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Quentin Bryce, what a Dame

Crikey readers talk imperial honours and where the tradition of putting one’s hand over one’s heart came from.

Republicans or no, GGs had to take on honours

Jackson Harding writes: Re. “Crikey says: arise, the republican hypocrites?” (Friday). I am saddened to see you have been following the rest of the Australian press in their inaccurate line on the bestowing of the honour of Dame and Knight of the Order of Australia on Quentin Bryce and Peter Cosgrove respectively, as well as the totally inaccurate line that the title of Sir or Dame had been abolished in Australia, which is just completely and utterly wrong.

Firstly, when the Hawke/Keating government made its changes, Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia was put into abeyance (existing knights/dames were unaffected). It had previously been agreed with the Queen that other orders of knighthood would no longer be recommended by the Australian government and therefore no longer bestowed on Australians, and the various state premiers all followed suit.  However, those orders that were the personal gift of the sovereign remained within the Australian honours system and could be awarded if the Queen saw fit.  She did see fit in 1994, when she created Sir Ninian Stephen a Knight of the Garter, and in 1990, when she elevated Sir William Heseltine to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (each was already a Sir). The orders in question are the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Order of Merit (which she subsequently awarded to John Howard) and the Royal Victorian Order. It also presumably also includes the Order of St Patrick, although that order has been dormant since the creation of the Irish free state and all of the members of the order are now deceased.

With our current Emperor reinstating the degree of knight/dame to the Order of Australia the Governor-General has no choice in the matter. As the principal member of the Order they automatically become AK or AD (previously they became an AC if they weren’t already). Dame Quentin was wedged; the only way she could have refused would have been to have resigned as governor-general prior to the change taking effect. This would have appeared most ungracious, and Dame Quentin is nothing if not gracious. Sir Peter may or may not have republican sentiments (as variously reported in the press), but he has spent most of his adult life wearing the insignia of the crown on his shoulders. I am sure he can reconcile his oath of office with his beliefs (I guess “heirs and successors according to law” gives some wriggle room). The most distateful part of it all is how A.I. (Antonius Imperator) appears to have wedged Quentin Bryce.

Freemasons’ fidelity

Henrie Ellis writes: Re. “Hand on heart” (Friday). You might be interested to know that the American tradition of hand on the heart is probably taken from the Freemasons’ sign of fidelity. Freemasonry exerted a powerful influence in the republic, with symbolism from Freemasonry used with telling effect, e.g. the US dollar bill’s “all-seeing eye”. The Mormon Church also borrowed freely from Freemasonry, especially in terms of ritual.

I happen to agree with the viewpoint that it is an American tradition and should not be aped for dramatic patriotic impact. Civilians should stand erect, remove headgear, and bow their heads to pay homage to the fallen.

I have also noticed more and more people place their hands over the hearts during the singing of the national anthem. What next? The sign of fidelity when past PMs enter the room? More likely that some other signs might be forthcoming.

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