Dear Sir,

Two of your correspondents have been commenting on the possible knighthood of Andy Murray following his Wimbledon win. Donald Trelford argues that his honour should be more graduated perhaps CBE now and Sir on retirement. Monro Bryce is typically more robust. He believes that titles are handed out like dolly mixtures. He is correct in saying that back in history Knighthoods were intended for acts of “great chivalry” awarded by the monarch and usually reserved for the aristocracy currently in favour. Over the centuries (it is a very old system) the Monarch became only a signing mechanism when the selection team expanded into the Aristocracy of the House of Lords and much later to the Plebs of the House of Commons.

The types and number of recipients have also expanded at first to the military for bravery then just for serving (at first commissioned officers only). MPs regularly were honoured just for being in Parliament. Initially only the Diplomatic Service received awards but eventually the high ups like Sir Humphrey Appleby got gongs and then Civil Servants in general just for being Civil Servants. This seemingly establishment orientated system came in for criticism but adaptable it is. Soon Dinner Ladies and Lollipop Men were elevated almost as an afterthought to tranquilise the masses. Whether before or after Show Biz nominations I'm unsure. Low caste footballers didn't really start to feature till the late 50's with Billy Wright followed after a 6 year gap by Stanley Matthews – they come much faster now.

In an average year 2500 honours are awarded. One or more Tennis KCBs won't matter much. The system is cheap and fantastically profitable. People give weeks of their time free in charity work. Rich people contribute millions in hope of 3 letters behind their name or even better 3 in front and how about all the associated medals? Our Royal Family gives one to (say) the ex-King of Macedonia then later he gives one back to Prince Charles so he gets to wear so many he resembles a white Idi Amin or Mohammed Gaddafi.

The honours system forms the foundation and stability for our Monarchy, Aristocracy and Establishment. At any one time the top 50'000 movers and shakers in the UK have received honours and are highly unlikely to want to relinquish their gongs as likely as Turkey's voting for Christmas. Even hardened Trade Union Shop Stewards like Gorbals Mick took the Queen's Shilling to become Baron Martin of Springburn as did Lord John Prescott (Baron of Kingston upon Hull) forsaking his anti-monarchism for ermine. Labour PM Tony Blair's 10 People's Peers was to rectify everything but was a joke. Among the first of his Lords was John Browne (Kings School, Ely & St. Johns, Cambridge) then CEO of BP with a People's Pay of £5.7 million. 90% of the honours list is made up from Judges, MPs, Armed Forces Officers, Police Superintendents, Senior Civil Servants, top Bankers, Chairmen of FTSE companies, Archbishops etc. They all receive honours as a matter of course – in some respects for doing what they had been already paid for.

A Sir Andy Murray would be no worse than many other recipients and when his tennis days are over if he plays his cards right his knighthood on the letter head will get him a sinecure directorship like so many before him.

Mike Lillico

Playa de Palma


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