Today I received this message in response to Monday’s post about Chevalier Jim Hall.
You are quite justified in feeling very proud of your dad’s award by the French Government. I hope you are able to accompany him to the investiture ceremony (French Embassy in Washington – quite possible?). The French do not give these awards away in breakfast cereal packets — they are coveted honours bestowed on relatively few. I hope he wears it with pride.
As to Knighthoods awarded by the Queen of England. Well, these are largely political in nature, because though a number of actors, painters and other contributors to the arts and sciences do receive knighthoods (which entitles them to be called ‘Sir’, their award is largely down to the patronage of the British Prime Minister. As such, there’s a great deal of political ‘I’ll scratch your back’ involved. Most of the British business tycoons etc., are rewarded more for their political smoozing than for any genuinely meritorious behaviour. As to peerages, well we’ve known for decades that most of these are ‘bought and sold’. The current PM, Mr Blair, is no better than his predecessors in this sordid little business. A prime minister by the name of Lloyd-George (in the 1910-20s was a model of corruption — and had a scale of charges relative to the award that people wished to purchase. Mr Blair is mired in the same sleazy methods — and a great majority of the peerages (that is to say people elevated to the House of Lords and given the title, Lord -‘Such-and-such’ have obtained their award by the simple expediency of bunging a large sum of money to the British Labour Party. This isn’t to say other PMs in the recent past haven’t done exactly the same. Ordinary people in the UK are almost never given knighthoods. They have to be content with minor awards such as the British Empire Medal, or possibly the Order of the British Empire (one step up from BEM).
Hope this gives you some (relatively) small insight into the true merit of the award system here in the UK.
And, though I’m in danger of repeating myself, your dad’s award is very well merited. I salute him.
Best regards from a sunny Shropshire (England),
Regular readers will recognize Mike’s name as he writes in from time to time and I have mentioned the book he co-authored: Hampton Hawes: A Bio-Discography.