What Prices Paid_Part 6
by Jim Rapkins
House of Commons
London, Great Britain
12 February 1909
He let the commotion in the chamber wash over him as he leaned back, allowing his fellow backbenchers to support Ryan’s words. Form over substance—it was the modus operandi of these Parliamentary sittings. The Speaker would bang his gavel, both sides would yell at each other, the newspapers would get some good copy. But the real deals, the real power, lay in the backrooms of Parliament. Spencer didn’t understand that. He thought he did, but that was why they had approached Devon, and not Spencer.
He thought about the oath he had sworn almost immediately prior to this sitting, its words still lingering in his ears.
“You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the King’s Majesty, as one of His Majesty’s Privy Council. You will not know of or understand any manner of thing to be attempted, done or spoken against His Majesty’s Person, Honour, Crown or Dignity Royal, but you will let and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to His Majesty himself, or to such of his Privy Council as shall advertise His Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Councillors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of His Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the King’s Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre eminences and Authorities, granted to His Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to His Majesty. So help you God.”
The oath of the Privy Council—easily uttered and agreed to. It was not the words that moved Devon, but the recognition they provided. There had not been an announcement yet, nor would there be until after the election. So for the moment he would remain where he was—directing the grand play that was Parliament. That one of the main actors was his brother was irrelevant. This went beyond personal ambition, beyond the petty rivalries that fueled the chamber.
The Speaker’s words interrupted his train of thought. “The Honourable First Sea Lord.” Fisher had grudgingly stood and was being recognized by the Speaker. Devon raised his hand to cover the smile on his face. Fisher, who for years had been the archetypal Navy man, looked decidedly out of place in his Savile Row suit, and the slump in his shoulders was new as well. Ah well, the man should never have agreed to the King’s request to be the new Sea Lord. Politics was a dangerous game…
“Mr. Speaker, thank you. I should begin by saying the details of the Skagerrak battle are still under investigation, and I—” Fisher’s voice was lost in the explosion of shouts that had the Speaker banging away furiously with his gavel.
Devon forced a look of concern onto his face. He’d been right—this was going to be fun.
To Be Continued…