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Sir Sir Sir Sir Sir Ninian

February 11th, 2008

Following up on the silly idea being floated in the Murdoch press that John Howard might be made a Knight of the Garter (surely Alexander Downer would be a more appropriate choice!), I discovered the interesting fact that Ninian Stephen is a knight five times over (KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE)[1].

Fine judge and Governor-General as Ninian Stephen was, I find this a bit excessive, and something of a reductio ad absurdam on the whole business of knighthoods.

fn1 For those who don’t recall, AK was Malcolm Fraser’s shortlived notion of adding knighthoods to the Order of Australia, and the rest are British honours – he got the KBE in 1970, three more on becoming GG and the Garter in 1994. My guess is that, if he hadn’t had already had the handle “Sir Ninian”, the other awards would have been more controversial, and might not have happened.

fn2 I should note that academics like myself are not exactly innocent here, and some even string together multiple titles, particularly in Europe.

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  1. February 11th, 2008 at 08:52 | #1

    that’s all right, i compensate by not using any of yours, beyond the occasional ‘mr.’

    royal honors are appropriate in oz, which remains a monarchy in law and culture. one may laugh, one does, but there’s reality for you, so seldom perfect.

  2. gordon
    February 11th, 2008 at 09:22 | #2

    Well, if The Rodent becomes a KG, he will go one better than Menzies, who was only a k. of the Thistle. Maybe one-upping Ming is what it’s all about. Anyhow, look at all the bad hats who are AO, and the whole business falls to pieces. Who would want to join a crew like that?

  3. Spiros
    February 11th, 2008 at 09:27 | #3

    Howard, for all his infinite faults, isn’t pretentious, and a knighthood probably is not at the top of his retirement to-do list.

    On the other hand, it’s not hard to imagine Janette enjoying the prospect of becoming Lady Howard.

    “academics … particularly in Europe”

    Yes, there’s nothing quite like a German academic,who goes by Professor Dr Dr Fritz Klaushuber, or whatever.

  4. February 11th, 2008 at 09:32 | #4

    Palace reporting is often based on whispers and rumours, as we have seen throughout the endless Diana affair. The Murdoch press is not quoting any sources to back up their stories of “rumours” of a knighthood for Howard, but of course one can well imagine that the cricket-loving, racist, anglocentric Howard would be a likely candidate with or without Rupert’s help.

    Personally, I think a knighthood for John Howard could be a perfect way to celebrate the end of the monarchy in Australia. Maybe he could also be encouraged to emigrate to Britain?

  5. February 11th, 2008 at 10:50 | #5

    Bugger – I just made a Downer/Garter joke over on Surfdom then find you’ve already beaten me to it.

    Bugger, bugger, bugger.

  6. James Haughton
    February 11th, 2008 at 11:34 | #6

    Maybe he could be Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports too!

  7. Hal9000
    February 11th, 2008 at 11:57 | #7

    I doubt very much a KG for the Rodent is really being considered – the fact it’s in the media is powerful evidence to the contrary, since Buck House is congenitally cagey about such matters.

    Malcolm Fraser received a Companion of Honour (CH) from HM the Q, which is a nice award in that it doesn’t confer a title, only postnominal initials. The list of Companions of Honour shows it’s a bit of a bolshy club, including such lefties as Harold Pinter, James Lovelock, Judi Dench and Michael Somare – so perhaps they wouldn’t welcome a reactionary toad like Howard in their midst.

    If Howard was to get the Garter gong, he’d be stepping into the recently vacated boots of Sir Edmund Hillary. Again, I’m not sure that HM’s Kiwi subjects would appreciate the delicate irony of such an honour – from the airy heights of the Himalayas to the foetid detention centres that represent Howard’s crowning achievement.

    Last, while Ming got the Thistle rather than the Garter, I’d be pretty sure this related to his treasured Scottish heritage rather than a judgement by the Monarch as to his place in the scheme of things – the Thistle is the highest Scots gong and also the highest conferred by the Queen personally (ie without the advice of her Westminster ministers), and is also restricted to 16 members, unlike the relatively common Garter at 24.

  8. gerard
    February 11th, 2008 at 15:36 | #8

    He might not be pretentious himself, but his head has always been right up the royal ginger, British to the bootstraps, and of course he’d be tickled pink debasing himself in front of her highness, being tapped on the head with her sword, all done out in a ridiculous outfit of robes and plumes. It might help him get over Bennelong.

    Anyway, he is well deserving of a knighthood, given how well he managed to scuttle the Republican movement. Although any title bestowed on ‘Sir’ Joh could hardly be much of an honour.

  9. O6
    February 11th, 2008 at 15:40 | #9

    Lord Boyce, the current Lord Warden, is a GCB. Does Mr Howard need a Bath?

  10. February 11th, 2008 at 16:32 | #10

    Hal9000 – good call on how our cross-tasman friends might feel if Howard were to get Sir Edmond’s seat at the round table.

    Surely there’s a serious-minded military chap who needs a new addition to the dress uniform. I just can’t picture how the insignia of the order might clash on the green and gold tracksuit.

  11. February 11th, 2008 at 17:21 | #11

    Stanley Melbourne Bruce got made an hereditary Lord, The Viscount Bruce of Melbourne no less, so I suppose the Bath is the least they can do.

    But can I remind you all that the wife of a Knight of the Bath is NOT entitled Lady. The same applies to all knighthoods except a Knight Baronet.

  12. February 11th, 2008 at 18:06 | #12

    Wikipedia has contradicted me on the second point (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_honours_system). The future Lady Howard can rest easy.

  13. Hal9000
    February 11th, 2008 at 21:22 | #13

    Bruce’s may have been an hereditary peerage, Martin, but since he had no issue, it expired on his death. Sic transit the bunyip aristocracy.

  14. philip travers
    February 11th, 2008 at 21:57 | #14

    I doubt Howard has met as many thistles as I have,as the prickle surgeon in this small hamlet.And the hat that Prince Philip wears reminds me of a drawing I have found in the latest issue of New Dawn Magazine,of some very ancient headdress.And to see if you make the grade required of my type of thistle knowing person,grab one,and see what happens..and dont think of Philip Adams understanding of Waltzing Matilda while you are doing it.Because lately some exchange of stones for a cairn really suggests where the dormant meaning lays.Unless you are reading the Himalayas backwards!?

  15. February 12th, 2008 at 12:57 | #15

    Hal9000,
    Same with Lord Forrest of Bunbury. Her Imperial and Britannic Majesty Victoria had a habit of conferring peerages on childless Australians.

  16. melanie
    February 12th, 2008 at 20:12 | #16

    Downer doesn’t need a Garter since he already has several hereditary titles (according to these pages anyway), including Fauntleroy and Baghdad. And if I were HM I wouldn’t have JH anywhere near my Bath, though I might be ready to give him a Thistle.

  17. February 12th, 2008 at 21:31 | #17

    It’s all a bit ridiculous.

  18. Alan D
    February 13th, 2008 at 11:51 | #18

    When Robert Menzies was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1963, it wasn’t long before badges appeared, saying “A thistle is a weed”. Therefore, I hope that John Howard gets the same award!

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