THE Queen very kindly informs a person that she is “minded” to bestow an honour upon them some time before the public announcement.
Given the opportunity to decline (some do) and sworn to secrecy, the many “gonged” in this year’s Birthday Honours List will be settling down to their new status.
Taking time from acknowledging the many messages of congratulations, they will no doubt be considering where to hang their citation.
The office or living room wall could seem a bit ostentatious. How about the bedroom? Could be a comfort to wake up to it on a grim morning and ponder that at least Her Majesty loves you!
What about the loo? Now, this is beyond ostentation. Pretending it is of such trivial importance is more insulting than giving it back, as John Lennon notoriously did with his MBE back in the day.
There are quite a few who do turn down the honour — an action that may attract more publicity than acceptance.
Maybe David Bowie and Stephen Hawking felt they were famous enough without their knighthoods — although Hawking’s gesture was purportedly a protest about lack of funding for science.
Some object to the inclusion of “Empire” in the title. Benjamin Zephaniah said it was a reminder of slavery.
Alan Bennett objected because it would mean “wearing a suit every day of your life”, John Cleese just dismissed it as “silly” and L S Lowry was offered honours FIVE times, all of which he turned down. Of course, the whole system is archaic and anachronistic, but it is a relatively harmless tradition that gives pleasure and reward to so many.
What is unfair, though, is the random method of recommendation and appointment and the rewarding of people who have just done the job they have been paid for.
What’s wrong with a carriage clock for those who have served 50 years in the service of the Ministry for Fisheries and Fripperies?
Mind you, no one can begrudge those four grande dames who featured recently in the documentary Nothing Like a Dame. Dench, Atkins, Plowright and Smith (as in Maggie, of course) wallow wonderfully in their damehoods and have given so much pleasure to so many in their long working lives.
This year, the stand-out honour for the Jewish community was the award of a damehood to Louise Ellman MP.
Her citation is for “parliamentary and political services”. But, above and beyond that work, her commitment to the defence of the Jewish community and Israel is beyond measure.
Her life cannot have been easy under Corbyn, but she has remained steadfast to her principles, dignified and approachable.
She will enhance the pantheon of Jewish dames, some more illustrious than others.
There’s Vivien Duffield, philanthropist daughter of Sir Charles Clore, Janet Suzman, Muriel Spark, Esther Rantzen and, er, Shirley Porter to name just a few (no prizes to readers who can lengthen the list).
So what are the practical rewards of being a dame... or a knight or any other honour?
Well, you can look forward to the day of investiture at Buckingham Palace where, I am told, you will be offered a choice of water or weak orange cordial. It won’t be any help in paying off the mortgage or anything else you can think of.
Leslie Turnberg told a recent Limmud audience that when he phoned up a restaurant to book a table and was told it was fully booked, he was persuaded by friends to use his recently acquired peerage.
He tried again, as Lord Turnberg. The result: The restaurant, he was told, was still fully booked!
The answer is that the reward is lots of nachas for the person and all the family. But while the wife of a knight becomes a lady, as does the wife of a lord, the husband of a dame remains a plain Mr.
I’m sure the wonderful Geoffrey Ellman, who has loyally supported Louise for so many years, can cope!