The restoration of knighthoods
8th January 2009
The Monarchist League of New Zealand supports the call by the Editor of the New Zealand Herald to return to titular honours, and to place the Honours Secretariat under the auspices of the Governor-General. The restoration of knighthoods is supported by a groundswell of public opinion.
The decision to remove titles, such as Dame or Sir, denied the community a public and enduring opportunity to celebrate success. The League encourages the Government to restore titular honours to recognise the contribution of outstanding individuals, thereby conveying a greater visibility than do post-nominal letters alone.
The League also welcomes the New Zealand Herald’s call to place the Honours Secretariat under the jurisdiction of the Governor-General. The current Secretariat within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet creates an unnecessary perception of bias or political control. Having honours managed by the Governor-General would reinforce the neutrality of the system, and truly be an expression of celebration for the entire community.
The Honours’ systems of Canada and Australia are already managed by the Governor-General’s offices. The United Kingdom has also, recently, taken steps to make their Honours’ system more overtly apolitical.
The League welcomes an opportunity to discuss changes further. Some suggestions currently presented include:
That to further recognise Maori culture and language, the League encourages the Government to consider creating an optional Maori title for those who would prefer to use that.
That people should hold titles in their own right, and their partners should not have a companion title. Currently, the wife of a Knight is called a “Lady” but the husband of a “Dame” has no title. This imbalance can be corrected by discontinuing any future “companion” titles.
That the title of “Dame” could be replaced by “Lady”. Some consider that “Dame” is not a titled universally welcomed by women. There is precedent for a change. Women who are admitted to the Order of the Garter, which is the oldest surviving Order of Chivalry in the world, carry the title “Lady” not “Dame”, a title which only dates from the foundation of the Order of the British Empire, in 1917.