Aint nothing like a Dame or a Knight

March 8, 2009

It wasn’t an election pledge but several months ago John Key did say National might review the honours system.

They have and the result is a reinstatement of titular honours.

The new system will apply from June and the 85 people who were appointed Principal and Distinguished Companions *1 of the New Zealand Order of Merit between 2000 and 2008 will be given the choice of accepting a title.

When this change was mooted last October I wrote:

The egalitarian in me balks at hereditary titles, but I am more warmly disposed to those people have earned.

There may be arguments about some who’ve got honours but they are the exceptions because most are deserved.

I had the privilege of sitting on a board with Sir Robin Gray and recently had dinner with friends where Sir Brian Lahore was also a guest. Both enhance the honour rather than the reverse and I think that is true for most recipients.

However, whether or not titles are reintroduced I would like a change to the current system which few understand.

If we’re going to have our own honours we should make them properly our own and award our brightest and best the Order of the Kiwi.

That would be a fittingly New Zealand way of honouring someone without getting too effusive because the recipients would then be Jo (or Joe) Bloggs OK 🙂

I haven’t changed my mind on any of that and hope the reinstatement of titular honours is the first step towards a New Zealand system of honours which is less wordy and more easily understood than the current one.

And given it’s International Women’s Day when we might be considering gender equality – it’s time some thought was given to what to call the spice*2 of those who are honoured.

The correct address for the wife of a Sir Whoever What’sit is Lady What’sit not Lady Herownname. The husband of a Dame stays a Mister and I don’t think the partners of those in a civil union or who are partners in life but not by law rate in the etiquette books.

I am sure that most of those honoured would give their spice some of the credit so I’m not totally averse to them gaining a special honourific in recognition of their other half’s honour – but either all spice gain one or none.

*1 – whoever came up with that longwinded explanation for good bloke/blokess needs to go back to communication school.

*2 – spice: a plural noun which covers more than one spouse or partner.

UPDATE: Stephen Franks  wonders:

whether any of the Labour notables who’ve disparaged “imperial honours” but honoured themselves with post-colonial orders that now convert back into Knight and Dame-hoods, will have the grace to decline John Key’s generous invitation?

He also notes that the Order of New Zealand was created as a non-titular honour so people like Jim Bolger and Jonathan Hunt won’t have to resist the temptation to have a title.

UPDATE 2: Monkeywithtypewriter reckons being able to choose is choice.


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