La Satira News Service
In Shakespeare, it is not uncommon to see groups of knights rushing off into battle. That, of course, was part of being a knight in the first place. And under a draft proposal leaked from the UK’s Ministry of Defence, it might be again.
Confronted by ongoing military commitments overseas and shrinking budgets at home, the MoD has developed a plan to activate the class who were historically entrusted with the defence of the realm: the knighthood.
“While we certainly condemn the leaking of the memo, it must be said that the plan really does make sense from a certain point of view,” said Peter Faux-Pasteur, a spokesman for the MoD. “Ever since the development of chivalry, the position of knight has had a military element to it. Nobody ever heard of King Arthur and the Economists of the Round Table, have they? We’re talking about a vast number of people who have accepted the honour of their country; now it’s time for them to takes some responsibility as well.”
Under the plan, all members of the Order of the British Empire would be required to perform one year of military service in every decade. Participants would receive a nominal stipend, though most costs would be borne by the knights themselves. Those knights not having already received military training would do so prior to the commencement of their first year of service.
The plan met with immediate criticism from a variety of quarters, most of which centers on the current concept of knighthood as an honor for past achievement–and the ability of knights in general to demonstrate competence in military matters if they are required to serve.
“It’s an absolutely ridiculous idea,” said Sir Hampton Applebury, a prominent financier. “Granted, the knighthood started out as a military class, but that’s hardly been the standard over the last two hundred years. These days the knighthood is granted to people, usually at a late stage of their career, who have already made great accomplishments, or else who have been involved in the entertainment industry. Will Sir Richard Branson be pulled out of his transportation empire to build bridges with an engineering company? Do we expect Sir Paul McCartney to start beetling around in Afghanistan or the Falklands? Sir Ian MacKellan may be adept at wielding a wizard’s staff, but how would he do with a submachine gun?”
Others have expressed concern that this is merely a new strategem for squeezing money out of the wealthy, despite assertions from the MoD that wealthy knights would not be eligible to pay a fee in lieu of service. In accordance with centuries-old custom, though, a knight in poor health may send a descendant in his place. In acknowledgement of changing times, the descendant may be a son or a daughter.
“Of course many MBE recipients tend to be older persons who have already led a full life,” countered spokesman Faux-Pasteur. “But it is not the policy of the MoD to subscribe to age-based discrimination.”
Still, not everyone is put off by the proposal. “They say this may make a lot of people refuse or give back their knighthoods,” said Sir Aethelred Godwinson, master of arms of one of the more obscure knighthood orders. “Well, that’s fine. It’s high time the knighthood stopped being a tool of political patronage or reward for success in the entertainment business. Like they say, if everybody’s somebody, nobody’s anybody.”
If the plan is approved, the first “recruits” could be expected to appear for duty as soon as 1 April.