Dear Lord Fellowes,
When I was a teenager, too many years ago, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Sir Edward Ford, then Registrar of the OM, and we exchanged an amusing correspondence - he was must indulgent to a tedious young man who ought to have been out having fun. Years later, in my last clerical post in Chelsea I met him in our congregation, when he was in his 90s, but still all about. He asked me if I was still interested in the Order and whether I would place a bet. I suggested David Attenborough and he said I might well be right. Perhaps he knew already!
I'm writing to you to suggest an entirely different kind of person to draw to Her Majesty's attention in this particular regard. In my pastoral ministry as an Anglican parish priest and school and college chaplain, I have had to listen to many sorry tales of people who were in childhood treated with an unkindness, abuse, and cruelty, quite unimaginable from my own comfortable upbringing. One of the things that has helped people to speak out about the vile ways they have been treated has been "Childline", set up by Esther Rantzen in 1986 (and now part of the NSPCC). I really do think her work in this field is on a par with that of Dame Cicely Sanders, OM, in the the hospice movement, and has actually changed the world that all our children live in for the better.
I realise she would in some respects be a complex choice, certainly not Establishment, but I also notice with some concern (am I becoming a feminist in my middle years, and with only nieces to care for me should I grow old?) that since Lady Thatcher's death, there is only one woman in the Order of Merit. I despise tokenism, which harms all parties, but this wouldn't be, and there is a vacancy. It would be a radical and imaginative choice, and nail the royal colours to the mast of the protection of children.
I know greater minds than mine sift through these things, but I should very much appreciate your at least considering the idea.
With every blessing for the Feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate!