acts of parliament to members of the royal family were also excluded from it; these were £6000 to the princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, £6000 to the princess Louise (duchess of Argyll), £25,000 to the duke of Connaught, £6000 to the duchess of Albany, £6000 to the princess Beatrice (Henry of Battenberg), and £3000 to the duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
It may be interesting to compare with the British civil list the corresponding figures in other countries. These are as follows, the figures being those, for convenience, of 1905. Spain, £280,000, exclusive of allowances to members of the royal family; Portugal, Figures in other countries. £97,333, in addition to £1333 to the queen-consort—total grant to the royal family, £116,700; Italy, £602,000, from which was deducted £16,000 for the children of the deceased Prince Amedeo, duke of Aosta, £16,000 to Prince Tommaso, duke of Genoa, and £40,000 to Queen Margherita; Belgium, £140,000; Netherlands, £50,000, with, in addition, £4000 for the maintenance of the royal palaces; Germany, £770,500 (Krondotations Rente), the sovereign also possessing large private property (Kronfideikommiss und Schatullgüter), the revenue from which contributed to the expenditure of the court and the members of the royal family; Denmark, £55,500, in addition to £6600 to the heir-apparent; Norway, £38,888; Sweden, £72,700; Greece, £52,000, which included £4000 each from Great Britain, France and Russia; Austria-Hungary, £941,666, made up of £387,500 as emperor of Austria out of the revenues of Austria, and £554,166 as king of Hungary out of the revenues of Hungary; Japan, £300,000; Rumania, £47,000, in addition to revenues from certain crown lands; Servia, £48,000; Bulgaria, £40,000, besides £30,000 for maintenance of palaces, &c.; Montenegro, £8300; Russia had no civil list, the sovereign having all the revenue from the crown domains (actual amount unknown, but supposed to amount to over £4,000,000); the president of the French Republic had a salary of £24,000 a year, with a further £24,000 for expenses; and the president of the United States had a salary of $50,000 (from 1909, $75,000).