It was the Queen’s birthday on Saturday. Not her real birthday (duh!) but her ‘official’ one, and instead of receiving pressies, she seems to give them out in the form of honours.
Now, I already knew that they were to recognise achievement and service; I’d heard of MBEs, CBEs, and OBEs but I had no idea that there are a gazillion more or indeed what any of the initials stand for; I sort of remembered that you had to be nominated for one; and then I had some recollection of a ‘cash for honours’ scandal; and here is where my knowledge (and I like to imagine other people’s) ends.
So, where to begin? They always seem to be a hotly debated topic (as indeed anything surrounding the monarchy seems to be). There are the royalists who love it all, and the anti-royalists who loathe it, and then everyone in between. There are arguments that the whole system is outdated (after all, the British Empire no longer exists) and geared towards classism; and there is the undeniable taint that in the past, those who donated large amounts of money to political parties would inevitably find themselves on the receiving end of a life peerage.
A MBE means you’re a member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a OBE is an officer, and a CBE a commander. After that you can receive a life peerage and become a DBE/KBE which is a Dame or Knight Commander, and then finally, and most prestigiously, you become a GBE – a Dame or Knight Grand Cross. You’ve also got honours like The Most Honourable Order of the Bath and The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, but I won’t get into them (you’ll be pleased to hear!), basically, there are a lot of honours. 1149 people were recommended for one in the year’s Birthday honours alone.
Are you keeping up? Good.
Now you’ve got the background knowledge at your fingertips, let’s move on to the real debate – Angelina Jolie is now a Dame. And this is really getting people’s goat. The woman is a ‘home wrecker’ after all. And American. And an actress. And a bit kinky (she used to wear vials of her then-husband’s blood around her neck). Basically, she’s a bit too sexy to be a Dame. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are where it’s at – loveable British institutions who won’t run off with your husband.
As she’s a foreigner, the honour is actually only, erm, honorary. She can’t refer to herself as a Dame. So you can breathe a sigh of relief on that account.
Yet, unlike Dench and Smith (both excellent women – big fan, ladies), who were both honoured for their services to the performing arts, Jolie has been recognised for her services to the UK’s foreign policy and for campaigning to end sexual violence in war zones. She’s also worked with the UN as a Special Envoy and Goodwill Ambassador (on an aside, fellow actress Scarlett Johansson stepped down from her role as an Oxfam ambassador so she could endorse the Israeli-produced SodaStream…); and she’s globally known for her humanitarian work. She isn’t guilty of funnelling money into a political party; and she isn’t a member of the gentry; if anyone deserves a damehood, I suggest it’s her. You go, Dame Angie.