Violet Carruthers, Companion of the Order of Honour
Violet Carruthers, CH (1872 – 1959) was a writer, social reformer, campaigner, politician and administrator.
In 1915, Violet Markham married Lieutenant-Colonel James Carruthers of the Royal Artillery. She accompanied her husband to Cologne when he was stationed there as chief demobilisation officer for the British Army of the Rhine, following the First World War Her husband was subsequently a racehorse owner, who died suddenly at Ayr Racecourse in 1936 aged 59. James was born on July 17, 1876 in Charlesfield, Cummertrees Parish Dumfriesshire, son of Charles Peter Carruthers and Elizabeth Roddick.
The Cummertrees lands had been held in Carruthers hands as far back as 1452, where according to the ‘Records of the Carruthers Family; In June 10 1452, Willam Lord Creichton, Chancellor of Scotland, granted “to his well beloved, Cousin John Carutheris (6th) of Mousfald…the lands of Dundoby, in the lordship of Annandale, in Lord Creichton’s tenement of Carutheris. Further on August 1452. King James II further granted to the same John, uniting the lands of Mousfald, Loganetenement, Medilby, Dronnok, Ellirbek, Hatilland Hill, Cummertrees, Hodome, Tunnergarth, Hallathis, Cumlangand, Hultvhate, Stanrase and Wamfrey into the free barony called the Barony of Carruthers of Mouswald. However after disposing of the daughter of the last Chief of the Mouswald line Janet, to his advantage, Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig turned his attention to her sister, Marion. After her murder/demise, Douglas inherited all the Carruthers of Mouswald lands. The Chiefship then passed to the next senior line, that of Carruthers of Holmains.
Violet Markham Carruthers
Born in 1872 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, Violet Rosa Markham Carruthers was the daughter of a Chesterfield colliery and enginerring works owner, Charles Markham and the granddaughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, designer of the Crustal Palace, the centrepiece of the 1851 Great Exhibition, which took part in Hyde Park, London.
As an adult, her house in London was often the meeting place of important members of the art, social service, and political communities. She joined the Liberal Party and, from 1914, served on the Central Committee on Women’s Training and Employment, which she chaired for numerous years. She was also a member of the executive committee of the National Relief Fund. From 1919 to 1946, she was a member of the Industrial Court, and in 1927 was elected mayor of Chesterfield. She joined the Assistance Board in 1934, serving as deputy chair from 1937 to 1946, was a member of the Appeals Tribunal on Internment from 1939 to 1945, and chaired the Investigation Committee on Welfare of Service Women in 1942.
Violet Carruthers was also active politically and was a keen reformer and great supporter of equality for women. Mary Stocks (Baroness Danvers Stocks, 1881-1975), a writer and great supporter of the Suffragette Movement considered ‘Markham’ to be “the best feminist I’ve ever known, a real feminist”. Stock’s family were instrumental in supporting changes in the Victorian Era and Mary Stocks herself was deeply involved in woman’s suffrage, the British welfare state, and other aspects of the social work of the time.
However as much as Violet was a strong feminist, she stronglty did not agree with the supremacy of one gender over another and was well known for her comment where she stated, “We believe that men and women are different – not similar – beings, with talents that are complementary, not identical, and that they therefore ought to have different shares in the management of the State, that they severally compose. We do not depreciate by one jot or title women’s work and mission. We are concerned to find proper channels of expression for that work. We seek a fruitful diversity of political function, not a stultifying (ridiculous/foolish) uniformity.”
This address was made to a packed audience at a meeting held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 February 1912. She was therefore a great supporter of the non-violent constitutional approach of the suffragists, but critical of the suffragettes themselves, believing they had became far too militant and extreme in their views and approach.
Violet also travelled extensively abroad. Among her friends was the Canadian politician and Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King OM, CMG, PC, whom she met in 1905 and with whom she kept up an active correspondence for 45 years. King visited her when he was in England and she visited him on her occasional trips to Canada. She sent him money on a number of occasions, notably after his electoral defeat in 1911, and again to provide medical treatment for his brother who was suffering from tuberculosis. In 1923, the Canadian government appointed her to represent them on the governing body of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.
She wrote several books, including Paxton and the Batchelor Duke, a biography of her grandfather (1935), Return Passage (1953) her autobiography and Friendship’s Harvest (1956) and was awarded honorary degrees from Sheffield University (1936) and Edinburgh University (1938). She died in 1959.
The Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an Order of the Commonwealth Realms. It was founded in June 1917 by King George V as a reward for outstanding achievements and is “conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition, constituting an honour disassociated either from the acceptance of title or the classification of merit.”
Founded on the same date as the Order of the British Empire it is sometimes regarded as the junior order to the Order of Merit. Now described as “awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time”, the first recipients, were all decorated for “services in connection with the war” and were listed in London Gazette in August 1917 with the award taking effect from 4 June 1917. The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court is now the Chapel of the Order.
The order consists of the Sovereign and a maximum 65 members. Additionally, foreigners or Commonwealth citizens from outside the realms may be added as honorary members. Membership confers no title or precedence but those inducted into the single-class order are entitled to use the post nominal letters CH. Appointments can be made on the advice of Commonwealth Realm prime ministers. For Canadians, the advice to the Sovereign can come from a variety of officials.
Originally, the order was limited to 50 ordinary members, but in 1943 it was enlarged to 65, with a quota of 45 members for the UK, seven for Australia, two each for New Zealand and South Africa, and 9 for India, Burma, and the other British Colonies of the time. The quota numbers were altered in 1970 to 47 for the United Kingdom, 7 for Australia, 2 for New Zealand, and 9 for other Commonwealth realms. The quota was adjusted again in 1975 by adding 2 places to the New Zealand quota and reducing the 9 for the other countries to 7. Margaret MacMillan, a Canadian historian, was given the award in 2017. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, a New Zealand soprano, was given the award in 2018.
Promptus et Fidelis