Sir Robin Janvrin, KCVO, CB
Principal Private Secretary to Her Majesty The Queen
23 March 2001
You were kind enough to invite a letter of amplification to accompany our petition to Her Majesty. Thank you.
The Treaty of Nice raises issues of major constitutional importance. It directly threatens our rights and freedoms, and undermines oaths of loyalty to the Crown. Such fundamental matters cannot be considered merely the stuff of day-to-day politics. They directly concern the Crown, the constitution and every British subject, including generations yet unborn.
We find ourselves living in exceptional times, which call for exceptional measures. Hence our petition to Her Majesty, which exercises rights unused for over 300 years – clause 61 of Magna Carta, which were reinforced by article 5 of the Bill of Rights.
As you know, the wording of clause 61 says: …and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay…And we shall procure nothing from anyone, directly or indirectly, whereby any part of these concessions and liberties might be revoked or diminished; and if any such things has been procured, let it be void and null.
We have petitioned Her Majesty to withhold the Royal Assent from any Bill seeking to ratify the Treaty of Nice because there is clear evidence(which we shall address in a moment) that it is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United Kingdom. It conflicts with Magna Carta, with the Declaration and Bill of Rights and, above all, with Her Majesty’s Coronation Oath and the Oaths of Office of Her Majesty’s ministers. Every one of these protections stand to this day, which is why they are now being invoked by our petition.
Ultimately, our supreme protection is Her Majesty’s obligations under the Coronation Oath. The Queen has solemnly promised to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom according to the Statutes in Parliament agreed on and according to their laws and customs. Her Majesty also swore to preserve all rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to any of them.
From the spiritual point of view, it is unimaginable that Her Majesty would seek, in effect, a divorce from her duty. From a secular point of view, the Coronation Oath is a signed contract.
Recent statements by ministers, and by the previous prime minister, confirm that they would not advise any measure which might tend to breach the Coronation Oath nor betray Her Majesty’s promise to her loyal subjects. Her Majesty accepts the advice of her ministers. Conversely, it is their duty to advise in accordance with the Coronation Oath. They cannot lawfully advise a breach. Nor can they gain or remain in power without swearing allegiance to the Crown. Yet the Treaty of Nice represents precisely such a breach, and it has now been signed by the foreign secretary using the Royal Prerogative.
Blackstone’s Commentaries (volume 1, page 239) says of the Royal Prerogative: The splendour, rights, and powers of the Crown were attached to it for the benefit of the people. They form part of, and are, generally speaking, as ancient as the law itself . De prerogativa Regis is merely declaratory of the common law…
The duties arising from the relation of sovereign and subject are reciprocal. Protection, that is, the security and governance of his dominions according to law, is the duty of the sovereign; and allegiance and subjection, with reference to the same criterion, the constitution and laws of the country, form, in return, the duty of the governed We have already observed that the prerogatives are vested in him for the benefit of his subjects, and that his Majesty is under, and not above, the laws.
For such words to have meaning, the act of signing the Treaty of Nice by the foreign secretary demonstrates that ministers have de facto renounced their oaths of allegiance.
Indeed, faced in due course with a Bill seeking ratification of the Treaty of Nice, the only options appear to be for Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, or for the government to resign and fight an election on the issue. The ex-government would then be faced with seeking elective power to introduce new oaths of loyalty under a new constitution as part of their new manifesto. This would distil the issues as perhaps nothing else might, since it would allow the people of the United Kingdom to decide whether or not they wished the constitution to be breached in this way, their rights and freedoms to be curtailed, and the position, powers and responsibilities of their sovereign to be diminished.
Of course, for the many thousands of subjects who have supported our petition, no such option exists. As the Act of Supremacy and the Bill of Rights put it: all usurped and foreign power and authority may forever be clearly extinguished, and never used or obeyed in this realm. no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate shall at anytime after the last day of this session of Parliament, use, enjoy or exercise any manner of power, jurisdiction, superiority, authority, pre-eminence or privilege within this realm, but that henceforth the same shall be clearly abolished out of this realm, forever.
So it is clear that no-one – neither sovereign, nor parliament, nor government, nor people – may tamper with, dismantle, destroy or surrender our constitution. We are all tenants of it, and trustees. We inherited these rights, and we have a supreme responsibility to pass them in good order to future generations. They are not ours to discard or diminish.
Which is why oaths of allegiance place an essential limitation on parliament’s power, and the Queens Coronation Oath is crucial. The Coronation Oath is a moral obligation, a religious obligation, a sworn obligation, a contractual obligation, a statutory obligation, a common law obligation, a customary obligation, an obligation on all who swear allegiance, it is the duty of government, and it is sworn for the nation, the commonwealth and all dominions.
The Coronation Oath is the peak of a pyramid, and all subordinate oaths are bound by its limitations. The armed services swear allegiance to the sovereign, not to the government of the day. This helps clarify the principle that allegiance is necessary, and not optional – an essential part of the checks and balances of our constitution. Without these oaths, and their lawful enforcement, we have little to protect us from government by tyranny.
We return now to our reasons for stating that the Treaty of Nice is unconstitutional. Our petition highlights several such clauses. We draw particular attention to article 191, which seeks to restrict the political freedom of Her Majesty’s subjects.
The EU seeks to assume the right to lay down regulations governing political parties at European level [i.e.: in the EU] and withdraw or prevent the funding of political parties which do not contribute to forming a European awareness. This is a clear restriction of free speech and free political association. It also introduces two particularly abhorrent propositions – taxation without representation and the use of state sanctions to suppress public opinion.
Our political freedom is absolute. The Bill of Rights says so. It cannot be limited in any way. Her Majesty is rightfully inscribed on our coins of the realm as Fid. Def. and Lib. Def. – Libertatis Defensor, Defender of the Freedom of the People.
It has been suggested to us that a referendum or plebiscite might be an acceptable response to the question of ratification of the Treaty of Nice, but we do not hold that view. A referendum or plebiscite which purported to make lawful the infringement of our common law rights would itself be unlawful.
We come back to the oath of allegiance. Magna Carta says: We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well…. How can such officers of the Crown organize such a referendum or plebiscite?
These procedures would also infringe articles 1, 2 and 4 of the Bill of Rights:
- That the pretended power of Suspending of Lawes or the Execution of Lawes by Regall Authority without Consent of Parlyament is illegall. (This must include the Coronation Oath Act.)
- That the pretended Power of Dispensing with Lawes or the Execution of Lawes by Regal Authoritie as it hath beene assumed and exercised of late is illegall.
- That levying Money for or to the Use of the Crowne by pretence of Prerogative without Grant of Parlyament for longer time or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted is Illegall. (This is further protection of our common law rights.)
In the event that the Treaty of Nice is considered for Royal Assent we respectfully request that Her Majesty grant us an opportunity to examine the opinion of those who seek to alter our constitution by contrary advice. Accordingly, under those same terms of Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights quoted earlier, we the undersigned, and others– have formed a Barons Constitutional Committee to be available for consultation and to monitor the present situation as it develops
..until redress has been obtained.
We are and remain Her Majesty’s most loyal and obedient subjects.
Ashbourne Rutland Massereene & Ferrard Hamilton of Dalzell
The innapropriate Reply (39th day of the 40 days given to ‘redress the grievances without delay’):