|The Governor General of Canada invests The Duke of Edinburgh|
As the first Extraordinary Companion of the
Order of Canada
Perhaps unknown to most readers, these two orders are Canada's highest honours. Today's presentation would not otherwise be overly newsworthy, but the long journey that led to today's presentation is one which is worthy of note. For, until now, the elderly Duke had received substantive honours from both Australia and New Zealand but, surprisingly, not from Canada, arguably the most monarchist of Commonwealth realms.
Whether by pure coincidence, the decision followed a national media campaign which some had launched earlier this year to try to influence the Government and garner public support.
The Duke of Edinburgh is the oldest member of the Royal Family to have travelled to Canada and, after Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the second oldest member of the Royal Family to have left the shores of the UK. Such is HRH's devotion to Canada, The Duke has travelled to the Great White North more than any other member of the Royal Family.
Considering his unparalleled dedication to Canada, it seems only natural that Canada should honour His Royal Highness with the nation's highest honour. However, it will come as a surprise to many that a man who has been decorated by Australia, New Zealand and numerous countries around the world has, until now, not received a grand Canadian honour.
The reasons for this are complex. Until recently, the statutes of the Order of Canada that determined eligibility for membership were limited to Canadian citizens. The powers-that-be determined that, aside from the The Queen, who, as Sovereign, is the fount from which citizenship and honour flows, members of her family are simply Britons and therefore ineligible.
|The Duke of Edinburgh depicted wearing his various honours|
including Orders from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Regrettably
no Canadian Order graces The Duke's medal bar. A shameful omission.
|HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as|
Admiral of the Canadian Navy but still
lacking any Canadian Orders
The message was clear: the poorly drafted statutes of the Order of Canada needed to be amended. Statutes in New Zealand create a separate substantive class of "Extraordinary" members for members of the Royal Family (viz. Duke of Edinburgh, Extra Companion of the Queen's Service Order and Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand). Similarly, Australians had no problem conferring Australian substantive honours upon members of their Royal Family (viz The Prince of Wales, Knight of the Order of Australia, Duke of Edinburgh, Commander of the Order of Australia)
|Canada's Governor General presents|
"Honorary" membership in the
Order of Canada upon
HM Queen Elizabeth the
However, as far as we know, the views of the Duke of Edinburgh remained unchanged. Those of us who are interested in such matters realised that unless the statutes of the Order were amended to enable the appointment of members of the Royal Family as substantive "Extra Companions" or "Royal Companions", there would be little chance that he would accept membership. The idealists amongst us, would have liked to see Canada follow the New Zealand model and open the honours system to citizens of Commonwealth Realms.
Supporters of the Crown agreed that, as there was every chance that this might be the last trip that HRH might make to Canada, it was imperative that steps be taken immediately to try to rectify this omission. We suspected that senior government officials might also share our concern; but we felt that there would be no harm in involving the media as it could create a groundswell of public expectation and anticipation. "Will he or won't he?" -- which would make the actual presentation all the more eagerly anticipated and exciting. It could become "an event".
An Editorial was duly published in the Globe and Mail calling for the Duke to be invested with the Order of Canada. As a Canadian, and also the editor of Burke's World Orders of Knighthood & Merit (the definitive guide to the state orders of the world) I immediately followed this up with my own letter. I then hoped that these two pieces would be brought to the attention of people at the highest levels of government so that, if they had not been seriously considering the issue before, this might now give them pause for thought.
Here is the letter:
Honours enthusiasts are therefore delighted that this staunchly-monarchist Government, which has done so much to ensure that Canadians fully understand and appreciate the importance of the Crown in our political and cultural life, have seen fit to provide The Duke of Edinburgh with the highest honours they could possibly bestow. The Canadian Government's efforts to ensure that the Canadian Monarchy returns to the heart of national life, helping to ensure that Canadians appreciate the vital role that it has to play at the centre of our understanding of Canadian national identity, are worthy of the greatest praise. We celebrate them for that. I do not know whether the media campaign we launched had any impact on the ultimate decision to confer the Orders upon HRH but, ultimately, that is meaningless. For we simply rejoice in the fact that The Canadian Government have brought its honours policy in line with those of Australia, New Zealand and the UK and, most importantly, now acknowledge that the Royal Family is Canadian.
Rafe Heydel-Mankoo Web: wwww.heydel-mankoo.com