So after I wrote my piece on Ringo getting knighted by the Queen, my lifelong friend, Vickie, asked me to proffer some information on ways Her Majesty honors the gals over in Merrie Olde England.
Even though there were a few back in the day, and sexism aside, there are no female Knights per se.
But there are plenty of ways QE II lets the ladies know they are appreciated.
The biggest is the OBE, or Order of the British Empire.
Once they’ve received the award, they are referred to as Dame.
Not in the way Dean Martin used the word, in this case, it’s an honor.
Dame is an honorific title which is actually the feminine form of knighthood. They don’t say damehood all that much, as that sounds a bit odd, but Dames they are, and the official website of the British Monarchy uses the term damehood.
Chivalric orders accepting women are ancient, not as old as those for men, but they do go all the way back to 1381 when John V, Duke of Brittany created the Order of the Ermine.
Female knights did exist in many places before John V came UP with his order, and like the guys, they had their own colors and their own coat of arms.
Some even participated in tournaments. It was all very “title 9.”
But, patriarchal societies ruled the day and it was beyond anyone’s imagination for women to take part in battles or command soldiers.
Of course, there was Joan d’ Arc, but we all know how that ended!
And there were a few others who actually wore armor and were members of official orders, but technically they weren’t knights.
Duchess Gaita of Lombardy rode into battle with her husband; a mercenary named Robert Guiscard, and was a knight in her own right. She was a Lombard Princess and a raging anti-Semite, so let’s just not waste any time on her!
Another was Petronilla de Grandmesnil, a Countess who wore chain mail, carried a sword, and participated in the rebellion against Henry II of England.
At the onset of male Knighthood in Britain, his wire was called “Dame,” somewhere in the 1600s, that changed to “Lady.”
The Brits made a lot of changes in 1917, they not only changed the name of the Royal Family from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when the German Gotha VI planes started bombing London during The Great War to Windsor; they added the term “Dame” as the official equivalent of knight when they created the Order of the British Empire.
Since then, they were not necessarily fighting women, but like the knights of today, they added value to the Empire – such as it is.
Although it is considered a great honor, some have turned it down, Vanessa Redgrave and Geraldine McEwan, both British thespians.
There are plenty, of course, who did not.
Here are a few:
Julie Andrews, Joan Colins, Olivia de Haviland, Judi Dench, Wendy Hiller, Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, Margaret Routherford, and of course, my favorites, Maggie Smith and Elizabeth Taylor.
Just to be sure, it is not just a list of beautiful actresses; one of the 2018 recipients is Dame Cathy Warwick, a midwife.
And like the boys, it’s all about what the ladies have done to make the Empire shine a tad more.