Titles of Chivalry: Free or Fee?




A knighthood is an ancient title of chivalry and there are two traditional ways to acquire one: as a gift or for a fee.

Originally starting as Christian military orders like the Knights Hospitaller during the crusades 900 years ago, titles of chivalry have now evolved into personal properties that can be given by a prince or a pope, or a parent as an hereditary asset.

Traditionally, titles have also been fund-raising opportunities for princes and popes and could therefore be purchased for a fee for a significant donation to the church, to a monarch or, more controversially, to the conservative political party.

Because of this contemporary dodgy practise the Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, put an end to titles of chivalry in Australia some decades ago.

Now the new conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has created a fresh regime for awarding titles in Australia: only as a gift.

This means that BIG donations to the conservative party will no longer be a self-serving way for acquiring a title of chivalry in Australia.

Is it now possible that Cardinal Pell might do the same in the Vatican and follow the excellent example of Tony Abbott?


Tuesday, 25 March 2014, Canberra

Prime Minister


A new honour for pre-eminent Australians.


PRIME MINISTER: I have an important announcement today — a new honour for pre-eminent Australians.

On my recommendation, Her Majesty the Queen has amended the Letters Patent constituting the Order of Australia.

Knights and Dames in the Order of Australia will be approved by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. There may be up to four Knights or Dames created in any one year. This special recognition may be extended to Australians of extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit.

Henceforth, the serving Governor-General will be the principal Knight or Dame in the Order of Australia. The first new Dame will be the outgoing Governor-General and the first new Knight will be the incoming Governor-General. It is fitting that the Queen’s representative be so honoured.

My intention is that this new award will go to those who have accepted public office rather than sought it and who can never, by virtue of that office, ever entirely return to private life. The Chairman of the Order of Australia Council will be consulted on any such recommendation.

I congratulate Her Excellency the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce and the Governor-General designate, General Peter Cosgrove, on this acknowledgement of their service to our country.

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