Is Senator Kennedy’s knighthood legal?
Northern Ireland is, of course, part of the United Kingdom. But sensitivity had to be shown to Senator Kennedy’s assertion that it is not and never should have been.
Cranmer is not remotely persuaded that Senator Kennedy has contributed much at all to the ‘US-UK relationship’, other than to be a convenient Democratic peg upon which Gordon Brown can hang this tawdry honour, bestowed in honour of his honour of meeting President Obama and the honour of being able to flatter and laud the honourable Democrats.
But Cranmer wishes to focus on the Senator’s ‘services to Northern Ireland’, which have been utterly dishonourable.
Senator Kennedy is a descendent of the Irish-Catholic Kennedy clan and has been closely linked to the Republican movement for decades. Throughout these years, he has berated the United Kingdom, poured scorn upon British interests, and accused the British Government of an illegal occupation. He once called for Britain's immediate withdrawal from Northern Ireland, declaring that Protestants who could not accept a united Ireland 'should be given a decent opportunity to go back to Britain'. A unified Ireland under Dublin rule has been his political raison d’être, and he established the Congressional Friends of Ireland to that very end.
All of this was perpetual succour to the IRA. He annually fêted Sinn Fein during St Patrick’s Day celebrations – even at Capitol Hill – and helped them to raise millions of dollars to finance their murderous cause.
It beggars belief that a knighthood is being bestowed upon a man whose words have justified and whose actions have facilitated the murder not only of hundreds of innocents, but of the Queen’s uncle(-in-law), Lord Mountbatten of Burma.
But why would Senator Kennedy accept it at all?
It is a little incongruous for an Catholic Irish(-American) Nationalist to accept an honour from the Protestant Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Unless it is simply a question of vanity, the Senator must have resolved in his conscience all of his long-held historical objections and his strongly-held religio-political beliefs. One can hardly conceive of Sir Gerry Adams or Sir Martin McGuinness.
Secondly, it is not clear at all that an American senator can legally accept such an honour.
Article I, Section 9, U.S. Constitution: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
Insofar as this clause is to ensure allegiance to the United States and the supremacy of its legislature, it must surely include any honourary titles bestowed by a ‘King, Prince or foreign state’. Under this provision, those US citizens who served as high-ranking military officials in the Iraq War and who received British honours are also constitutionally barred from serving in the federal government - unless Congress specifically exempts them from this limitation and retrospectively grants consent.
A proposed amendment to this clause in 1810 went further, declaring that ‘If any citizen of the United States shall Accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honor, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.’
It was clear that by virtue of these titles and honours, it was assumed that recipients enjoyed political and economic advantages over the majority of citizens, and this was antithetical to the egalitarian spirit of the Constitution. The prohibition of titles of nobility have been a corner stone of republican government, for so long as they are excluded, there can never be serious danger that the government will be any other than that of the people.
Sir Edward Kennedy is no longer of the people, for he has been elevated by a foreign prince to a status which is above the people. And let us not be deceived by this 'honorary' deflection. A knighthood is a knighthood: what on earth is an honour if it is not honorary? This knighthood both dishonours the British honours system and contravenes a founding principle of the US Constitution. It is not only immoral; it is illegal.