No. 23 NAI 2006/39
London, 19 February 1937
My dear Batterbee,
In the course of a conversation with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald on the 4th February I mentioned certain points in connection with the Coronation ceremonial which you and I had already discussed. I had some days previously intimated to Mr. MacDonald that Mr. de Valera was appreciative of the efforts which had been made to make the Coronation Oath less objectionable to the people of the Irish Free State but that the Government's attitude must be one of detachment and protest so long as partition remained, and further, so long as the religious part of the Oath together with the King's declaration of faith represented an affront to the religious beliefs of an overwhelming majority of our people.
You joined us and explained the position at that moment of:
(1) The High Constable of Irelandin relation to the coming function.
(2) The High Steward of Ireland
(3) The Ulster King of Arms
(4) The Dublin Herald
(5) The Standard Bearer of Ireland
(6) The Archbishop of Dublin
On (1) the information from the Earl Marshal's Office was that the time for making a claim before the Court of Claims had now gone by and the presumption therefore was that the claim had lapsed.
On (2) you stated that this office had been held for 350 years by the family of the Earl of Shrewsbury and that the claim for this Coronation had been accepted by the Court of Claims. The Earl of Shrewsbury had been authorised to carry a white wand. Since the office of High Constable of Ireland would not be filled on this occasion the further question would arise as to whether the High Steward of Ireland should attend as such. It was suggested in the Earl Marshall's Office that it would seem somewhat anomalous if the High Steward were present at the Coronation when no person was present as High Constable of Ireland.
Petitions in respect of (3) and (4) had passed the Court of Claims but to neither of these petitioners had any functions been assigned.
Mr. MacDonald took the view that whilst not overlooking the tradition behind these several offices it could not be denied that they were now anachronisms. If the King asked Mr. de Valera for formal advice and Mr. de Valera advised against such participation in the ceremony then he doubted whether the King could invite these gentlemen in the respective capacities named.
that I was shortly crossing to Dublin Mr. MacDonald asked me to obtain Mr. de Valera's views informally. By 'informally' he meant that if Mr. de Valera so wished he could say later that there had been no official representations made on these matters.
Accordingly I spoke in this way to Mr. de Valera on my recent visit, who, after emphasising that our position with regard to the Coronation was one of detachment and protest, said that he regarded the whole ceremony as being in no sense legal but simply traditional.
The offices were now anachronisms and corresponded in no way to present-day realities. He was clear that there should be no High Constable of Ireland and no Bearer of the Standard of Ireland. He did not see how any of the suggested officers could discharge functions, however merely decorative and ceremonial as they might be, as representing the people of Ireland. But in cases where it was proposed that officers should attend in virtue of the fact that they would be discharging functions as the descendants of those who formerly acted in the same capacity he would be disposed not to cause difficulty by raising objection.
On (5) Mr. de Valera thought that there need be no objection to the attendance of the Archbishop of Dublin. He was an ecclesiastic who stood in a different position from that of the officers named above. He thought that the correct procedure would be for the Archbishop of Canterbury to transmit his invitation through Mr. Malcolm MacDonald to me when I would forward it to Mr. de Valera who would hand it to the Archbishop.
[copy letter unsigned]
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