Order of the British Empire
CBE neck decoration (in civil division)
|Awarded by the sovereign of the United Kingdom|
|Type||Order of chivalry|
|Motto||For God and the Empire|
|Eligibility||British nationals, citizens of the Commonwealth Realms or anyone who has made a significant achievement for the United Kingdom|
|Awarded for||Prominent national or regional achievements|
|Sovereign||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Grand Master||Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh|
|Grades||Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE)|
Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE)
|Former grades|| Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry |
Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service
|Next (higher)||Royal Victorian Order|
|Next (lower)||Varies, depending on rank|
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service.It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of the order.
A chivalric order, order of chivalry, order of knighthood or equestrian order is an order, confraternity or society of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades, paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.
The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career bureaucrats hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leadership. A civil servant or public servant is a person so employed in the public sector employed for a government department or agency. A civil servant or public servant's first priority is to represent the interests of citizens. The extent of civil servants of a state as part of the "civil service" varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown employees are referred to as civil servants whereas county or city employees are not.
The British Empire Medal is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. The current honour was created in 1922 to replace the original medal, which had been established in 1917 as part of the Order of the British Empire.
Recommendations for appointments to the Order of the British Empire were originally made on the nomination of the United Kingdom, the self-governing Dominions of the Empire (later Commonwealth) and the Viceroy of India. Nominations continue today from Commonwealth countries that participate in recommending British (Imperial) honours. Most Commonwealth countries ceased recommendations for appointments to the Order of the British Empire when they created their own honours.
The Dominions were the semi-independent polities under the British Crown that constituted the British Empire, beginning with Canadian Confederation in 1867. "Dominion status" was a constitutional term of art used to signify an independent Commonwealth realm; they included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, and then from the late 1940s also India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. The Balfour Declaration of 1926 recognised the Dominions as "autonomous Communities within the British Empire", and the 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed their full legislative independence.
The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:
The senior two ranks of Knight or Dame Grand Cross, and Knight or Dame Commander, entitle their members to use the title of Sir for men and Dame for women before their forename. Most members are citizens of the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth realms that use the Imperial system of honours and awards.
Honorary knighthoods are appointed to citizens of nations where the queen is not head of state, and may permit use of post-nominal letters but not the title of Sir or Dame. Occasionally, honorary appointees are, incorrectly, referred to as Sir or Dame. Honorary appointees who later become a citizen of a Commonwealth realm can convert their appointment from honorary to substantive, then enjoy all privileges of membership of the order, including use of the title of Sir and Dame for the senior two ranks of the Order. An example is Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan, who was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order in 2005, and on successful application for British citizenship, held alongside his Irish citizenship, was made a substantive member and subsequently styled as Sir Terry Wogan.
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.
A head of state is the public persona who officially embodies a state in its unity and legitimacy. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government and more.
Sir Terence Michael Wogan, better known as Terry Wogan, was an Irish radio and television broadcaster who worked for the BBC in the UK for most of his career. Before he semi retired in 2009, his BBC Radio 2 weekday breakfast programme Wake Up to Wogan regularly drew an estimated eight million listeners. He was believed to be the most listened-to radio broadcaster in Europe.
King George V founded the Order to fill gaps in the British honours system:
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.
The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories. The system consists of three types of award – honours, decorations and medals:
The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by King Edward III of England in 1348. It is the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.
The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights. The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders.
The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is a dormant British order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by George III at the request of the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, The 3rd Earl Temple. The regular creation of knights of Saint Patrick lasted until 1922, when most of Ireland gained independence as the Irish Free State, a dominion within what was then known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. While the Order technically still exists, no knight of St Patrick has been created since 1936, and the last surviving knight, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. The Queen, however, remains the Sovereign of the Order, and one officer, the Ulster King of Arms, also survives. St Patrick is patron of the order; its motto is Quis separabit?, Latin for "Who will separate [us]?": an allusion to the Vulgate translation of Romans 8:35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
In particular, King George V wished to create an Order to honour many thousands of those who had served in a variety of non-combatant roles during the First World War. When first established, the Order had only one division. However, in 1918, soon after its foundation, it was formally divided into Military and Civil Divisions.The Order's motto is For God and the Empire.
At the foundation of the Order, the 'Medal of the Order of the British Empire' was instituted, to serve as a lower award granting recipients affiliation but not membership. In 1922, this was renamed the 'British Empire Medal' (BEM). It stopped being awarded by the United Kingdom as part of the 1993 reforms to the honours system, but was again awarded beginning in 2012, starting with 293 BEMs awarded for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.In addition, the BEM is awarded by the Cook Islands and by some other Commonwealth nations. In 2004, a report entitled "A Matter of Honour: Reforming Our Honours System" by a Commons committee recommended to phase out the Order of the British Empire, as its title was "now considered to be unacceptable, being thought to embody values that are no longer shared by many of the country's population".
The British monarch is Sovereign of the Order, and appoints all other members of the Order (by convention, on the advice of the governments of the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth realms). The next most senior member is the Grand Master, of whom there have been three: Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales (1917–1936); Queen Mary (1936–1953); and the current Grand Master, the Duke of Edinburgh (since 1953).
The Order is limited to 300 Knights and Dames Grand Cross, 845 Knights and Dames Commander, and 8,960 Commanders. There are no limits applied to the total number of members of the fourth and fifth classes, but no more than 858 Officers and 1,464 Members may be appointed per year. Foreign appointees, as honorary members, do not contribute to the numbers restricted to the Order as full members do. Although the Order of the British Empire has by far the highest number of members of the British Orders of Chivalry, with over 100,000 living members worldwide, there are fewer appointments to knighthoods than in other orders.
Though men can be knighted separately from an order of chivalry (Knight Bachelor), women cannot, and so the rank of Knight/Dame Commander of the Order is the lowest rank of damehood, and second-lowest of knighthood (above Knights Bachelor). Because of this, an appointment as Dame Commander is made in circumstances in which a man would be created a Knight Bachelor. For example, by convention, female judges of the High Court of Justice are created Dames Commander after appointment, while male judges become Knights Bachelor.
From time to time, individuals are appointed to a higher grade within the Order, thereby ceasing usage of the junior post-nominal letters.
The Order has six offices:King of Arms is not a member of the College of Arms, as are many other heraldic officers. Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod does not – unlike the Order of the Garter equivalent, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod – perform any duties related to the House of Lords.
The institution of the Order of the British Empire in 1917 was for meritorious service but from the beginning some appointments and some promotions were for acts of gallantry. There were an increased number of cases in the Second World War for service personnel and civilians including the merchant marine, police, emergency services and civil defence, mostly MBEs but with a small number of OBEs and CBEs. Such awards were for gallantry that did not reach the standard of the George Medal, but, as an Order, were listed before it on the Order of Wear. Awards for meritorious service usually appear without a citation but there were often citations for gallantry awards, some detailed and graphic.From 14 January 1958, these awards were designated Commander, Officer or Member of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry.
Any individual made a member of the Order for gallantry after 14 January 1958 wears an emblem of two crossed silver oak leaves on the same ribbon as the badge, with a miniature version on the ribbon bar when worn alone. When the ribbon only is worn the emblem is worn in miniature.It could not be awarded posthumously, and was replaced in 1974 with the Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM). If recipients of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry received promotion within the Order, whether for gallantry or otherwise, they continued to wear also the insignia of the lower grade with the oak leaves. However, they only used the post-nominal letters of the higher grade.
Members of the Order wear elaborate vestments on important occasions (such as quadrennial services and coronations), which vary by rank (the designs underwent major changes in 1937):
On certain "collar days" designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform, formal day dress, or evening wear. When collars are worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge is suspended from the collar. Collars are returned upon the death of their owners, but other insignia may be retained.
At less important occasions, simpler insignia are used:
The chapel of the Order is in the far eastern end of the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, but it holds its great services upstairs in the main body of the Cathedral. (The Cathedral also serves as the home of the chapel of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.) Religious services for the whole Order are held every four years; new Knights and Dames Grand Cross are installed at these services. The chapel was dedicated in 1960.
Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander prefix Sir, and Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commander prefix Dame, to their forenames.Wives of Knights may prefix Lady to their surnames, but no equivalent privilege exists for husbands of Knights or spouses of Dames. Such forms are not used by peers and princes, except when the names of the former are written out in their fullest forms. Male clergy of the Church of England or the Church of Scotland do not use the title Sir as they do not receive the accolade (they are not dubbed "knight" with a sword), although they do append the post-nominal letters: dames do not receive the accolade, and therefore female clergy are free to use the title Dame.
Knights and Dames Grand Cross use the post-nominal, GBE; Knights Commander, KBE; Dames Commander, DBE; Commanders, CBE; Officers, OBE; and Members, MBE. The post-nominal for the British Empire Medal is BEM.
Members of all classes of the Order are assigned positions in the order of precedence. Wives of male members of all classes also feature on the order of precedence, as do sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander; relatives of Ladies of the Order, however, are not assigned any special precedence. As a general rule, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.
Knights and Dames Grand Cross are also entitled to be granted heraldic supporters. They may, furthermore, encircle their arms with a depiction of the circlet (a circle bearing the motto) and the collar; the former is shown either outside or on top of the latter. Knights and Dames Commander and Commanders may display the circlet, but not the collar, surrounding their arms. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar or circlet.
Military ranks listed denotes the awarded being in the military division.
|Military rank||Name||Post-nominals||Year appointed|
|Admiral of the Fleet||KG KT OM GCVO ONZ GBE AK QSO GCL CC CMM PC CD ADC(P)||1953|
|General||GBE KCB MC* DL||1985|
|Air Chief Marshal||GBE KCB DFC||1989|
|Air Chief Marshal||GCB GBE||1991|
|Air Chief Marshal||GBE CB AFC||1998|
|Air Chief Marshal||GBE KCB||2002|
|Air Chief Marshal||GBE KCB ADC DL||2016|
|GBE CMG QC||2018|
Recommendations for appointments to the Order of the British Empire continue to be made by some Commonwealth realms. In 2016, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu all included Order of the British Empire awards in their New Year and/or Queen's Birthday honours lists.Since the Second World War, most Commonwealth realms have established their own national system of honours and awards and have created their own unique orders, decorations and medals. Canada seldom made recommendations for appointments to the Order of the British Empire except for the Second World War and Korea but continued to recommend gallantry awards for both military and civilians until the creation of the Order of Canada. Australia continued to recommend the Order of the British Empire until the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours, nearly 15 years after the creation of the Order of Australia.
In 2003, the Sunday Times published a list of the people who had rejected the Order of the British Empire, including David Bowie, Nigella Lawson, Elgar Howarth, LS Lowry, George Melly and J. G. Ballard.In addition, Ballard voiced his opposition to the honours system, calling it "a preposterous charade". The Order has attracted some criticism for its naming having connection with the idea of the now-extinct British Empire. Benjamin Zephaniah, a British Jamaican poet, publicly rejected appointment as an Officer in 2003 because, he asserted, it reminded him of "thousands of years of brutality". He also said that "It reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised".
In 2004, a House of Commons Select Committee recommended changing the name of the award to the Order of British Excellence, and changing the rank of Commander to Companion; as the former was said to have a "militaristic ring".
A notable person to decline the offer of membership was the author C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), who had been named on the last list of honours by George VI in December 1951. Despite being a monarchist, he declined so as to avoid association with any political issues.
The members of The Beatles were appointed as Members in 1965. John Lennon justified the comparative merits of his investiture by comparing military membership in the Order: "Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE [status] received theirs for heroism in the war – for killing people ... We received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more". Lennon later returned his MBE insignia on 25 November 1969, as part of his ongoing peace protests.Other criticism centres on the claim that many recipients of the Order are being rewarded with honours for simply doing their jobs; critics claim that the Civil Service and Judiciary receive far more orders and honours than leaders of other professions.
Chin Peng, long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party, was appointed as an Officer for his share in fighting against the Japanese during World War II, in close co-operation with the British commando Force 136. His membership was withdrawn by the British government (and became undesirable to Chin Peng himself) when the Communist leader headed his party's guerrilla insurgency against the British in the Malayan Emergency after the War.
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is a British order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later King George IV, while he was acting as regent for his father, King George III.
The New Zealand Order of Merit is an order of merit in New Zealand's honours system. It was established by royal warrant on 30 May 1996 by Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, "for those persons who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits", to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.
The Australian honours system consists of a number of orders, decorations, and medals through which the country's sovereign awards its citizens for actions or deeds that benefit the nation. Established in 1975 with the creation of the Order of Australia, the system's scope has grown since then and over time has replaced the Imperial/British honours system that previously applied to Australians. The system includes an array of awards, both civil and military, for gallantry, bravery, distinguished service, meritorious service, and long service. Various campaign and commemorative medals have also been struck. New honours can be awarded at any time, but conventionally most new honours are awarded on Australia Day and on the Queen's Birthday every year, when lists of new honours are published.
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood established in 1896 by Queen Victoria. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the sovereign of the order, the order's motto is Victoria, and its official day is 20 June. The order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel in London.
The dignity of Knight Bachelor is the basic and lowest rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system. Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight, but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of chivalric orders.
The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. The Order includes members of three classes :
The Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav is a Norwegian order of chivalry instituted by King Oscar I on 21 August 1847. It is named after King Olav II, known to posterity as St. Olav.
The Order of Pope Pius IX, also referred as the Pian Order, is a papal order of knighthood originally founded by Pope Pius IV in 1560. The awarding of the order fell into disuse and was re-instituted by Pope Pius IX as a continuation on 17 June 1847. Since November 1993, it has been granted to women.
The Governor-General of Australia has, at irregular intervals, notified for general information the positioning of the wearing of Australian Orders, Decorations and Medals in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. The Order of Wearing Australian Honours and Awards was last published in 2007, and replaced the previous list published in 2002.
The Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr, sometimes referred to as the Sylvestrine Order, or the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, is one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State of Vatican City.
A collar is an ornate chain, often made of gold and enamel, and set with precious stones, which is worn about the neck as a symbol of membership in various chivalric orders. It is a particular form of the livery collar, the grandest form of the widespread phenomenon of livery in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. Orders which have several grades often reserve the collar for the highest grade. The links of the chain are usually composed of symbols of the order, and the badge of the order normally hangs down in front. Sometimes the badge is referred to by what is depicted on it; for instance, the badge that hangs from the chain of the Order of the Garter is referred to as "the George".
The Order pro Merito Melitensi is the order of merit of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, established in 1920. It is awarded to recipients who have brought honour to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, promoted Christian values and charity as defined by the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike Knights or Dames of the Order of Malta, those decorated with the Order pro Merito Melitensi are not invested in a religious ceremony, do not swear any oath or make any religious commitment. It may therefore be bestowed upon non-Catholics. Conferees include prominent statesmen, such as Presidents Ronald Reagan, who received it while still in office, and George H.W. Bush.
The Order of the Seal of Solomon is an order of knighthood of the Ethiopian Empire, founded by Emperor Yohannes IV in 1874 as the highest imperial honour, containing five grades. In 1930, an even higher Order was established, i.e. the Order of Solomon, which was a split off from the Order of the Seal of Solomon. The Order was conferred on members of imperial house and upon persons who had rendered meritorious services.
The Royal Order of the Crown of Tonga is an Order of Merit awarded for exceptional services to Tonga and the Crown of Tonga.
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The Order of Grenada is an order of chivalry and a society of honour instituted by Queen Elizabeth II in right of Grenada through the National Honours and Awards Act which having been passed by the House of Representatives of Grenada on 16 November 2007 and passed by the Senate of Grenada on 27 November 2007 received Royal Assent on 31 December 2007.
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