Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880. Below we cover the opening of the New Parliament.
The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880
The Opening of New Parliament
Thursday 5th March 1874
The appearance this afternoon of Roebuck, Julian Goldsmid, Newdegate, and Muntz upon the long deserted floor of the House of Commons was so nearly simultaneous that it would be dangerous to claim for any one of them the high distinction of having been the first member of the ninth Parliament of Queen Victoria to enter upon the scene of his future labours. Absolutely the first comer was, however, amongst the four gentlemen named, and, though Parliament had been summoned to meet at two o’ clock, it was not far past noon when they were observed within the bar. Their entrance broke the spell which had seemed to hang over the place, and scarcely had they advanced midway up the floor than entered Charley, Torrens, Plimsoll, John Hay, Russell Gurney, followed at the briefest of intervals by Dilke, Macdonald, the working men’s member for Stafford, Charles Reed, and nearly the full roll of the House.
By half-past one the floor of the House was densely crowded, and those who had come earliest began to take their seats. Roebuck was already seated, selecting the second place on the front bench below the gangway on the Opposition side, where he held a sort of levee, old members coming up to shake hands with him, and young members obtaining an introduction to a man who had made his mark in the House whilst they were schoolboys. George Bowyer occupied the seat by the gangway next to Roebuck, but gave way presently when Brand, the Speaker of the late House, having passed through a troop of congratulatory friends, came up and claimed the position usually occupied by the Speaker-elect pending the moving and seconding of the proposition for his election.
Of the two parties the Conservatives were by far the more ready to take their seats, the benches to the right of the Speaker’s empty chair being, half an hour before the opening of Parliament, well filled. The Liberals for the most part stood and chatted in the throng on the floor of the House. The front Opposition bench was at this time tenantless, but Arthur Mills, the Marquis of Hamilton, and Colonel North were prominent upon the Treasury bench. On this same bench, but less noticeable by reason of their position under the shadow of the gallery, were Hubbard and Alderman Cotton, two of the members for the City of London, who were thus vindicating an old privilege pertaining to the City of having its members seated on the right hand of the Speaker, or at least at the right arm of the Speaker’s chair, upon the opening of a new Parliament….
Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885
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