KBE? OBE? CBE? What do these honours mean & how do you receive one? Very pleased for my article to be featured in the “Best of Britain” section in the latest edition of FOCUS, the magazine for expats, writing all about the New Year’s Honours List & what all the different titles mean. Read more here:
The Queen’s Honours’ List is a tradition started by Queen Victoria in 1860. Today the Honours’ List is published twice a year at New Year and in mid June, on the date of the Queen’s Official Birthday.
The Honours can be given for a variety of reasons but are there to acknowledge both famous and ordinary people who have made a difference to the UK in their area. For example, that could be people in voluntary and local services, the arts and media (actors/actresses/musicians), sport (winners of Olympic medals or World Cups), education, politics as well as business.
For example, famous people awarded a Queen’s Honour include Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Ed Sheeran and David Walliams.
Anybody can nominate somebody for a Queen’s Honour (www.gov.uk/honours/nominate-someone-in-the-UK), and the central committee, run by the Cabinet Office Honours’ and Appointments’ Secretariat, approve or reject, and decide the exact level of Honour, which can all take a significant amount of time.
Over 1000 names appear on each list, and not only are UK nationals recognised. In fact, the lists also include citizens from 15 Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada and Jamaica. Honorary awards for foreign nationals are also avaible and recommended by the Foreign Secretary. Previous recipients have included Bill Gates, Bob Geldof and Bono.
So, what are the different titles? Well, many of the Honours refer to the British Empire, although of course this does not exist anymore, and here are the main Awards given.
- Knight/Dame (KBE – Knight of the British Empire for men or DBE- Dame of the British Empire for women) Awarded for making a major and inspirational contribution, usually at national level. The holder typically will use the title of ‘Sir’ if male in front of their first name and ‘Dame’ if female, for example, Dame Sarah Brown.
- Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Awarded for having a prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. The holder uses the letters CBE after their name, for example, Mr John Smith CBE.
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Awarded for having a major local role. The holder uses the letters OBE after their name, for example Miss Jane White OBE.
- Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) Awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community, with a long-term, significant impact. It allows the holder to put the letters MBE after their name, for example Mr Harry Jones MBE.
Once an offer of an award has been made and accepted by the recipient, they are invited to attend an Investiture (a special Honours ceremony) usually at Buckingham Palace, where they are presented with their medal either by The Queen or another senior member of the Royal Family. The word ‘investiture’ comes from the Latin word for dressing, or robing, in reference to the formal dress with which the recipient would wear.
During the ceremony the Member of the Royal Family places the medal (called insignia) on the person and congratulates them on their honour. The recipient then kneels on a special velvet investiture stool and The Queen lays a sword blade on the Knight’s right shoulder and then on his left shoulder in a ceremony known as Dubbing. Each Member of The Royal Family has their own sword which they use, except for The Duke of Cambridge who usually uses The Queen’s sword. I am reliably informed that the sword is deliberately kept blunt to avoid any accidents!
Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English
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