Look, Prince Philip is a great man, and he deserves every honor we could award him. But he probably still has no idea he was made an Australian knight. He’s already the consort of the Queen of Australia, the Grand Marshal of the Australian Army and the Australian Air Force, and the Admiral of the Australian Fleet. What was a knighthood going to do? It’s like awarding someone the Nobel Prize in Literature and also sticking an Oprah’s Book Club seal on their book. It’s not bad, it’s just relatively not great. So I’m sure he isn’t personally cut about the overwhelmingly negative reaction to having been knighted.
The real question is, does the re-abolition of Australian knighthoods signal a new ‘republicanism by stealth’? The answer, in fact, is that it doesn’t. This can only be good for the monarchist movement.
As it seems to me, Australians—particularly young Australians—have never been more inclined toward monarchism. This has a great deal to do with the lengths to which monarchist organizations like the Australian Monarchist League and Australians for Constitutional Monarchy have gone to re-brand the institution itself. No longer is it widely seen as a vestige of empire, but as the uniquely Australian manifestation of a proud and ancient institution. Case in point: only republican provocateurs refer to Elizabeth II as ‘the Queen of England’. Monarchists have very successfully made her known by her proper title, ‘the Queen of Australia’—or, simply, the Queen.
The institution and awarding of knighthoods was by no means a public preoccupation before Prince Philip was dubbed, but a nation overwhelmingly attached to the Australian monarchy was immediately and understandably appalled by the symbolic gesture. Why, with all the deserving Australians in politics, sport, and culture, was a knighthood immediately given to a lavishly titled royal? Tony Abbott didn’t seem interested in using royal honors to benefit Australians so much as perpetuating the royal honors system for its own sake.
So the charge of ‘republicanism by stealth’ is a complete exaggeration. Turnbull himself might oppose knighthoods on republican grounds, but this was also the will of a nation that is otherwise decidedly monarchist.
Don’t fret, monarchists, the end of knighthoods is but a return to the status quo. The unambiguously Australian monarchy continues to command the respect of Australians, especially younger ones.