Former New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is now a dame. What is damehood though?
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who held held office for six years was bestowed with damehood, an honour for her services to the country.
42-year-old Jacinda Ardern, who was the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, became a 'Dame' on UK's King Charles's birthday holiday celebrated on June 5, because of the way she led the country through times of crises and challenges including the Covid pandemic, the terrorist attacks on two mosques and the White Island volcanic eruption.
Ardern made it to the Coronation honours list of this year. She has been made a Dame Grand Companion.
In the process of being named a dame, the awardee is chosen in New Zealand by the Prime Minister. The current PM of New Zealand, Chris Hipkins, chose Ardern for the honour and then was approved by the British Monarch.
Damehood is part of the British honours system, and it extends to Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand.
Chris Hipkins said that Ardern was being recognised for her service to the country during "periods of intense challenge”.
He went on to add that, “Leading New Zealand’s response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and to the Covid-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th Prime Minister, during which time I saw first-hand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute.”
Jacinda 'conflicted' about accepting the honour
While accepting the honour, Ardern said that she was "two minds" about it because that whatever work she did was only possible because of the support of others. And when she accepted the honour she said, "But I have heard that said by so many Kiwis who I have encouraged to accept an honour over the years. And so for me this is a way to say thank you – to my family, to my colleagues, and to the people who supported me to take on the most challenging and rewarding role of my life.”
What is a damehood?
A damehood is the female equivalent of a knighthood, an honorific title that can only be bestowed upon people by the ruling British monarch, who is the head of the state.
Women who receive this honour are called 'dames'.
Damehoods and knighthoods are the most prestigious and senior honours in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and it was created in 1917 by King George V.
How does a woman become a dame? The person who is nominated for damehood is usually someone who has made a major contribution to the country at the national or international level, her work has impacted their community and her moral courage has improved the lives of the people.
Dames are addressed by their title and first name.
The two senior ranks of the Order of the British Empire are Knight or Dame Grand Cross, and Knight or Dame Commander.
Different classes of Dame: Many Dames hold other titles such as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).
List of people who have received this honour
Mary Berry: cookbook author Mary Berry, received her damehood in 2021 for her services to broadcasting, culinary arts and to charity.
Barbara Windsor: received her damehood in 2016 New Year Honours for her services to charity and entertainment.
Maggie Smith: Actress Maggie Smith was made a dame in 1990 and in 2014 she also received another title, Companion of Honour. She was recognized for her contribution to arts, science, medicine or government over a long time period.
Judi Dench: Queen Elizabeth awarded Judi Dench with an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970 and Dench also became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1988.
Helen Mirren: Actress Helen Mirren was made a dame in 2003.
Julie Andrews: Actress Julie Andrews was granted damehood in 2000.
Emma Thompson: Writer and actress Emma Thompson became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2018 for her services to drama.
Elizabeth Taylor: British-American actress Elizabeth Taylor received her damehood in 2000.