The Honours System, Put Simply


The honours system has existed for centuries, and served to recognise “people who have: made achievements in public life [and/or] committed themselves to serving and helping Britain”. The honours system has entered the media realm again recently, as speculation over a knighthood for Nigel Farage grows. Although the granting of honours is well publicised, few people understand the complex workings of the honours system, and what it takes to receive one.

What honours can be given?

Below is an exact extract from the British Government, outlining the awards that can be given:

Companion of Honour

This is awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.


This is awarded for having a major contribution in any activity, usually at national level. Other people working in the nominee’s area will see their contribution as inspirational and significant, requiring commitment over a long period of time.

Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

This is awarded for having a prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. You can also get one for a distinguished, innovative contribution to any area.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

This is awarded for having a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area.

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community. This will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others.

British Empire Medal (BEM)

Awarded for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community. This could be a long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or innovative work of a relatively short duration (3 to 4 years) that has made a significant difference.

Overseas Territories Police and Fire Service Medals

Given for service in British Overseas Territories.

Royal Victorian Order (RVO)

An award given by the Queen - usually to people who have helped her personally, like members of the Royal household staff or British ambassadors.

The George Cross

First level civilian medal for bravery: for acts of heroism and courage in extreme danger.

The George Medal

Second level civilian medal for bravery: for acts of great bravery.

The Queen’s Gallantry Medal

Third level civilian medal for bravery: for inspiring acts of bravery.

The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery and The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air

For risk to life.


UK Citizens:

Anyone can nominate someone for an honour. However, be prepared for paperwork, and a rather long wait.

Your first step should be to assess if the person you are considering for nomination, is deserving of an honour. The Government provides the following list of “what people get honours for”:

  1. Making a difference to their community or field of work
  2. Enhancing Britain’s reputation
  3. Long-term voluntary service
  4. Innovation and entrepreneurship
  5. Changing things, with an emphasis on achievement
  6. Improving life for people less able to help themselves
  7. Displaying moral courage

Your prospective nominee’s field of work can also important. The Government states “honours are given to people involved in fields including”:

  1. Community, voluntary and local services
  2. Arts and media
  3. Health
  4. Sport
  5. Education
  6. Science and technology
  7. Business and the economy
  8. Civil or political service

If you decide that the person you are nominating fits perfectly into the aforementioned categories,  you must then fill out approximately 8 pages of the “Nomination for a UK National Honour” form, providing specific detail. You can not specify the honour you feel is appropriate, as that is a matter for those assessing the nominations, and more importantly, the Monarch.

After filling out, and submitting your nomination, you should be prepared to wait up to 18 months for a response.

Non-UK Citizens:

You are also able to nominate a non-UK citizen, this will require a different form, but mainly the same categories.

Citizens of nations who share the Queen as their Head of State are entitled to many of the same honours. For example, Australians are entitled to the following Royal honours:

  • The Most Noble Order of the Garter
  • The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle
  • Order of Merit
  • Royal Victorian Order
  • Venerable Order of Saint John
  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (Awarded by the Queen to living holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)

However, those without the Her Majesty as their Head of State will only be entitled to honorary awards.


The recipients of honours are announced in one of two lists throughout the year.

  • The New Year Honours List • The Queen’s Birthday Honours List


For UK citizens who are residents in Britain, the presentation of their award will almost certainly take place in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. However, if you are a Commonwealth citizen (in a nation sharing the Queen as Head of State) you will most likely receive your honour via the Governor or Governor-General. This is not always the case, however, as you may attend a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Image rights: CAckroyd @ Wikimedia

TalkPolitics is proud to be supported by Audible. For 50% off your new membership, click here.

The Role of the Monarch, Put Simply

The Role of the Monarch, Put Simply

The Royal Family are a staple of British public life. Whilst many are familiar with the various exploits of the younger Windsors, the Queen’s constitutional role is less well-known. Here it shall be Put Simply.

TalkPolitics is proud to be supported by Audible. For 50% off your new membership, click here.

5 Myths About the Monarchy, Busted

Although much smaller than in other nations over which they reign, there is a republican movement here in Britain, hoping one day to see the end of our monarchy. However, some of what they say is nothing but myths. Below are some of the most common ones about the Royal Family.

1. The monarchy is expensive

Whilst the monarchy is not a cheap institution, compared to the presidencies of comparable republics, and the amount of revenue brought to the country by the British royal family, they are one of the cheapest heads of state in the world.

The British Monarchy cost the taxpayer 36.1 million pounds. In comparison, the French Presidency costs £154 million per year, and the American Presidency costs £917.3 million per year.

When this cost is broken down, the monarchy only costs each taxpayer between 58p and 1 pound 26 per year.

2. The Queen doesn't pay taxes

This is another very common myth, that when examined, is false.

Prior to it being legally required (1992), Her Majesty volunteered to pay income tax and capital gains tax. Since 1993 her personal income has been taxable as it has been for any other taxpayer. Her Majesty has always been required to pay Value Added Tax and pays local rates voluntarily.

3. Monarchy is undemocratic

Many believe that because people outside the Royal Family can not be Head of State, then the Monarchy must be undemocratic. This is incorrect, in fact, constitutional monarchies can work to support democracy.

In the Democracy Index 2015, 7 of the top 10 most democratic nations on earth, were constitutional monarchies.

4. The Monarchy is unpopular

The monarchy is believed/contended by many republicans to be unpopular. However, the monarchy is dramatically more popular than a republic.

In 2015 YouGov found that 68 percent of people believed that the monarchy was good for Britain, compared to just 9 percent who believed it wasn't.

5. Support for a republican is growing

Closely linked to the previous point, is the argument that support for a republic is growing. However, this is also incorrect.

In 2015, YouGov found that more people supported the monarchy (68%) than they did in 2012 (67%), while in contrast, the republican movement has experienced no growth.

It is clear that many arguments presented by republicans are not entirely true, and many are myths. The myths above are just five of the many that are out there. The monarchy remains very popular, experiencing a steady increase in support, making clear that as far as the British people are concerned - the monarchy is here to stay!

TalkPolitics is proud to be supported by Audible. For 50% off your new membership, click here.