8 March, 2023: Knighthood is more than replacing "Sir" with "Mr.". What is the British Honours system and the controversies behind it? Read the ReferencePepper!
Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, has nominated his father Stanley for a knighthood as part of the list of honors he can bestow as a departing leader.
But first, What is a knighthood and who receives it ?
Most of us know that knighthood is a title that is given to a man by a British king or queen for his achievements or his service to his country. A man who has been given a knighthood can put 'Sir' in front of his name instead of ' Mr'.
The term "knighthood" refers to both the state of becoming a knight and the rank itself. When someone is knighted, they are addressed in formal speech as "Sir." It is given to men who have provided loyal service to Britain and have achieved great feats. Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, and Elton John are a few of the well-known people who have been awarded knighthoods by Queen Elizabeth.
In the Middle Ages, being a knight required either bravery on the battleground or years of service as a knight's student.
‘Cnihthad’, or "the time between childhood and adulthood," was the origin of knighthood in Old English.
But there are more...
Knights and Dames:
The honour of knighthood dates back to the days of medieval heroism, as does the process used to award it—the honour or the ruler's touch of a sword. Knights are addressed as "Sir" and their wives as "Lady." Women who receive the honour are given the title "Dame," but they're not given the award. The award is granted for a noteworthy accomplishment in any area of achievement. The Diplomatic Service and Overseas list includes the Order of the British Empire ranks of Knight Commander (KBE) or Dame Commander (DBE).
The Order of the Bath:
For the highest class of service, the Order of the Bath was established as a heroic order in 1725.
The order is divided into civil and military branches, and the following ranks are awarded: Companion, Knight Grand Cross, and Knight Commander (CB). The ceremonial bathing, which used to frequently be a part of a candidate's training for knighthood in the past, is how the Order gets its name.
Order of St Michael and St George:
King George III established this Order in 1818, and it is given to British citizens who have achieved noteworthy and exceptional accomplishments abroad or within the Commonwealth. Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight or Dame Commander (KCMG or DCMG), and Companion are the Order's three highest ranks (CMG).
Order of the Companions Honour:
There is a 65-person limit for this honour, which is given for service of significant national importance. The initials CH may be added after the recipient's name.
Order of the British Empire:
During World War One, King George V established these honours to recognise contributions made by at-home citizens and military men in support roles to the war effort. The designations are Member (MBE), Officer (OBE), and Commander (CBE) (MBE). These days, they are given to those playing important national or regional roles as well as to people who have made outstanding or remarkable contributions to their own particular fields of endeavor.
British Empire Medal:
The medal was established in 1917 and given to military or civilian employees for "meritorious" activities, although the recipients were not allowed to attend the royal investiture. The BEM was restored in 2012 after being abandoned in 1993 by previous Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
Royal Victorian Order:
By 1896, governments and prime ministers had essentially absolute control over the system and had strengthened their influence over how rewards were given out. The Royal Victorian Order was thus established by Queen Victoria as a personal honour for services provided on behalf of the Royal Family.
Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCVO), Knight or Dame Commander (KCVO or DCVO), Commander (CVO), Lieutenant (LVO), and Member are the various ranks (MVO).
Royal Victorian Medal:
The Royal Victorian Medal, which comes in three tiers of gold, silver, and bronze, is connected to the Royal Victorian Order. The Order's ribbon has the circular medal pinned to it.
Royal Red Cross:
The award was established in 1883 by Queen Victoria and is only for nursing services. First-class recipients are referred to as "Members" (RRC), and second-class recipients as "Associates" (ARRC).
Picture Source: Wikipedia
When did the honours system begin?
The appointment of Knights Bachelor, or "bachelor of England," goes all the way back to the Norman Conquest in 1066. Prior to King George V's introduction of the Order of the British Empire in 1917, appointments to Orders of Chivalry were distinctive.
The outbreak of the First World War, as well as the sacrifices made by people from all walks of life, prompted a desire to broaden the honours systems.
What honours nominations can ex-prime ministers make?
Prime ministers have the authority to nominate people for awards and to appoint members to the House of Lords, parliament's second chamber. The government appoints Lords, who are then approved by the king or queen.
They are overseen by a House of Lords Commission, but its function is only advisory, which means that the prime minister has the final say on whether or not to nominate someone for the title. It has become customary for prime ministers to submit a "resignation honours list" of recommendations for both once they leave their Downing Street office.
Mr Johnson's list is thought to contain up to 100 names, which is twice the number of his predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron.
Why is the system controversial?
Throughout political activity over the past century, concerns regarding whether or not it is subject to financial or political influence have always been prominent and frequently become a topic of controversy.
In 1922, liberal prime minister David Lloyd George was entangled in a huge scandal because of his list. Although purchasing knighthoods was permissible at the time, Mr. Lloyd George was accused of doing so in order to fund his political party.
Harold Wilson, a former leader of the Labour Party, received criticism for a number of questionable nominations on his "Lavender list" resignation list from 1976. It was controversial because many believed it enabled the knighting of shady businessmen.
In 2020, while serving as prime minister, Boris Johnson promoted his brother Jo Johnson to the House of Lords, the upper house of parliament, where he now holds a life seat.
The author and television personality Stanley Patrick Johnson [ Boris Johnson’s father] is a former member of the European Parliament. He obtained French citizenship last year. A representative for the former prime minister declined to respond on this matter.