Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 625 UCDA P35B/115

Confidential Report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Secret and Confidential)

London, 18 January 1932

On the instructions of the Department of External Affairs I visited King George at Sandringham today for the purpose of formally receiving the Great Seal of An Saorstát.

I was first received by Lord Claud Hamilton, one of the gentlemen-in-waiting, and Lady Cynthia Colville, one of the ladies-in-waiting.

There being no State apartments at Sandringham (since official business is, as far as possible, avoided whilst the Court is there) the King received me in one of the drawing-rooms where we were alone for about half an hour.

As I had learned from Lord Claud Hamilton that the King had cancelled his arrangements for that day so that he might be free to receive a representative of An Saorstát Government I began the conversation with an expression of warm thanks to the King for his kindness.

After closely examining the Great Seal - and nearly dropping one half of it whilst studying its detail - the King expressed his admiration for the appropriateness of its design and the finished beauty of its workmanship. Taking up the case in which the Great Seal was contained King George walked slowly across the room to where I was standing and formally handed over the Great Seal of An Saorstát. He then stood, as it were, at attention before me and looked as though he expected me to say something, and having a sense of the importance of the occasion despite the informality of the proceeding I said that simple as that ceremony had been we had just concluded an event which the historians, not only of our countries but of others, would not fail to notice. The striking of this Great Seal showed that the 'sovereignty of the Irish people' and the development of their free institutions were not idle phrases.

The King then said how sorry he was to read of the extensive floods which had taken place in An Saorstát in the last few days and hoped that the damage would not be quite so serious as was the case of a recent flood in East Anglia.

He then enquired about the health of the President, expressing his great admiration for the fine way in which he had fought through such difficult times. He hoped that there might be no doubt about the return of the present Government. Whilst an Opposition was a necessary part of any Parliament he thought it a pity that the Fianna Fáil party should be led by somebody who was, as far as he could discover, not an Irishman at all.

As on a previous occasion, the King passed rapidly from Mr. de Valera to talk about Mahatma Gandhi. He said that when he was speaking recently to Mahatma Gandhi and one or two other Indian leaders he asked them what they thought was the purpose of a Government. They made no reply so the King said, somewhat vehemently, he informed them that the function of a Government was to govern. 'You have, doubtless, troubles in India. So has the Irish Government in Ireland, and look what they have done. I think their action in bringing in the Public Safety Bill was splendid, and a model for any Government anywhere in the world. What I like about the Irish Government is that it has a sense of reality. When they find themselves up against a difficulty they handle it and don't run away'. The King strode somewhat vigorously up and down the room as he said this and a good deal more to the same effect. After these remarks which seemed to me to be entirely extempore and which were certainly made with energy and conviction, the King said he was very interested in the outcome of the Election. What did I think would be the result? I said that it was difficult to do more than conjecture but I thought a correct estimate of the situation was that described to me recently by the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture1 as being 'one of touch and go'. As His Majesty knew, the political world anywhere was rather volatile and mercurial, and, as he was also aware, the present Government being the oldest Government in any part of the British Commonwealth was more than ordinarily subject to the 'pendulum' movement. He said that he quite appreciated that and also he understood that the Government could not be accused of popularity hunting. 'But', said the King, 'what are we to do if Mr. de Valera is returned?' Like Pilate, he did not wait for a reply but went on to say that whilst 'shooting would be no good' he would not be surprised if a trade boycott were attempted. This gave me the opportunity to convey the view expressed to me just before Christmas by the President, namely that from all points of view it would be most unwise for the British Government to adopt too aggressive an attitude or iron hand methods towards a Government made up of the Fianna Fáil party. Such action might bring about the destruction of the constructive work that had been done by the Government in the past ten years. To this the King immediately assented, and agreed that it would be most unfortunate if anything were done to upset the good relations which were increasing between the two countries as the days went by. He returned again to the Public Safety Bill and said that if the present Government were returned to power and continued the policy of which the Public Safety Bill was an example, he thought in a few years the Government would probably have destroyed for ever 'these wild fellows'.

He enquired about the 'Irish Press' and said he had been told it was - for the Republican party - a rather sensibly-run paper. He then asked me to convey a message of his goodwill to the President and all his colleagues and to say that, further, he would be happy to help wherever he could in the improvement of the Free State itself and the betterment of the relations between the two countries.

This concluded the audience.

Lord Claud Hamilton then took me to the drawing room where the luncheon party was assembled and where I met:

  The Queen
  The Duke of York
  Sir Henry Streatfield
  Sir Frederick Ponsonby
  Sir Derek Keppell
  Major The Hon. A.H.L. Hardinge (who is acting in place of Sir Clive Wigram2 who is on leave).

The King signalled to me to take the Queen in to lunch and followed with Lady Cynthia Colville. The luncheon party consisted of those named in the last paragraph together with Lord Claud Hamilton. At a large round table I was seated on the Queen's right, and although the conversation with the Queen at the beginning was not exactly animated, it became easier and freer as the meal proceeded. To show the informality of the Luncheon, I may mention that I told the Queen a story of Sandringham about King Edward and a young naval officer (which is contained in the memoirs of a former Gentleman-in-waiting), and she stopped the whole conversation at the table and asked me to tell the company the story. I found her very well informed on matters of industrial welfare. She compared, for example, the number of accidents in workshops, saying that in those factories where when fatigue point was reached a ten minute rest was given, the number of mishaps from careless working of machines had greatly decreased. Both the King and she entertained the company with an account of a journey they made many years ago - some part of it on the Shannon - from Adare to Baronscourt, the seat of Lord Claud Hamilton's family. It rained nearly the whole of the time and the Queen was so concerned at the Pressmen getting no cover from the pouring rain that she invited them in to a small place on the boat where the Royal party were sheltering. Then, the King added, the boat gave a lurch and the Queen found herself with a nice fat pressman flopping down on her knee! They both referred to the kindness of the Irish people and the simple good manners of the peasant folk.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty

1 Patrick Hogan.

2 Private Secretary to King George V (1931-35).