Okay, I admit I’ve dallied with republicanism (more than dallied – you might have seen the pictures of the two us?), but now that there are serious gongs on offer up to four times a year, I’m of course prepared to reconsider. And don’t try telling me I’m the only republican doing that.
Here’s my problem. No, here are my two problems. The first is specific to only a few of us. I already have a family name that outranks a knight, so Sir Nick Earls risks feeling like a bit of a downgrade. To acknowledge pre-eminent contribution in my peculiar circumstances, I’ll have to be made at least a Marquess. Don’t get me started on what to do with people called King. You’d be better off leaving now.
This leads me, sort of, to problem number two. While the Prime Minister’s grace note trilled as majestically as a hymn in the throat of an ageing English vicar, if it please you, Sir Tony, might it only be the start? Why stop at knights and dames, and a maximum of four of them a year, when centuries of somewhat dusty chivalry are waiting to be polished up anew?
Fortunately, at least one further step might already be underway. Today Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy called for Queensland to resume naming its own knights and dames. Before any of you fine-print fiends start pointing out that state governments can’t appoint anyone to the Order of Australia and the whole K&D thing is entirely in the PM’s back pocket (because that’s our democratico-feudal system at its best), there’s plenty of scope for Queensland’s adventurously retro government to do their bit.
The British have the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, used to reward the great contributions of many worthy citizens (as well as an excellent chance to slap a badge on the chest of a prince just because, and an opportunity to recognise the statespersonship of international leaders such as Josip Tito and Robert Mugabe). We’re into showers more than baths in Queensland, so maybe we could start up the Most Honourable Order of the Shower, with the most humble rank, Companion of the Shower to be awarded to all those rugby league stars who spend their hard-earned on one of those his’n’hers double showers you always seem to see in the real estate ads when they sell their mansions.
Or maybe we could make a move on the Order of St Patrick, still in existence but sadly effectively dormant since the Irish opted to go their own way on 1921. Not quite true – there were a couple more chances to sling these knighthoods the way of some princes in the 1930s (royals do seem to stumble upon these titles rather a lot, don’t they, but maybe they’re just great contributors), but other than that the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick is going nowhere. Queensland, this could be the one for us. How about it, Sir Campbell? Sir Jarrod?
Or maybe we could take our rightful turns at a few of the better royal sinecures on offer. For 800 years or so, Britain has had a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, given to an older person prepared to wear tights and exercise ‘power of muster’ in, um, fourteen ports on England’s south coast (yes, I know fourteen’s not exactly cinque but don’t be picky). Eight centuries, and how many Australians have held the role? One. Put your hand up, Queensland. Or maybe they won’t let us take that one, since we’d be likely to privatise the ports …
So, how about Keeper of the Queen’s Swans? Such a big job that in 1993 they split it into two – the Warden and Marker of the Swans respectively. And how many Australians have been favoured by appointment? None that I’m aware of. I’m confident we could mark a swan as well as anybody. And ward them, to the extent such a thing might be called for.
Or better still, we could bring back the office of Chafe-Wax, dormant since 1852 (which has me wondering how on earth the Lord Chancellor fixes wax to his documents these days).
And surely it’s about time the Earl of Denbigh and Desmond accepted that being a double earl is more than enough and stepped aside to give a Queenslander a crack at being the Grand Carver of England.
And don’t tell me that, after 948 years in the role, it isn’t time for the Lord of the Manor of Scrivelsby to step aside and let one of us be Queen’s Champion? I can’t say precisely what you need to be a champion at, but it’s a genuine official role and we’re a versatile bunch and surely able to cover whatever it asks for.
Mere knights and dames, Lord PM? Please try harder. Or let the Dukes of Ashgrove and Kawana lead the way in Queensland. There’s a whole exotic semi-royal future waiting for us to leap back to.
Now, who’s first in line for a title, sadly defunct since 1914 but until then ranking in the Order of Precedence ahead of a Companion of the Bath, if you don’t mind? Yes, I’m talking of the quasi-judicial office of Master of Lunacy. Could be a great time for us to get ourselves a few of those.