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The Ladies and the Lords

The Dames and the Knights: Feudal Honours in the British Commonwealth

Although there are British Commonwealth countries that have clung to the feudal institution called monarchy, even some of these have found the honours system to be too much.

In 1975 Australia, a country that is proud of its democratic spirit, abolished knighthoods and damehoods. Seventy living Australians who were "honoured" before the abolition were still able to call themselves knights or dames.

But in 2014 the feudal distinctions made a surprise return when Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked queen Windsor to award them to Australians again.

Knight's Helmet

According to one Australian newspaper this "stunned the nation". One MP hummed Rule Britannia in Parliament to mock Abbott. The Liberal Party’s Malcolm Turnball pointed out that Guatamala was one of the other countries that still thought there was a place for knighthoods.

Abbott was born in the UK and is both a monarchist and a conservative. The values of his adopted country have proved to be alien to him but is not likely that the imperial honours will survive for long when he loses office.

New Zealand republican Prime Minister Helen Clark also abolished knighthoods and damehoods in 2000. But in that country too they have been revived. The culprit was National Party PM John Key, who restored feudalism in 2009.

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