In a recent NZ Herald article it was reported that a cousin of Winston Churchill had died, leaving the son he once described as a "black sheep" to inherit one of Britain's most prestigious aristocratic titles.
It went on to explain that the Duke of Marlborough, who owned the opulent Blenheim Palace estate which is worth an estimated STG100 million (A$182.5 million), died "peacefully" in his sleep at the age of 88. Jamie Blandford, 58, currently known as the Marquess of Blandford, will now become the 12th Duke of Marlborough.
There you have it. The British Book of Titles is as thick as a Sydney Show wood-choppers forearm and there are journalists and patrons by the dozen who keep a sharp eye on who is next in line for this or that title.
One only needs to watch a Miss Marple (Agatha Christie) television movie to get the imagery of how important such people were with titles.
Moreover Dad's Army spelt it out in the program 'The Honourable Man' when Sergeant Wilson gets such a gong when an uncle dies and the title comes down to him as next surviving male relative. Captain Mannering is beside himself in jealousy adding to his inferiority complex not having attended the right school as Wilson had.
But it was to Private Godfrey that the highlight of the program was celebrated when he told his fellow Home Guard's that when he was the head of the Civil Service Stores they had many dealings with Honourables, the only difference was they could never get the money.
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in his years of government 1972-75 established Australia's own civil Honours of AC, AO, AM, OAM with varying degrees with each not unlike the Whermarcht's Iron Cross 1st Class with 5 Oakleaves. The oakleaves was the important bit.
Now, 42 years later the current Prime Minister has reincorporated the Knighthood for celebrated Australians with the newly appointed Governor General Sir Peter and the former Governor General Dame being so honoured.
Originally titles were associated with heredity entitlement along with deeds of gallantry far beyond the call of duty, whatever that meant. These things were never quite spelt out but in polite English society they held panache and what one had 'up-top' hardly mattered.
It was said of the British aristocrats that the simplest of the son's went into the army and so it was that when WWI came around the Australian military quickly saw the folly of such outcomes with horrific decision making on the battle field. The Australians had killed in one day 5523 of its best. The ABC's Anzac Girls (nurses) series highlights such losses.
The first settlers into the colonies of what was to be officially recognised and named Australia in 1901 quickly sought to disband any notion of peerage and egalitarianism became the cry and has continued to be so. Those who earned great wealth or achieved greatly in whatever field of endeavour they chose gained the respect of the citizenry.
In today's world people such as the Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AC has been so honoured with acclaim all round and before him at Wesley Mission, Sir Allan Walker under imperial honours.
The sciences, academia, business, entertainment, military, sport, religion – every part of society has their champions for which the society honours. There are times of course where posthumous awards are given when one wonders what were the politics which prevented such an award before death. Then there are always some who get over looked for whatever reason. I have written previously about the posthumous issue.
Christian funeral services have those famous lines: Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes .... we came into this world with nothing and we leave with only one thing, whether we have a testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the most telling story of the value of titles comes from American evangelist Tony Compolo where he holds in contrast a title and testimony to the Lord God.
Pharaoh had a title, Moses had a testimony
Saul had a title, David had a testimony
Ahab had a title, Elijah had a testimony
Nebuchadnezzar had a title, Daniel had a testimony
Caesar had a title, Paul had a testimony.
Umpire of life
Perhaps more poignant was the memorial service of a past Australian and Qld cricket celebrity at the Gabba way back in the late 80s. The cricket chaplain explained that his innings was 82 when "the umpire of life" raised his finger went up. Like the batsman whose innings is up, it's all a bit useless playing the right strokes on the way back to the pavilion, but the real question is:
Which pavilion is he going to?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html