Medal News

Volume 55, Number 3, March 2017

Railways VC Heroes

Volume 55, Number 3, March 2017

It’s an honour, or should be FOR most of us the antics of a tattooed soccer player with an odd sartorial style and a penchant for strange haircuts would be of little interest, but the recently-leaked emails from David Beckham to his publicist that appeared plastered across various websites and tabloid headlines might well have caught our eye. It isn’t so much that Mr Beckham, who has always been seen as a little more wholesome than some of his counterparts, now comes across as a spoiled child, ranting and swearing because he wasn’t awarded a knighthood when he thought he deserved one, rather like an infant demanding sweets, but rather that the Honours system has once more been brought into sharp focus. Last year I wrote about the controversy surrounding David Cameron’s “Crony” list, drawn up as he departed Downing Street, and how it seemed to be just a way for him to thank his “pals” and a sop to those on the losing “remain” side in the referendum. At the time my opinion was that this wasn’t all bad and that cronyism and favouritism has been at the heart of the British Honours system since the Order of the Garter’s introduction in the 14th century. I argued that were the honours to be made more inclusive, with every Tom, Dick or David able to get their hands on one, then that would cheapen the whole thing and they would lose any significance they might still have. This latest episode though is something a little different as it highlights a couple of rather interesting points —firstly that people might be doing good deeds solely with one eye on an honour or two (this is the implication in many newspapers, I couldn’t possibly comment of course) and secondly it seems that to some which honour that is, is rather important! Now I certainly don’t want to get into a “who said what and what bits were taken out of context” debate here, but no matter what the truth of these emails one thing seems certain and that is that Mr Beckham really, really, really wants a Knighthood. The question is why? Beckham surely has rather a lot already — many millions of pounds (one assumes), a loving family, a footballing talent, fame, good looks, tattoos aplenty, so why does he seem to so desperately want to be called Sir David? Why is a title so important to him? It isn’t as if it is going to open any more doors than his fame and money don’t open already, it doesn’t come with any special rights or privileges per se, you don’t suddenly get a castle or lands or the undivided attention of the Monarch as “Knights of Old” might have received. So why is it such a big deal? Of course I cannot speak for the man himself, only he knows why he wants to go a couple better than the OBE he has at the moment, but what I can say is that he isn’t alone in his desire to be so honoured and whilst his language might be a little more colourful than we are used to, the sentiment is age old. People, it seems, like gongs. Naturally we as collectors, people who know and indeed, it might be said, revere the system, can be expected to understand the desire for an OBE, CBE, Knighthood or ennoblement—after all, many readers will themselves have received other medals during the course of their careers and so to receive another would fill them with nothing but pride, but others, like the esteemed Mr Beckham, can hardly claim to be experts on non-sporting medals (anyone remember his minor faux pas at the Royal Wedding in 2012 when he was wearing his OBE on the wrong side? Somebody more knowledgeable swiftly corrected him) and yet still they desire them. Yes, every now and then someone refuses an honour and it makes headlines in a press always eager to rock the boat, but by and large any awards bestowed are received gratefully and gladly and, as we have seen, when they aren’t forthcoming to those who deem themselves worthy, petulance ensues. There are those who look at the Honours system and call it outdated, an anachronistic throwback to the long gone days of Empire, and call for its overhaul or abolishment. It may indeed be a “relic” but that doesn’t, it seem, stop people from wanting to be part of it which, to my mind, makes it as relevant today as it has always been. That being the case I do hope that the powers that be don’t listen to the calls of the detractors and do something hideous like “modernise” the whole thing—that has been tried elsewhere and it never really seems to work. As is evidenced by the ex-England soccer captain people still want to be made knights and dames, they still like the idea of titles and, despite the odd cry of “elitism”, the system really isn’t that broken—so why try to fix it? That all said, I would perhaps like to see one little change to the system as it stands and that is that if anyone has the audacity to complain that the honour that has been bestowed upon them isn’t “enough” and that they want more, then they should be immediately stripped of all honours they might already have and never again be considered for anything other than a Prefect’s badge—but that’s just my humble opinion . . .

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