"William Cloud Hicklin" <solicitr@...
> Oh, there's always been a bit of scorn for the way the lower
> grades have been (according to some) passed out like
> popcorn: "Minimal Bloody Effort" and "Other Buggers' Effort"
> are some of the snarks. But awards of the K's used to be
> held on a tighter leash than they are now.
What is true is that there's been "grade inflation," at least in these
specific areas of renown. A degree of pop-music, or literary, fame that
might get you an MBE forty years ago is more likely to get you a knighthood
now. And certain areas of past abuse - honours to corrupt political party
contributors and such - are not quite as blatant as they used to be, though
problems still crop up.
But a statement that the Honours List used to be "stingier" might be read
that it used to bear more relation to actual merit than it does now, and I
don't think that's the case. Over a longer term - look back more than 150
years - and literary merit was rarely recognized at all.
That wasn't even viewed as the purpose of honours. They were more
recognitions of social standing. Lord Melbourne famously said, "What I like
about the Order of the Garter [the highest order of knighthood] is that
there is no damned merit about it." Partly to address this is why a
non-knightly honour actually called the Order of Merit was created in 1902.
It was intended to be without the social cachet of a knighthood or peerage,
in particular that you didn't have to be rich to live up to social
obligations that went with it. And some of the same spirit has leaked into
the OBE and other honours since then. Now that the hereditary peers are out
of the House of Lords - and even to an extent before then - being granted a
peerage today pretty much means only that you can speak in the Lords, with
none of the subjective connotations of nobility that being a peer used to