31.10.2020

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Sir Michael Palin backs calls to redesign Queen’s ‘racist’ knighthood honour showing St Michael crushing the devil – because it ‘looks like George Floyd’s murder’ as Jamaica’s governor refuses to wear it and 16,000 sign petition

  • Monty Python star received the honour in 2019 for services to travel and culture
  • The insignia previously featured a white angel standing on neck of a black Satan
  • But Cabinet Office say the design was changed in 2011 to a light-skinned devil
  • Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen was given the old design in 2009

By James Robinson for MailOnline

Monty Python star Sir Michael Palin has joined calls to redesign one of the Queen’s honours, which he received last year, after a petition was launched claiming its insignia is ‘racist’ and ‘looks similar to George Floyd‘s killing’.

The insignia for the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George – one of the Queen’s highest honours – previously featured a picture of a white angel standing on the neck of a black man.

The image, which was changed in 2011 to feature a light-skinned devil, is actually a depiction of the Archangel Michael defeating Satan.

But a petition claims it bears a resemblance to the death of George Floyd, who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes as he was being arrested.

Sir Michael, who was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St George and St Michael in 2019 for services to travel, culture and geography, has now backed calls to change the design, while the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, who received the award in 2009 and has the old design, has said he will no longer wear the insignia, reports the Telegraph.

The Cabinet Office says the premise of the petition is ‘inaccurate’ as the picture was redesigned nine years ago and now features a light-skinned devil.

And although Sir Michael said his insignia features the updated drawing, the comedian and television presenter has backed calls for a redesign after seeing other examples.Sir Michael Palin (pictured), who was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St George and St Michael in 2019 for 'services to travel, culture and geography', has now backed calls to change the design - his features the new design.

Sir Michael Palin (pictured), who was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St George and St Michael in 2019 for ‘services to travel, culture and geography’, has now backed calls to change the design – his features the new design.Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen received the award in 2009, meaning his honour would feature the old design

Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen received the award in 2009, meaning his honour would feature the old designThe old design for the star insignia give to those appointed to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George. The design featured a picture of the Archangel Michael defeating Satan

The old design for the star insignia give to those appointed to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George. The design featured a picture of the Archangel Michael defeating SatanThe design of the insignia was changed in 2011 to feature a light-skinned Satan

The design of the insignia was changed in 2011 to feature a light-skinned Satan

He told the Telegraph: ‘Though the image on my award is of a white Satan being vanquished, I think that depicted is inappropriate and offensive and I would back the Governor-General of Jamaica’s call for it to be re-designed.’ 

The Queen’s six highest honour: What is the Order of St Michael and St George?

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is a British order of chivalry.

It was founded in 1818 by King George IV while he was Prince Regent for his father.

The honour was originally awarded to those holding commands or high position in Mediterranean territories acquired in the Napoleonic wars.

In more recent times, the award has been given to those who hold high-ranking overseas roles in a non-military capacity – such as diplomats and governors of the Commonwealth.  

The Order is the sixth-most senior in the British Honours system after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, The Most Honourable Order of the Bath and The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.

On the decision to not wear the honour, a spokesperson for the Governor-General of Jamaica told the Telegraph: ‘This follows concerns raised by citizens over the image on the medal, and the growing global rejection of the use of objects that normalise the continued degradation of people of colour.’

Sir Patrick received the award in 2009, meaning his honour would feature the old design.  

The Order of St Michael and St George is awarded by the Queen to ambassadors and diplomats for distinguished service.

It is the sixth most senior in the honours system after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, The Most Honourable Order of the Bath and The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.

An image on the badge shows St Michael trampling on a prostrate Satan, but campaigners say it looks like the recent killing of Mr Floyd.  

An online petition calling for the redesign of the badge on the honour – founded in 1818 after the Napoleonic wars – has attracted more than 16,000 signatures.

The change.org petition, started by Tracy Reeve, says: ‘This is a highly offensive image. It is also reminiscent of the recent killing of George Floyd by the white policeman in the same manner presented here in this medal.’  

Bumi Thomas, a British-Nigerian activist, told The Guardian that the image on the badge was of ‘a black man in chains with a white, blue-eyed figure standing on his neck’.

She added: ‘It is literally what happened to George Floyd and what has been happening to black people for centuries under the guise of diplomatic missions – active, subliminal messaging that reinforces the conquest, subjugation and dehumanisation of people of colour.’Although Sir Michael (pictured being knighted by Prince William in 2019) said his honour features the new badge, the comedian and television presenter has backed calls for a redesign after seeing other examples

Although Sir Michael (pictured being knighted by Prince William in 2019) said his honour features the new badge, the comedian and television presenter has backed calls for a redesign after seeing other examples

Sir Patrick Allen (pictured receiving the award from the Queen in 2009) has said he will no longer wear the insignia and called for it to be redesigned+6

Sir Patrick Allen (pictured receiving the award from the Queen in 2009) has said he will no longer wear the insignia and called for it to be redesigned

Sir Simon Woolley, the director of Operation Black Vote, said: ‘The original image may have been of St Michael slaying Satan, but the figure has no horns or tail and is clearly a black man.’

However the Cabinet Office, who are responsible for the design of the honour, said the premise of the petition was ‘inaccurate’. 

A government spokesperson said: ‘The premise of this petition is factually incorrect – the insignia for the Order of St Michael and St George was updated in 2011.’

A List of some of the high-profile Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George 

Pre-2011

Richard Armitage – Former United States Deputy Secretary of State

Sir David Manning – Former Ambassador to the United States

Sir Nigel Elton Sheinwald – Ambassador to the United States

Sir Peter Forbes Ricketts – Former Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service

Sir Arthur John Coles – Permanent Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen – Former Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Post-2011

Angelina Jolie – (Honorary DCMG) – American Actress – 2014

Dame Sandra Mason – Governor-General of Barbados

Sir Mark Grant – Former National Security Adviser

Sir Simon Fraser – Former Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Catherine Ashton – Former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission

Sir Robert John Sawers – Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. For services to British national security.

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – (Honorary KCMG) – Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces

George Vella – (Honorary KCMG) – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta now President of Malta