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British Honours

At the start of each year and on her official birthday in June the Queen awards honours to people who have made outstanding contributions to their country, continuing an ancient tradition which has been performed by the monarch for hundreds of years. Whilst there are always several famous names in the honours list, many of the people who receive honours are people who are not in the public eye. Anyone can nominate someone they think is worthy of an honour; organisations and government departments can also nominate individuals. The honours most people have heard of that the queen can confer are as follows:

CBE. Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Recipients of the CBE include the author Susan Hill, the actress Kate Winslet and the cookery writer Mary Berry. The singer David Bowie famously declined the offer of a CBE in 2000; three years later he also said no to becoming a Knight.

DBE. Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The title Dame is one of the most eminent honours in the land. Individuals who gain such a title are recognised for the long serving contribution they have made to their country in their field of expertise. British Dames include the actresses Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Harriet Walter and Tessa Jowell – a politician who was instrumental in London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics. The Queen also confers Knighthoods, the male equivalent of the DBE. Knights include Yehudi Menuhin, Spike Milligan and Terry Wogan.

MBE. Member of the Order of the British Empire. People with the title MBE include Alison Williamson, a sportswoman who gained a bronze medal for Archery in the 2004 Athens Olympics and Jamie Oliver - the chef whose campaign for improving school dinners became a talking point throughout the nation.

OBE. Officer of the Order of the British Empire. The OBE was first awarded by George V in 1917 to enable him to publicly recognise the outstanding contribution many ordinary people made to Britain during the war. Today the award recognises “valuable service” to community or country; it may also be awarded to people outside Britain whose work has benefitted Britain. Gareth Malone, the inspirational choirmaster whose Military Wives choir has topped the charts, received an OBE in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours.

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