Tom Phillips: The only present for a royal who has everything: a nice shiny gong

Philip just wasn't happy with that goat for Africans you gave him

Share

So Zara Phillips - the Queen's granddaughter who symbolises the vibrant, modern face of the Royal Family by being good at riding horses - is to receive an honour from Grandma in the New Year list. I think I can speak for all ruddy-faced peasants when I say that it fills me with the greatest joy; a true glow of cloth-cap-clutching warmth that will see us through the hard times as we slave away in the tallow factories. Huzzah, I say. While I'm at it, I should also wish Mr Brunel the very best of luck in developing his astounding Mechanical Conveyances.

But perhaps there are still some among you harbouring seditious thoughts: that giving an honour to someone who's only a few tragic helicopter accidents away from being Queen herself maybe makes the whole system look, shall we say, a tad silly. To those people I would simply say: what, have you never been stuck over what to get a relative for Christmas?

This bears all the hallmarks of last-minute Christmas-shopping desperation - what do you get a girl who's already got rather a lot? She's the world eventing champion, for goodness' sake; she neither wants nor needs a pony. Sure, the press reports have covered the fact that Zara's getting an honour; what they've ignored is that she's also getting some scented bath oils and a copy of Schott's Almanac.

An honour's the perfect solution to such dilemmas, and I fully expect to see the royals adopt the practice more often in the future. Whatever, it's likely to work out better than last Christmas, when they decided to buy a goat for a village in sub-Saharan Africa as their gift to Prince Philip. Wasn't happy. Wasn't happy at all.

In fact, this interesting new approach to the bestowing of honours surely shows the way forward for an increasingly anachronistic institution. If the various archaic orders of chivalry are to have any place in the 21st century, it's surely as a form of Everybody Gets a Prize Day.

Honours should be available to everybody, given and received as tokens of minor affection and dutiful recognition. Rather than being obscure symbolic relics of a bygone age, dispersed by some dusty committee in a long-forgotten Westminster backroom, they should be piled up by supermarket checkouts next to the sweeties and copies of Grazia.

"I can't think what to get Uncle Dave for his birthday." "Look, there's the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. He'd love that."

As a bonus, it would also solve the cash-for-honours scandal at a stroke. If we've learned one lesson from our crushing defeat in the War on Drugs, it's that you can't hope to root out an evil by targeting individual bad guys for their wrongdoing. Thus, instead of going after various New Labour fixers for bending the rules to breaking point, just legalise it all and flood the market.

Moreover, people should be able to choose what sort of honour they get, to the point of being allowed to make up titles on a whim. Speaking for myself, I've always quite fancied declaring myself Grand Panjandrum of Whipsnade; under this system, I could. It's an approach that worked very well for Turkmenistan's dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, and I don't see why we should be denied such an opportunity.

In the meantime, we can only hope the Zara enjoys her new honour, and that it's not too awkward at the family Christmas dinner. After all, she's been caught somewhat by surprise on the Christmas present front; she'd only got the Queen some socks and a book token. Still, it's the thought that counts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
August 1923: Immigrants in a dining hall on Ellis Island, New York.  

When will the Church speak up for the dispossessed, and those that our political system leaves behind?

Stefano Hatfield
Mexico president Enrique Peña Nieto  

The UK is rolling out the red carpet for President Peña Nieto, but his security forces have blood on their hands

Kate Allen
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003