Story: Royal honours system

Coat of arms of Ernest Lord Rutherford of Nelson

Coat of arms of Ernest Lord Rutherford of Nelson

Nobel prize-winning atomic physicist Ernest Rutherford, born in Nelson, was raised to a hereditary British peerage in 1931. New Zealand does not have peerages, baronetcies or any hereditary titles, but New Zealanders can inherit these through their families or, rarely - as in Rutherford's case – be granted these directly from the queen. Lord Rutherford included in his coat of arms, shown here, a kiwi, a Māori warrior (right), Hermes Trismegistus (left), the author of ancient texts related to knowledge and alchemy, and, quartering the shield, the curves of radioactive growth and decay. The motto is from Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius: ‘Primordia quaerere rerum’ (to seek the first principles of things).

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Photograph by Jock Phillips

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How to cite this page:

Mandy Wong, 'Royal honours system - History and overview', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 May 2024)

Story by Mandy Wong, published 20 Jun 2012