With publication of the Birthday Honour’s List comes the thorny issue of EQuality. It highlights that scales have tipped and queries how to accommodate this refreshed EQulibrium. Let me clarify.
Since the dawn of our times, Knight-hoods have entitled Sir + first name to replace Mr/Dr/Prof/et al + surname. The wife of a Knight becomes Lady + surname. Remember, only daughters of an Earl, Marquis or Duke are styled Lady + first name: Lady Diana [Spencer] for instance.
Now that women have broken the surface to have their contributions recognized, Dame-hoods have increased in number. Their spouse, however, doesn’t seem to be accorded similar recognition.
Is that because it’s difficult to know the right term? In no world would it be accepted to address a couple as, say, Dame Agatha & Laddy Christie (mebbie a dodgy example in virtue she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1971, three years after her second husband, Max Mallowan, was knighted for services to Archeology: but you get the idea).
How then do we ensure a just balance? If women share their husband’s honour, should not a man be similarly acknowledged? And what happens in same-sex partnerships: how’d that work?
[In case you were wondering, it seems from archive pictures, Dames are presented with a grand medal rather than a sworded, regal tap on each shoulder while knealing.]
[[Spare a thought for Harold [1874 – 1961], husband of Dame Laura Knight. Both acclaimed portraitists, her work outshone his which, in the context of their times, was somehow miraculous.]]
From gov.uk: In total 1,073 people have received an Honour as a Queen’s Birthday present:
- 920 candidates have been selected at BEM, MBE and OBE level: 306 at BEM, 399 at MBE and 215 at OBE
- 75% of the recipients are people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity
- 508 women are recognised in the List, representing 47% of the total
- 0.4% of the successful candidates come from a BAME background
- 5.9% of the successful candidates consider themselves to have a disability (under the Equality Act 2010)
- 2.8% of recipients identified as being LGBT