Ultimate Guide to Winning a Queen’s Honour

Winning a Queen’s Honour is the pinnacle of a lifetime of achievement. For most people, receiving an honour ratifies the hard work they’ve been pouring into their community, field or cause for decades. We want to help more deserving people win honours like OBEs, MBEs, CBEs, Knighthoods and Damehoods. So, we’re sharing our tips for what makes up a great nomination as well as providing an analysis of the previous award winners. And it’s not just superficial. We’ve conducted a deep analysis on all the Queen’s Honours awarded since 1998.

We looked for word frequency within the citations for the most in-depth analysis ever performed on Queen’s Honours recipients. We’re even highlighting specific words which reflect the chances of winning. Our analysis includes the inclusion of certain sports over others, regional prevalence and diversity themes within the Queen’s Honours list. We’ll share our tips for writing compelling nominations, explain how we support in the process and provide an overview of the awards as an institution. All in, we’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Winning a Queen’s Honour and that starts with our summary of the available awards; what you can win and how.

What are the different Queen’s Honours awards?

There is a range of different honours that one can receive. As we’ll explain later, you’ll have no control over what type of honour your recipient will get. But the descriptions do help to suggest possible awards. It simply depends on what work your nominee is involved in. These are listed in order of seniority and are as follows:

There is a range of different honours that one can receive. As we’ll explain later, you’ll have no control over what type of honour your recipient will get. But the descriptions do help to suggest possible awards. It simply depends on what work your nominee is involved in. These are listed in order of seniority and are as follows:

  • Companion of Honour – for a major contribution to the arts, medicine, science or government over a long duration.
  • Knight or Dame- for a major (usually national) contribution in any activity that others find inspirational and significant. The nominee’s involvement must also be over a long duration.
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) – for an important but lesser national role or leading regional role or distinguished & innovative contributions overall.
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) – for any major local contributions, even with national attention.
  • Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) – for outstanding achievement or community service with a long-lasting impact that others can aspire to.
  • British Empire Medal (BEM) – for long-term grassroots local community service, often volunteer or charity; or for really innovative short-term work with a great impact.
  • Royal Victorian Order (RVO) – given by the Queen, usually for personal service – think ambassadors or household staff.

What are the different orders?
While an OBE is the honour most frequently granted, you don’t need to (or get to) decide what order you’d like to be a part of. The committee decides this for you and there is a range of different orders you may be inducted into depending on your achievements or role:

  • Order of the Bath- reserved for military officers and senior civil servants
  • Order of St Michael and St George – for diplomats and UK agents abroad
  • Order of the British Empire – open to anyone
  • Companion of Honour (award) – open to anyone
  • Royal Victorian Order – for personal service to the Queen or royals

Can you apply for a particular award?
The short answer is no. You cannot nominate someone for a specific honour. The honours committee decides who is deserving of what award. The only exception is for Gallantry awards. These are given to people who put themselves in harm’s way to save (or try to save) a life. Plus, it’s the only award that can be given after death. They are judged based on awareness of the risk, how much risk to life there was and the persistence of the nominee. The gallantry awards are:

  • George Cross – the 1st civilian medal for heroism, courage and bravery in the face of extreme danger.
  • George Medal – the 2nd level civilian medal for acts of great bravery.
  • Queen’s Gallantry Medal – the 3rd level civilian medal for inspiring acts of bravery.
  • Queen’s Commendation for Bravery or Bravery in the Air – the 4th level civilian medal for bravery in acts with risk to life.

    To nominate someone for a gallantry award, follow the steps listed on the government website. Your nomination will be assessed by the George Cross Committee and they make the recommendation to the Queen.

Keywords – Further Information

Keywords in sport

For the athletes among us, you’ll be pleased to know that ‘sport’ features highly with 276 references in citations for Queen’s Honours since 1998. It’s no surprise that Football honours are the most common with 117 references in winning citations. But here are the mentions of other top sports:

  • Rugby – 61
  • Cricket – 52
  • Athletics – 42
  • Rowing – 33
  • Cycling – 33
  • Hockey – 33
  • Tennis – 25
  • Boxing – 22
  • Racing – 20
  • Riding – 20
  • Gymnastics – 19
  • Golf – 19

Rugby comes in after Football as the 2nd most common sport and perhaps that’s not so surprising at least according to sources on Wikipedia. What is unusual is the relatively low ranking of Tennis and Golf, both more common sports than Rowing within the UK. One reason for the higher ranking of Athletics and Rowing is the high number of Educators being awarded. It’s common for Professors to participate in collegiate sport activities. 

Regional & location-based keywords

You’ll be very surprised (and perhaps delighted) to know that London is NOT the most referenced location in the Queen’s Honours citations since 1998. From top to bottom, here are the most frequently-used place names:

  • Northern Ireland– 564 
  • London – 321
  • Wales – 241
  • Scotland – 234
  • Yorkshire – 222
  • Midlands – 117
  • England – 117
  • Manchester – 100
  • Kent – 94
  • Sussex – 87
  • Lancashire – 82
  • Devon – 79
  • Essex – 78
  • Surrey – 77
  • Hampshire – 74

At the top of the list is Northern Ireland. That’s quite surprising given the relatively small population size of NI. Follow that with – you guessed it- London. It wasn’t going to be too low on the list given the proportion of Brits who live in the capital. Wales comes in next, just barely edging out Scotland. The rest of the substantive list is all English towns and counties. 

Keywords in diversity

With a whole group dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the awards, it’s no surprise that some EDI-based keywords rank highly. Here are the common keywords related to diversity & inclusion:

  • Disabilities – 253
  • Diversity – 191
  • Heritage – 180
  • Vulnerable – 150
  • Needs (Special Needs) – 149
  • Women – 137
  • Equality – 127
  • Awareness – 94
  • Inclusion – 93
  • Culture – 79
  • Disabled – 70
  • Disability – 58
  • Women’s – 55

You can clearly see that those working with special needs, disabilities and vulnerable people feature highly amongst the most common keywords. This is due to the types of work being done by recipients in the charitable sector. Also, probably not surprising is the position of the keywords Diversity, Equality and Inclusion themselves. Applications with substantial work in this area are reviewed favourably by the committee. Lastly, work with Women or Women’s groups also features highly. That’s good! It’s a contributing factor to the recent trend of a near 50/50 split of male to female recipients. What is missing from the top of the list are any references to specific ethnicity or ethnic groups. If there is not a lot of ethnocentric work being done or the citations just fail to give specifics often enough for it to rank highly; it’s worth noting.

Other prominent keywords

Lastly, in our analysis, we’ve pulled out keywords that we found compelling, unique or interesting. Keywords that are simply fairly unusual. These are only keywords falling near the top of the list, however. 

  • Military keywords – Many honourees will have had (or currently have) some sort of military career. We see the Air (Force) listed 307 times, Army 190 times, Defence 183 times, Navy 182 times, Security 181 times, Reserve 110 times, Veterans 71 times, and Marines 54 times.
  • Foreign affairs – While these mentions could be related to global impact, work abroad or military operations; overseas work is mentioned with the word Foreign 180 times, Overseas 98 times, Abroad 76 times and Exports 50 times.
  • Mental appears 124 times for work in the mental health arena.
  • Eco-conscious workers among us will be delighted to see Conservation features 114 times.
  • Holocaust work appeared 97 times with general themes of Justice 104 times and Prison 54 times.
  • Transport was mentioned 92 times with special reference to Engineers 89 times.
  • Business features very high up (391 times) but specifically, Entrepreneurship was mentioned 64 times.
  • In the arts, Dance appeared 70 times, Broadcasting 54 times and Theatre 51 times.
  • Work with Church groups appeared 54 times.
  • And lastly, Libraries were cited 51 times.

The least prominent words

It’s also interesting to look at the more uncommon terms. Think of very specialised fields or far-flung locations. The least common words are: 

  • Worplesdon
  • Israel
  • Eradication
  • Polymers
  • Tsunami
  • Orphans
  • Australian
  • Serbia
  • Equatorial
  • Grassmoor
  • Temple
  • Normanton
  • Selkirk
  • Leuchers
  • Stalham
  • Movements
  • Prestatyn
  • Section
  • Durrington
  • Upminster
  • Cranham
  • Etwall
  • Lizard
  • Helpline
  • Helston
  • Burwash
  • Holymoorside
  • Aldeburgh
  • Sherington
  • Neuro
  • Skokholm
  • Withcote
  • Shurdington
  • Stephen’S
  • Drop-In
  • Twickenham
  • Throckley
  • Torquay
  • Titchmarsh
  • Bungay
  • Chesham
  • Downland
  • Benefice
  • Paddington
  • Colwall

You’ll notice most of these words are place names. That means even people from very small places do find their way into the Queen’s Honours list. There are also a few scientific terms that may not appear in other awards due to their complexity like Polymers and Neuro.

In Summary

In this ultimate guide to winning a Queen’s Honour, we’ve provided concise tips, a helpful overview and some insightful analysis of the awarding process. By sharing our expertise with hundreds of nominations and unique perspectives on the Honour’s system; we’re hoping to provide a resource that will encourage more diverse applications from every corner of British Life. Even if you don’t have a decent writing bone in your body, these tips will help you understand what a good nomination looks like and what steps to take. Or simply leave it all to us if you’d like an expert’s touch.


To read the latest news and get the very best insights from our team, visit our Insights and Updates page

Insights and Updates

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