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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own