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The Churchill Society

The genius . . . springs from every class
and from every part of the land.
You cannot tell where you will not find a wonder.
The hero, the fighter, the poet,
the master of science, the organiser,
the engineer, the administrator, or the jurist - he may spring into fame.
Equal opportunity for free institution and equal laws.

Winston Churchill


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Text in green is for the benefit of overseas readers who may not understand aspects of the article.


A brief outline of the titles, honours and distinctions which may be awarded to citizens.

This article does not include military awards or the hereditary peerage.

It is not a comprehensive guide.

The Royal family and the British Honours system are the root causes of the English class system.

Both concepts evolved from the mists of our ancient history and should therefore not be discarded or amended without a very great deal of thought.

Many people consider both to be stabilising features of our national life. Many other people consider them hopelessly outdated and very divisive. Many other people never give the subject any consideration.

The Churchill Society believe reform should be considered.

Choosing Recipients

British honours are thought by the public to be awarded on merit, and on the basis of exceptional achievement or service. Alas this is not always the case. *(See the LINK re this statement at the bottom of this page).

The Queen chooses the recipients of honours on the advice of the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers, to whom recommendations are made by their departments or members of the public.

Private nominations - those made by individuals or by representatives of organisations to the Prime Minister's Office - account for about a quarter of all recommendations.

Honorary awards to foreigners are recommended by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Certain of the orders of chivalry are conferred on the sole personal decision of the Sovereign ie, the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Order of Merit and the Royal Victorian Order.

In 1993 Prime Minister John Major ended the automatic practice of conferring awards on the holders of certain posts, opening the honours system to more individuals, particularly those in the voluntary sector, who qualify on merit. *(See the LINK re this statement at the bottom of this page).


Most honours are awarded on the Queen's in early June, and at the New Year.

Following the publication of the Honours List, investitures are held at which recipients of honours (other than life peers) receive, usually from the Queen, the insignia of the honour (robes, badges, ribbons, etc). Knights receive the accolade (see below).

Knights and Dames may adopt the prefix 'Sir' or 'Dame' from the date of the official announcement of the honour.

Life Peers

Life peerage are the only form of peerage regularly created by the Sovereign these days. All life peers hold the rank of baron, and sit in the House of Lords on conferment of the peerage. These titles exist only during their own lifetime and are not passed to their heirs. As of July 1995 there were 398 life peers, including 65 women.


Like knights, baronets are styled 'Sir', and their wives 'Lady', but, unlike a knighthood, this is a heritable honour. The suffix 'Baronet', usually abbreviated to 'Bt', is also added to the name. One of the very few recent creations is Sir Denis Thatcher, Bt, husband of Baroness Thatcher.


The honour of knighthood derives from the usages of mediaeval chivalry, as does the method normally used to confer the knighthood: the accolade, or the touch of a sword by the Sovereign.

Although Knights Bachelor do not comprise an order of chivalry, knighthood is a dignity which has its origin in Britain in Saxon times.

Knighted members of the orders of chivalry (outlined below) place initials after their names denoting the class of the order received. (Note that not all recipients of orders are necessarily Knights or Dames but only those denoted as such, usually the first or second classes of orders.)

All knighted men, including Knights Bachelor, are styled 'Sir' (except clergymen, who do not receive the accolade) and their wives 'Lady'. Women receiving the honour are styled 'Dame' but do not receive the accolade.

Orders of Chivalry

The principal orders are listed as follows in order of precedence, noting initials to be placed after the name.


Breast Badge

The Most Noble Order of the Garter (1348). The Queen is Sovereign of the Order. Five members of the royal family are Ladies of the Order or Royal Knights, and there are 24 Knights and Lady Companions including 3 ex-Prime Ministers. Six foreign monarchs are at present Extra Knights Companions and Ladies. Initials KG or LG.


Breast Badge

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (revived 1687). The Queen is Sovereign of the Order and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Lady of the Thistle. There are two Royal Knights and 16 Knights. Initial KT.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (1725) is awarded in recognition of conspicuous services to the Crown and has two divisions,




Order of the British Empire   OBE



military and civil. The Order takes its name from the symbolic bathing which in former times often formed part of the preparation of a candidate for knighthood. Ranks in the order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCB), Knight or Dame Commander (KCB or DCB) and Companion (CB).

The Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit (1902) is awarded in recognition of eminent services rendered in the armed forces, or towards the advancement of art, literature and science. Except for honorary members from overseas, the Order is limited to 24 persons. Initials OM.

Order of St Michael and St George


The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (1818) honours service overseas or in connection with foreign or Commonwealth affairs. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight or Dame Commander (KCMG or DCMG) and Companion (CMG).


Insignia of the


The Royal Victorian Order (1896) is awarded in recognition of services to the royal family. Ranks are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCVO), Knight or Dame Commander (KCVO or DCVO), Commander (CVO), Lieutenant (LVO) and Member (MVO). The Royal Victorian Chain (1902) has a current membership of 15, in addition to the Queen and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1917) is awarded mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service or other distinctions and has a military and a civil division. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).

Companion of Honour

The Order of the Companions of Honour (1917) is awarded for service of conspicuous national importance. The Order is limited to 65 people. Initials CH.


Medal of the Order of St John

The Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem (1888) is usually known as the Order of St John and recognises services rendered to the charitable works of the Order. In addition to being an order of chivalry it is the parent body of a charitable organisation. It is not a State Order and membership does not confer rank or title.

Awards to Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals and citizens of Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is not head of state may be admitted to honorary membership of British orders but do not style themselves 'Sir' because they do not receive the accolade. They may, however, place the appropriate letters after their name.

Forms of address

For further information on the protocol of addressing holders of honours and titles and their spouses, see Whitaker's Almanac.

Service Medals

To obtain information about service medals you should contact the relevant service at the address below:

Army Medals

Army Medal Office Ministry of Defence
Government Buildings

Tel.: 0011 44 905 772323

Navy Medals

Navy medal Office
HMS Centurian
Grange Road
PO13 9XA

RAF Medals

RAF Personnel Management Centre
RAF Innsworth


Lordships of Manors

Misleading advertisements for lordships of manors sometimes appear in the press. A manorial lordship is not an aristocratic title, but a semi-extinct form of landed property. Lordship in this sense is a synonym for ownership.

According to John Martin Robinson, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary and co-author of The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, "Lordship of this or that manor is no more a title than Landlord of the Dog and Duck".(A tavern) It cannot be stated on a passport, and does not entitle the owner to a coat of arms.

The sale of British titles of honour is proscribed by the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act, 1925.


* British honours are thought by the public to be awarded on merit, and on the basis of exceptional achievement or service.The following very interesting link says Alas this is not always the case!






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