Most medals are not graded. Each one recognises specific service and as such there are normally set criteria which must be met. These criteria may include a period of time and will often delimit a particular geographic region. Medals are not normally presented by the Sovereign. A full list is printed in the "order of wear", published infrequently by the London Gazette.
Honours are split into classes ("orders") and are graded to distinguish different degrees of achievement or service. There are no criteria to determine these levels; various honours committees meet to discuss the candidates and decide which ones deserve which type of award and at what level. Since their decisions are inevitably subjective, the twice-yearly honours lists often provoke criticism from those who feel strongly about particular cases. Candidates are identified by public or private bodies, by government departments or are nominated by members of the public. Depending on their roles, those people selected by committee are submitted either to the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, or Secretary of State for Defence for their approval before being sent to the Sovereign for final approval. Certain honours are awarded solely at the Sovereign's discretion, such as the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Order of Merit and the Royal Family Order.
A complete list of approximately 1350 names is published twice a year, at New Year and on the date of the Sovereign's (official) birthday. The awards are then presented by the Sovereign or her designated representative. The Prince of Wales and The Princess Royal have deputised for The Queen at investiture ceremonies at Buckingham Palace.
By convention, a departing Prime Minister is allowed to nominate Prime Minister's Resignation Honours, to reward political and personal service. As of 2008, Tony Blair has not taken up this privilege.
|Complete name||Ranks / Letters||Established||Founder||Motto||Awarded to/for||Associated awards|
|The Most Noble Order of the Garter||KG/LG||1348||King Edward III||Honi soit qui mal y pense ("shame upon him who thinks evil of it")||Englishmen only||None|
|The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle||KT/LT||1687||James VII||Nemo me impune lacessit ("No one provokes me with impunity")||Scots only||None|
|The Most Honourable Order of the Bath|| GCB,|
|18 May 1725||George I||Tria iuncta in uno ("Three joined in one")||Civil division: senior civil servants; Military division: CB: OF-3 or higher; K/DCB: OF-5 or higher; GCB: OF-7 or higher||None|
|The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George|| GCMG,|
|28 April 1818||George, Prince of Wales||Auspicium melioris ævi ("Token of a better age")||Diplomats||None|
|The Distinguished Service Order||DSO (plus bars)||6 September 1886||Queen Victoria||None||Military officers in wartime||None|
|The Royal Victorian Order|| GCVO,|
|21 April 1896||Queen Victoria||Victoria ("Victory")||Services to the crown||The Royal Victorian Medal, The Royal Victorian Chain|
|The Order of Merit||OM||1902||King Edward VII||For merit||Military, science, art, literature, culture||None|
|The Imperial Service Order||ISO||August 1902||King Edward VII||For faithful service||Civil servant for 25 years (in administrative or clerical capacity)||The Imperial Service Medal|
|The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire|| GBE,|
|4 June 1917||King George V||For God and the Empire||Miscellaneous (military and civil)||The British Empire Medal|
|The Order of the Companions of Honour||CH||June 1917||King George V||In action faithful and in honour clear||Arts, science, politics, industry, religion||None|
These orders, relating to the British Raj (the British control of India), are also defunct. The senior order, the Order of the Star of India, was divided into three grades, Knight Grand Commander, Knight Commander and Companion, of which the first and highest was conferred upon the Princes and Chiefs of Indian states and upon important British civil servants working in India. Women were not eligible to receive the award. The junior order, the Order of the Indian Empire, was divided into the same ranks and also excluded women. The third order, the Order of the Crown of India, was used exclusively to honour women. Its members, all sharing a single grade, consisted of the wives and close female relatives of Indian Princes or Chiefs; the Viceroy or Governor-General; the Governors of Bombay, Madras and Bengal; the Principal Secretary of State for India; and the Commander-in-Chief in India. Upon Indian independence in 1947, appointments to all these orders ceased.
The decorations awarded are, in order of wear:
The last two have not been awarded since 1947.
Hereditary peerages are now normally only given to members of the Royal Family. The most recent was the grant to the Queen's youngest son, the Earl of Wessex, on his marriage in 1999. No hereditary peerages were granted to commoners after the Labour Party came to power in 1964, until Margaret Thatcher tentatively reintroduced them by two grants to men with no sons in 1983, respectively the Speaker of the House of Commons George Thomas and the former Deputy Prime Minister William Whitelaw. Both these titles died with their holders. She followed this with an Earldom in 1984 for the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan not long before his death, reviving a traditional honour for former Prime Ministers. Macmillan's grandson succeeded him on his death in 1986. No hereditary peerages have been created since, and Thatcher's own title is a life peerage (see further explanation below). The concession of a baronetcy (i.e. hereditary knighthood) , was granted to Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis following her resignation (explained below, see Baronetcy).
Subsequently, under the Life Peerages Act 1958, life peerages became the norm for all new grants outside the Royal Family, this being seen as a modest reform of the nature of the second legislative chamber. However, its effects were gradual because hereditary peers, and their successors, retained until recently their rights to attend and vote with the life peers. All hereditary peers except 92 - chosen in a secret ballot of all hereditary peers - have now lost their rights to sit in the second chamber. All hereditary peers retain dining rights to the House of Lords, retaining its title as "the best club in London".
All life peers hold the rank of Baron and automatically have the right to sit in the House of Lords. The title exists only for the duration of their own lifetime and is not passed to their heirs (although the children even of life peers enjoy the same courtesy titles as hereditary peers). Some life peerages are created as an honour for achievement, some for the specific purpose of introducing legislators from the various political parties (known as working peers) and some under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876, with a view to judicial work. There is a discreet number appointed as "People's Peers", on recommendation of the general public. Twenty-six Church of England bishops as of right have a seat in the House of Lords.
As a life peerage is not technically an "honour under the Crown", it cannot be withdrawn once granted. Thus, while knighthoods have been withdrawn as "honours under the Crown", convicted criminals who have served their sentences have returned to the House of Lords. In the case of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, he has chosen only to exercise dining rights and has yet to speak following his release from his conviction for perjury.
When a baronetcy becomes vacant on the death of a holder, the heir, if he wishes to be addressed as "Sir", is required to register the proofs of succession. The Official Roll of Baronets is kept at the Home Office by the Registrar of the Baronetage. Anyone who considers that he is entitled to be entered on the Roll may petition the Crown through the Home Secretary. Anyone succeeding to a baronetcy therefore must exhibit proofs of succession to the Home Secretary. A person who is not entered on the Roll will not be addressed or mentioned as a baronet or accorded precedence as a baronet, effectively declining the honour. The baronetcy can be revived at any time on provision of acceptable proofs of succession . There will at any time be numerous baronets who intend proving succession, but who have yet to do so.
About 83 baronetcies are listed as awaiting proofs of succession. Notable examples include Jonathon Porritt, lately of Friends of the Earth; Ferdinand Mount, the journalist; and Francis Dashwood, Premier Baronet of Great Britain [title created 1707].
As with hereditary peerages, baronetcies ceased to be granted after the Labour Party came to power in 1964. The sole subsequent exception was a baronetcy created for the husband of Margaret Thatcher, Sir Denis Thatcher, in 1991, which was inherited by her son, Mark Thatcher, after his father's death.
Honours are sometimes removed (forfeited) if a recipient is convicted of a criminal offence. Notable examples of persons who forfeited their knighthoods are:
Recipients of honorary awards who later become subjects of Her Majesty may apply to convert their awards to substantive ones. Examples of this are Marjorie Scardino, American CEO of Pearson PLC, and Yehudi Menuhin, the American-born violinist and conductor. They were granted an honorary damehood and knighthood respectively while still American citizens, and converted them to substantive awards after they assumed British citizenship, becoming Dame Marjorie and Sir Yehudi. Menuhin later accepted a life peerage with the title Lord Menuhin.
Tony O'Reilly, who holds both British and Irish nationality , uses the style "Sir", but has also gained approval from the Irish Government to accept the award as is necessary under the Irish Constitution. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the German soprano, became entitled to be known as "Dame Elisabeth" when she took British nationality. Irish-born Sir Terry Wogan was initially awarded an honorary knighthood, but by the time he collected the accolade from the Queen in December 2005, he had obtained dual nationality and the award was upgraded to a substantive knighthood.
Bob Geldof is often erroneously referred to in the tabloid press as "Sir Bob", though he does not have British nationality and does not appear in the British Knightage. His late wife, Paula Yates, regularly styled herself "Lady Geldof", though this may have been a ruse to enjoy preferential treatment when booking restaurants.
There is no law in the UK preventing foreigners from holding a peerage, though only Commonwealth and Irish citizens may sit in the House of Lords. This has yet to be tested under the new arrangements. However, some other countries such as the United States have laws restricting the acceptances of awards by foreign powers, and all such honors must be approved by Congress; in Canada, where the Canadian House of Commons has opposed the granting of titular honours with its Nickle Resolution, the prime minister Jean Chrétien advised the Queen not to grant Conrad Black a titular honour while he remained a Canadian citizen.
During the ceremony, The Queen enters the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace attended by two Gurkha Orderly Officers, a tradition begun in 1876 by Queen Victoria. On duty on the dais are five members of The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard, which was created in 1485 by Henry VII; they are the oldest military corps in the United Kingdom. Four Gentlemen Ushers are on duty to help look after the recipients and their guests.
The Queen is escorted by either the Lord Chamberlain or the Lord Steward. After the National Anthem has been played, he stands to the right of The Queen and announces the name of each recipient and the achievement for which they are being decorated. The Queen is given a brief background by her Equerry of each recipient as they approach to receive their award. Those who are to be knighted kneel on an investiture stool to receive the Accolade, which is bestowed by The Queen using the sword which her father, George VI used when, as Duke of York, he was Colonel-in-Chief of the Scots Guards. Occasionally an award for Gallantry may be made posthumously and in this case The Queen presents the decoration or medal to the recipient's next-of-kin in private before the public Investiture begins.
After the award ceremony, those honoured are ushered out of the Ballroom into the Inner Quadrangle of Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Rota of Photographers are stationed. Here, recipients are photographed with their awards. In some cases, members of the press may interview some of the more well-known who have received honours.
Honours, decorations and medals are arranged in "order of wear", an official list which describes the order in which they should be worn. Additional information on the social events at which an award may be worn is contained in the box.
The list places the Victoria and George Crosses at the top, followed by the orders of knighthood arranged in order of date of creation. Individuals of a higher rank precede those of a lower rank. For instance, a Knight Grand Cross always precedes a Knight Commander. For those of equal rank, members of the higher-ranked Order take precedence. Within the same Order, precedence is accorded to that individual who received the honour earlier.
Not all orders have the same number of ranks. The Order of Merit, the Order of the Companions of Honour, the Distinguished Service Order and the Imperial Service Order are slightly different, being single-rank awards, and have been placed at appropriate positions of seniority. Knights Bachelor come after knights in the orders, but before those with the rank of Commander or lower.
Decorations are followed by medals of various categories, being arranged in date order within each section. These are followed by Commonwealth and honorary foreign awards of any level. Miscellaneous details are explained in notes at the bottom of the list.
The order of wear is not connected to and should not be confused with the Order of precedence.
For baronets, the style Sir John Smith, Bt. is used. Their wives are styled simply Lady Smith. The rare baronetess is styled Dame Jane Smith, Btss.
For knights, the style Sir John Smith, [postnominals ] is used, attaching the proper postnominal letters depending on rank and order (for knights bachelor, no postnominal letters are used). Their wives are styled Lady Smith, with no postnominal letters. A dame is styled Dame Jane Smith, [postnominals]. More familiar references or oral addresses use the first name only, e.g. Sir Alan, or Dame Judy.
Wives of knights and baronets are officially styled Lady Smith as a courtesy title only.
Recipients of orders, decorations and medals receive no styling of Sir or Dame, but they may attach the according postnominal letters to their name, e.g. John Smith, VC.
Bailiffs or Dames Grand Cross (GCStJ), Knights/Dames of Justice/Grace (KStJ/DStJ), Commander Brothers/Sisters (CStJ), Officer Brothers/Sisters (OStJ), Serving Brothers/Sisters (SBStJ/SSStJ)and Esquires (EsqStJ) of the Order of St. John do not receive any special styling with regards to prenominal address i.e. Sir or Dame. They may, however, attach the relevant postnominal initials.
In July 2004, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) of the House of Commons and, concurrently, Sir Hayden Phillips, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Constitutional Affairs, both concluded reviews of the system. The PASC recommended some radical changes; Sir Hayden concentrated on issues of procedure and transparency. In February 2005 the Government responded to both reviews by issuing a Command paper detailing which of the proposed changes it had accepted. These included diversifying and opening up the system of honours selection committees for the Prime Minister's list and also the introduction of a miniature badge.
Corruption and honours have always gone hand in hand from the very beginning and there are those who believe that the two are virtually indivisible by the very nature of the patronage process. David Lloyd George actually sold honours for cash and used the money for his personal political fundraising. In 1976, the Harold Wilson era was mired by a similar controversy over the 1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours, which became known as the "Lavender List".