What is the history of the The Queen’s Honours?

The Honours system of the United Kingdom has a long history dating all the way back to 1066. In 1917, King Geroge V introduced a new honours system called The Order of the British Empire. This was in recognition of the individuals who had served their country in WWI. For the first time, ordinary men and women could be given a Knighthood within the honour system. The most well known honours in the modern Order of the British Empire are the CBE, OBE and MBE

Honours lists were originally published on New Year’s Day and later a second yearly announcement was added on the Queen’s Official Birthday in June. 

The aim of the honours system today is to recognise and reward those people who have made important achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping the country. During the war years, most of the honours awarded were to those serving in the military and political honours were reserved for after victory. 

In recent years, some well known celebrities have been stripped of their honours after they were found guilty of illegal and immoral activity. Some of these celebrities include Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Harvey Weinstein, and ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed.

Other celebrities have made the news by actually refusing to accept an honour from the Queen, these individuals include: David Bowie, Dawn French, John Lennon and Stephen Hawking.

What actually are Queen’s Honours?

Honours are announced and awarded twice a year by Her Majesty The Queen, with lists consisting of knights and dames, appointments to the Order of the British Empire, and gallantry and bravery awards. Different awards are received depending on an individual’s achievements. For example a CBE is awarded to individuals for having a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. An OBE is awarded to someone for making a great impact in their line of work. The MBE is awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact.

You can read our Ultimate Guide to winning the Queen’s honours here

What is the highest honour from the Queen?

The Order of the Garter and The Order of the Thistle are the highest honours that one can receive from the Queen. The Order of the Garter can only be issued to 24 members who are selected personally by the Queen and this honour is only for those born in England. 

The Order of the Thistle is the highest order of chivalry in Scotland. and appointments made to this Order are considered a personal gift from the Queen,  in recognition of those individuals who have served the Royal family, the nation or have made another significant contribution to the nation. The honour can only be bestowed upon Scottish nationals.