86

5th January, 1928

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

My dear P.M.,

Lord Stamfordham, the King's Private Secretary, is 78 and is ineffective through age. He has in years gone by served the King well and was a wise adviser. The King is too fond of him to retire him and so he stays on. The question of his successor is obviously of more importance now than such appointments have been in the past. A wise Imperial Counsellor rather than a stage courtier is required. Colonel Wigram, the King's Assistant Private Secretary, is far from suitable and there is apparently nobody amongst the courtiers who looks like the proper timber. [1]

Now that we have imperial equality all round and the King is to take the advice of his Dominion Ministers on Dominion matters on its merits, and without (at least obviously) submitting their proposals to his local Ministers in London for their advice and approval [2]-now very much more than ever before should the King have wise personal counsellors.

The rather artificial degree of imperial equality that you enshrined in print at the last Imperial Conference is likely to grow into reality with the passage of possibly only a very few years. As the feeling grows, so will the resentment at British Ministers advising the King on Dominion matters. The question of the distribution of Honours is a minor case in point. I can hear a Dominion Prime Minister asking himself with some heat why Mr.

Amery [3] and his Department should interfere with the list of honours that he has recommended.

From this one gets to imagining the King of the future surrounded by a body of wise (and not necessarily aged) imperial elder statesmen-a real 'Privy Council'-drawn from the whole Empire- people whose names and whose service to the Crown place them above party and above reproach.

But going back to the more immediate question of the King's Private Secretary designate-who better than Hankey? [4] Who else has his knowledge and experience and lack of parti pris on imperial matters?

Now that I am well launched on this elevated topic-I am told that the Prime Minister has lately woken up to the fact that the Royal Family is the only positive imperial link that is left, and that there is a real responsibility on the shoulders of the British Prime Minister of the day to keep them up to their job, and to make opportunities for them to make more of themselves in the public estimation. Their prestige is a measure of the strength of the imperial connection. The fact that the British Prime Minister- the voice of British Democracy-has the making (if possibly not the marring) of the Royal Family in his keeping has not been realised until lately. The question of the Prince of Wales' marriage-the problem of how usefully to occupy the time of the Royal Princes- has lately become a live problem with the Prime Minister.

The Earl of Athlone is said on all sides to have made a good job of his Governor-Generalship in South Africa, and negotiations are in hand for an extension of his term for an additional two years when his first period ends in about a year's time. [5] At the same time I have had a hint that Hertzog [6] is not unmindful of the value of having the Duke of York as Governor-General and that, looking into the future, he has already made overtures.

Batterbee [7] thinks that the Duke could do the job of Governor- General, with the help of the Duchess and a good staff. Do you think he would do for us in Australia? [8]

Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Colonel Clive (later Lord) Wigram succeeded to Lord Stamfordham's office in 1931.

2 See W.K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs, Vol.

I, Problems of Nationality 19181936, Oxford University Press for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1937, pp.

262-7, and K. C. Wheare, The Constitutional Structure of the Commonwealth, Oxford University Press, London, 1960.

3 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

4 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

5 The Earl of Athlone, a son of the Duke of Teck and husband of Princess Alice of Albany, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was Governor-General of South Africa 1923-31.

6 General James Hertzog, South African Prime Minister.

7 Sir Harry Batterbee, Assistant Secretary at the Dominions Office.

8 In a letter to Casey of 20 March 1928 (on file AA:A1420) Bruce thought that the Duke and Duchess of York 'would do admirably'.