Order of the British Empire

Order of the British Empire

Overview

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions. In descending order of seniority, these are:
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE) or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)


Only the highest two ranks automatically cause an individual to become a knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 or dame
Dame (title)
The title of Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system . It is also the equivalent form address to 'Sir' for a knight...

, an honour allowing the recipient to use the title "Sir" (male) or "Dame" (female) before their first name (though men can be knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 separately from this and other Orders of Chivalry).
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The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions. In descending order of seniority, these are:
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE) or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)


Only the highest two ranks automatically cause an individual to become a knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 or dame
Dame (title)
The title of Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system . It is also the equivalent form address to 'Sir' for a knight...

, an honour allowing the recipient to use the title "Sir" (male) or "Dame" (female) before their first name (though men can be knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 separately from this and other Orders of Chivalry). Honorary knighthoods, given to individuals who are not nationals of a realm where Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

, permit use of the honour as a post-nominal
Post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...

 but not as a title before their name. Awards in the Order of the British Empire in the Commonwealth Realms were discontinued with the establishment of national systems of honours and awards such as the Order of Canada
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

, the Order of Australia
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

 and the New Zealand Order of Merit
New Zealand Order of Merit
The New Zealand Order of Merit is an order established in 1996 "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."The order includes five...

. Foreign recipients are classified as honorary members of the Order they receive, and do not contribute to the numbers restricted to that Order as full members do.

There is also a related British Empire Medal
British Empire Medal
The Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service, usually known as the British Empire Medal , is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown...

, whose recipients are not members of the Order, but who are nonetheless affiliated with the Order. The British Empire Medal has not been used in the United Kingdom or its dependencies since 1993, but is still used by the Cook Islands
Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

 and by some other Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 nations.

The Order's motto is For God and the Empire. It is the most junior of the British orders of chivalry, and the largest, with over 100,000 living members worldwide.

History


King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 founded the order to fill gaps in the British honours system:
  • the Most Honourable Order of the Bath
    Order of the Bath
    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 mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

     honoured only senior military officers and civil servants;
  • the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George
    Order of St Michael and St George
    The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

     honoured diplomats; and
  • the Royal Victorian Order
    Royal Victorian Order
    The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

     honoured those who had personally served the Royal Family
    British Royal Family
    The British Royal Family is the group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The term is also commonly applied to the same group of people as the relations of the monarch in her or his role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms, thus sometimes at variance with...

    .

In particular, King George V wished to honour the many thousands of people who had served in numerous non-combatant capacities during the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Originally, the Order included only one division; however, in 1918, soon after its foundation, it was formally divided into Military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 and Civil
Civil
Civil may refer to:*Civic virtue, or civility*Civil action, or lawsuit*Civil affairs*Civil and political rights*Civil disobedience*Civil engineering*Civilian, someone not a member of armed forces*Civil law , multiple meanings...

 Divisions.

This order has a more democratic character than the Order of the Bath or the Order of St Michael and St George, and in its early days was not held in high esteem. However, this has changed over the years.

Several past American statesmen and diplomats who have performed service for, or on behalf of, the United Kingdom have been given the designation of Knight Commander of the order. However, since membership requires swearing allegiance to a foreign head of state (currently Queen Elizabeth II), the title is officially considered "honorary", and the person is not entitled to be referred to as Sir or Dame. Occasionally the media incorrectly refer to foreign recipients with the prefix title, an example being Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof
Robert Frederick Zenon "Bob" Geldof, KBE is an Irish singer, songwriter, author, occasional actor and political activist. He rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats in the late 1970s and early 1980s alongside the punk rock movement. The band had hits with his...

 KBE, an Irish
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 citizen.

Composition


The British monarch
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 is Sovereign of the Order, and appoints all other members of the Order (by convention, on the advice of the Government). The next most senior member is the Grand Master
Grand Master (order)
Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...

, of which there have been three: Edward, Prince of Wales
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

 (1917–1936), Queen Mary
Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

 (1936–1953), and the current Grand Master, The Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

 (1953–present).

The Order is limited to 300 Knights and Dames Grand Cross, 845 Knights and Dames Commander, and 8960 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 1464 Members may be appointed per year. Appointments are made on the advice of the governments of the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s. By convention, female judges of the High Court of Justice
High Court of Justice
The High Court of Justice is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...

 are created Dames Commander after appointment, while male judges become Knights Bachelor
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

.

Although the Order of the British Empire has by far the highest number of members of the British Orders of Chivalry, there are fewer appointments to knighthoods than in other orders. Most Knights Commander are honorary members or British citizens living abroad, with only a handful being residents of the United Kingdom. The grade of Dame Commander, on the other hand, is the most common grade of dame in the British honours system, and is awarded in circumstances in which men would be created Knights Bachelor.

Most members are citizens of the United Kingdom or the limited number of Commonwealth realms without their own national system of honours and awards. Citizens of other countries, however, may be admitted as "honorary members". They do not count towards the aforementioned numerical limits, and are not formally addressed as "Sir" or "Dame". They may be made full members if they subsequently become citizens of Commonwealth realms. See List of honorary British Knights.

At the foundation of the Order, the "Medal of the Order of the British Empire" was instituted. In 1922, it was renamed the "British Empire Medal
British Empire Medal
The Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service, usually known as the British Empire Medal , is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown...

". Recipients, who are not members of the Order itself, are grouped into the Civil and Military Divisions. Only junior government and military officials are awarded the medal; senior officials are directly appointed to the Order of the British Empire. The United Kingdom's Government has not recommended the awarding of the medal since 1992, although some Commonwealth realms continue the practice.

The Order has six officials: the Prelate, the Dean, the Secretary, the Registrar, the King of Arms, and the Usher. The Bishop of London
Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers 458 km² of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames and a small part of the County of Surrey...

, a senior bishop in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, serves as the Order's Prelate. The Dean of St Paul's is ex officio the Dean of the Order. The Order's King of Arms
King of Arms of the Order of the British Empire
The King of Arms of the Order of the British Empire is the herald of the Order of the British Empire, established in 1917 and effective since 1918.-Kings of Arms:*1918–1928: General Sir Arthur Henry FitzRoy Paget*1929–1947: Admiral Sir Herbert Leopold Heath...

 is not a member of the College of Arms
College of Arms
The College of Arms, or Heralds’ College, is an office regulating heraldry and granting new armorial bearings for England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

, as are many other heraldic
Heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 officers. The Usher of the Order is known as the Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod
Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod
The Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod is the Usher to the Order of the British Empire, established in 1917 and effective since 1918.-Office Holders from 1918:*1918 – 23 August 1952: Sir Frederic Kenyon*30 September 1952 – 2 December 1960: Sir Ernest Gowers...

; he does not – unlike his Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 equivalent, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod
Black Rod
The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, generally shortened to just Black Rod, is an official in the parliaments of several Commonwealth countries. The position originates in the House of Lords of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 – perform any duties related to the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

.

If one is appointed to a higher class within the order, one must return one's existing insignia in exchange for the more senior one, and cease using the junior post-nominal letters. Some people, however, have been appointed to both divisions, such as Dame Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes
Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE, MBE is a retired British middle distance athlete. She specialised in the 800 metres and 1500 metres events and won a gold medal for both distances at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens...

, who has been appointed an MBE in the military division and a DBE in the civil division, and is therefore known as "Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE, MBE (Mil.)".

Gallantry


From 1940, a person could be appointed a Commander, Officer or Member of the Order of the British Empire for gallantry, for acts of bravery (not in the face of the enemy) which were below the level required for the George Medal
George Medal
The George Medal is the second level civil decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.The GM was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of The Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage...

, with the grade being determined by the same criteria as usual and not by the level of gallantry (and with more junior people instead receiving the British Empire Medal). Oddly, this meant that it was awarded for lesser acts of gallantry than the George Medal, but, as an Order, was worn before it and listed before it in post-nominal initials. From 14 January 1958 these awards were designated the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry. Any individual made a member of the Order for gallantry could wear an emblem of two crossed silver oak leaves on the same riband, ribbon or bow as the badge. It could not be awarded posthumously and was effectively replaced in 1974 with the Queen's Gallantry Medal
Queen's Gallantry Medal
The Queen's Gallantry Medal is the third level civil decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.It was instituted on 20 June 1974 to replace the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry, the British Empire Medal for Gallantry, and the Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry...

. If a recipient of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry was promoted within the Order, whether for gallantry or otherwise, they continued to also wear the insignia of the lower grade with the oak leaves. However, they only used the post-nominal letters of the higher grade.

Vestments and accoutrements


Members of the Order wear elaborate costumes on important occasions (such as quadrennial services and coronations
Coronation of the British monarch
The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

), which vary by rank (the designs underwent major changes in 1937):
  • The mantle, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, was originally made of yellow satin lined with blue silk, but is now made of purple satin lined with pearl-grey silk. On the left side is a representation of the cross (see below).
  • The collar, also worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of gold. It consists of six medallions depicting the Royal Arms, alternating with six medallions depicting the Royal and Imperial Cypher of George V ("GRI", which stands for "Georgius Rex Imperator"). The medallions are linked with gold cables depicting lions and crowns.


On certain "collar day
Collar Day
Collar days are designated days on which the collar forming part of the insignia of certain members of orders of knighthood may be worn. Collars are special large and elaborate metal chains worn over the shoulders, hanging equally in front and back, often tied with a bow at the shoulders, with a...

s" 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 star is an eight-pointed silver star used only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commander. It is worn pinned to the left breast. Varying in size depending on class, it bears a crimson ring with the motto of the Order inscribed. Within the ring, a figure of Britannia
    Britannia
    Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

     was originally shown. Since 1937, however, the effigies of George V and his wife Queen Mary have been shown instead.
  • The badge
    Badge
    A badge is a device or fashion accessory, often containing the insignia of an organization, which is presented or displayed to indicate some feat of service, a special accomplishment, a symbol of authority granted by taking an oath , a sign of legitimate employment or student status, or as a simple...

    is the only insignia used by all members of the Order. Until 1937, it was suspended on a purple ribbon, with a red central stripe for the military division; since then, the ribbon has been rose-pink with pearl-grey edges, with the addition of a pearl-grey central stripe for the military division. Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear it on a riband or sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip. Knights Commander and male Commanders wear the badge from a ribbon around the neck; male Officers and Members wear the badge from a ribbon on the left chest; all females other than Dames Grand Cross wear it from a bow on the left shoulder. The badge is in the form of a cross patonce (having the arms growing broader and floriated toward the end), the obverse of which bears the same field as the star (that is, either Britannia or George V
    George V
    George V was king of the United Kingdom and its dominions from 1910 to 1936.George V or similar terms may also refer to:-People:* George V of Georgia * George V of Imereti * George V of Hanover...

     and Queen Mary
    Mary of Teck
    Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

    ); the reverse bears George V's Royal and Imperial Cypher. Both are within a ring bearing the motto of the Order. The size of the badges varies according to rank: the higher classes have slightly larger badges. The badges of Knights and Dames Grand Cross, Knights and Dames Commander and Commanders are enamelled with pale blue crosses and crimson rings; those of Officers are plain gold; those of Members are plain silver.
  • The British Empire Medal is made of silver. On the obverse is an image of Britannia surrounded by the motto, with the words "For Meritorious Service" at the bottom; on the reverse is George V's Imperial and Royal Cypher, with the words "Instituted by King George V" at the bottom. The name of the recipient is engraved on the rim. This medal is nicknamed "the Gong", and comes in both a full-sized and miniature versions – the latter for formal white-tie and informal black-tie occasions.
  • A lapel pin
    Award pin
    An award pin is a small object, usually made from metal or plastic, with a pin on the back, presented as an award of achievement or a mark of appreciation. They are worn on clothes such as jackets, shirts or hats....

     for everyday wear was first announced at the end of December 2006, and will soon become available to recipients of all levels of the Order, as well as to holders of the British Empire Medal
    British Empire Medal
    The Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service, usually known as the British Empire Medal , is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown...

    . The pin design is not unique to any level. The pin features the badge of the Order, enclosed in a circle of ribbon of its colours of pink and grey. Lapel pins must be purchased separately by a member of the Order at the fixed price of £15.00. The creation of such a pin was recommended in Sir Hayden Phillips' review of the honours system in 2004, not unlike many other countries.

Order of the British Empire ribbon bar
Ribbon bar
Ribbon bars are small decorations that are worn by military, police, and fire service personnel or by civilians. Ribbon bars are mainly used when wearing either full decoration, or when wearing medals is considered inappropriate or impractical. Each military force has its own rules on what ribbons...

s
civil military
1917–1935
since 1936

Chapel


The chapel of the order is in the far eastern end of the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

, 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
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

.) 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.

Precedence and privileges



Members of all classes of the Order are assigned positions in the order of precedence
Order of precedence
An order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance of items. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments...

. 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 (see order of precedence in England and Wales
Order of precedence in England and Wales
The Order of precedence in England and Wales as of 11 May 2010:Names in italics indicate higher precedence elsewhere in the table or precedence in the table for the other sex.- Royal Family :* The Sovereign , regardless of gender...

 for the exact positions).

Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander prefix "Sir", and Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commander prefix "Dame", to their forenames (never surnames – thus Sir Antony Sher
Antony Sher
Sir Antony Sher, KBE is a double Olivier Award winning South African-born British actor, writer, theatre director and painter.- Early years :...

 may be shortened to Sir Antony, but not to Sir Sher). Wives of Knights may prefix "Lady" to their surnames, but no equivalent privilege exists for husbands 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
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 or the established Church of Scotland do not use the title "Sir" as they do not receive the accolade
Accolade
In the Middle Ages, the accolade was the central act in the rite-of-passage ceremonies conferring knighthood.-Ceremony:...

 (i.e., they are not dubbed "knight" with a sword), although they do append the post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...

.

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".

Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commander who are not citizens of Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s can be awarded honorary titles but do not receive the accolade and are not entitled to the prefix "Sir" or "Dame", but may still use the post-nominal abbreviations. For example, American Bill Gates
Bill Gates
William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author. Gates is the former CEO and current chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen...

 was made a Knight Commander, but is not entitled "Sir Bill" or "Sir Bill Gates", although he may use the title "Bill Gates, KBE". Bob Geldof, KBE
Bob Geldof
Robert Frederick Zenon "Bob" Geldof, KBE is an Irish singer, songwriter, author, occasional actor and political activist. He rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats in the late 1970s and early 1980s alongside the punk rock movement. The band had hits with his...

 received a knighthood in 1986 and although he is often referred to as "Sir Bob", he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm and he is not entitled to use the prefix "Sir". If recipients later become citizens of Commonwealth realms, then they are usually made substantive members of the Order, and are entitled to begin using the Sir prefix. For example, Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan
Terry Wogan
Sir Michael Terence Wogan, KBE, DL , or also known as Terry Wogan, is a veteran Irish radio and television broadcaster who holds dual Irish and British citizenship. Wogan has worked for the BBC in the United Kingdom for most of his career...

 was appointed an honorary KBE in 2005. He subsequently took dual British and Irish nationality, was made a substantive member, and is now entitled to use the name "Sir Terry Wogan".

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
Circlet
A circlet is a crown with neither arches nor a cap ....

 (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.

Criticism



The order has attracted some criticism for its connection with the idea of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah is an English writer and dub poet. He is a well-known figure in contemporary English literature, and was included in The Times list of Britain's top 50 post-war writers in 2008....

, a British Jamaican poet, publicly rejected an OBE in 2003 because, he said, it reminded him of "thousands of years of brutality". He went on to say, "It reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised".

Others have declined honours, but, at the request of the Prime Minister's office, did not reveal the fact until some years later. 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 an Order of the British Empire was the author C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

 (1898–1963), who had been named on the last list of honours by George VI in December 1951.

The members of The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 were made MBEs in 1965. John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 justified the comparative merits of his investiture by comparing military membership in the order, saying "Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war – for killing people... [W]e received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more." Later, Lennon 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. The civil service and judiciary receive far more Orders of the British Empire than leaders of other professions and charity workers.

Chin Peng
Chin Peng
Chin Peng, former OBE , was born Ong Boon Hua in Sitiawan, and was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party...

, long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party
Malayan Communist Party
The Malayan Communist Party , officially known as the Communist Party of Malaya , was founded in 1930 and laid down its arms in 1989. It is most famous for its role in the Malayan Emergency.-Formation:...

, was granted the OBE for his share in fighting against the Japanese during World War II, in close cooperation with the British commando Force 136. It was withdrawn by the British government (and became undesirable for Chin Peng himself) when the Communist leader headed his party's guerrilla insurgency against the British in the Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

.

See also


External links