Queen’s Birthday honours reveal a New Zealand slowly recovering from its ‘imperial hangover’
In a new article on The Conversation, UC History Professor Katie Pickles writes that in an age of individualism and celebrity, these regular rewards for service to community and nation are generally seen as a welcome tonic and well worth toasting.
The 2009 investiture ceremony for the 72 New Zealand dames and knights who took up the offer of redesignation after the government reinstated titular honours.
The British honours system originated in medieval times when knights on steeds fought chivalrously for ladies. In rewarding service, loyalty and gallantry, the monarchy was moving away from gifting land and money to the favoured few towards offering orders of chivalry identified by insignia.
The modern system advanced with empire. From a small number of highly exclusive orders restricted to the aristocracy and high-ranking military, British subjects serving in the colonies began to receive honours in the 19th century.
In 1848 George Grey – soldier, governor, premier and scholar – was the first New Zealand resident to receive a Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB).
By the first world war, honours had expanded beyond military and public service to include science, the arts and commerce. From 1917, the Order of the British Empire became popular for colonials, cultivating national identity out of British values.