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One of the Queen’s personal ceremonial functions is the awarding of various titles and orders (‘honours’). The names of people to be honoured are announced twice a year, on New Year’s Day and on June 6-th (the Sovereign’s official birthday). The honours granted on these occasions include: 1.peerages, 2.knighthoods, 3.other orders and distinctions.

Most honours are conferred by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, who is in turn advised by various officials. But a few honours, including the Order of the Garter, are in the Queen’s personal gift.

The names of persons who appear on the ‘Honours List’ are those of men and women who have distinguished themselves in their careers, e.g. in politics, industry, science, literature, art, sport, etc. They include, e.g., civil servants, MPs, officers of the armed forces, big businessmen, distinguished scientists, leading doctors, lawyers, actors and even trade union officials.

1.Peerages may be hereditary of for life only (but no hereditary peerage has been conferred since 1965). When a man is made a peer, he may use his family name (e.g. Mr. Attlee became Earl Attlee) or he may decide on a new name for his title (e.g. Sir Anthony Eden became Earl of Avon). In ordinary usage any peer below the rank of duke is generally referred to as ‘Lord’, e.g. Lord Attlee, Lord Avon.

2.Knighthoods are not hereditary. When a man is given a knighthood, he is called ‘Sir’(+ Christian name and surname). ‘Sir’ can be used with the Christian name alone, but never with the surname alone. A knight’s wife is called ‘Lady’(+surname) instead of ‘Mrs’; with the wife the Christian name is not used: If Mr. John Smith becomes a knight, he is called Sir John Smith or Sir John (but never ‘Sir Smith’!). His wife is called Lady Smith.

There are two types of knighthood: 1.Knights Bachelor (they have no letters after their names) and 2.Knights of an Order Chivalry, e.g. the Order of the Bath (they may write the initial letters of the order after their names, e.g. Sir Charles Brown, G.C.B., Sir George Green, K.C.B.). The letters G.C.B. stand for (Knight) Grand Cross (of the Order) of the Bath, K.C.B. stands for Knight Commander (of the Order) of the Bath.

The highest of the orders is Knight (of the Order) of the Garter (K.G.). Almost all the men who hold it are already peers or princes. Sir Winston Churchill was an exception. A comparable Scottish order is Knight (of the Order) of the Thistle (K.T.).

A female equivalent to knighthood is the title of Dame. The order which first instituted this title was the Order of the British Empire, founded in 1917.

At a ceremony known as the investiture the Queen invests each new Knight of an Order, i.e. places over his shoulder a ribbon bearing the insignia of the order to which he belongs.

Baronetcies are hereditary, with the title ‘Sir’ inherited by the eldest son. To distinguish a baronet from a knight in writing, the abbreviation ‘Bart’ or ‘Bt’ is used after the name of a baronet, e.g. Sir Henry White, Bart. Both knights and baronets remain commoners and have no special privileges from their titles.

3.Other orders and distinctions are indicated by only adding the initial letters of the orders after a person’s name. The lower grades (classes) of most Orders of Chivalry are without knighthood, e.g. the third grade of the Order of the Bath (C.B.). Its recipient is not a ‘Sir’, but is entitled to C.B. after his name, e.g. Mr. J.B.Black, C.B.

It is similar with other orders: The first two classes of an order are usually with knighthood, i.e. Knight Grand Cross and Knight Commander (of + the name of the order), but then there are one or more classes of the order without knighthood, e.g. the Order of the British Empire has three classes without knighthood: C.B.E. (Commander of the B.E.), O.B.E. (Officer of the B.E.) and M.B.E. (Member of the B.E.), besides the two classes with knighthood (G.B.E. and K.B.E.).

The recipients of titles and other awards generally go to Buckingham Palace to receive them at the hands of the Queen.




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