Royal honours for McCartney, McGregor

2012-12-30 14:00
London - Stella McCartney, who designed the uniforms worn by Britain's record-smashing Olympic team, and Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, who gave his name to the so-called "God particle", are among the hundreds being honoured by Queen Elizabeth II this New Year.

The list is particularly heavy with Britain's Olympic heroes, but it also includes Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor, eccentric English singer Kate Bush, Roald Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake, and Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the royal aide who helped organise the watched-around-the-world wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

McCartney was honoured with the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, in part for her work creating the skintight, red-white-and-blue uniforms worn by British athletes as they grabbed 65 medals during the 2012 games hosted by London.

McCartney is the designer daughter of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his first wife Linda, and she has moved to make the family name almost as synonymous with fashion as it is with music, setting up a successful business and a critically-acclaimed label.

Higgs' achievements, which made him a Companion of Honour, touch on the nature and the origins of the universe. The 83-year-old researcher's work in theoretical physics sought to explain what gives things weight.

He said it was while walking through the Scottish mountains that he hit upon the concept of what would later become known as the Higgs boson, an elusive subatomic particle that gives objects mass and combines with gravity to give them weight.

Medalists on the list

For decades, the existence of such a particle remained just a theory, but earlier this year scientists working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said they'd found compelling evidence that the Higgs boson was out there. Or in there. Or whatever.

All of Britain's gold medalists from this year's games were on the list, with cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie honoured with knighthoods. Sebastian Coe, who masterminded the games as chairperson of the London organising committee, was made a Companion of Honour - a prestigious title also awarded to Higgs.

Honours lists typically include a sprinkling of star power, and this year was no different. Ewan McGregor, who came to public attention through his role as the heroin-addled anti-hero of British drug drama Trainspotting, was awarded an OBE. The 41-year-old actor is also known for his turn as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels.

"Babooshka" singer Kate Bush said she was delighted to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, for a musical career which has resulted in a string of quirky hits including "Wuthering Heights", "Cloudbusting", and "Man With The Child In His Eyes".

Other art world honourees included artist Tracey Emin and Quentin Blake, whose spiky, exuberant illustrations are best known through the work of his collaborator Roald Dahl.

Politicians, policemen, and spies got honours too. Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe was awarded a knighthood; former British foreign minister Margaret Beckett was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Wedding of the decade

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie was made a CBE for her charity work. MI5 chief Jonathan Evans was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath.

Also honoured was the man credited with helping pull off the wedding of the decade: Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, principal private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (as Prince William and his wife are formally known) was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.

Britain's honours are bestowed twice a year by the monarch, at New Year's and on her official birthday in June. Although the queen does pick out some lesser honours herself, the vast majority of recipients are selected by government committees from nominations made by officials and members of the public.

In descending order, the honours are knighthoods, CBE, OBE, and MBE -Member of the Order of the British Empire. Knights are addressed as "sir" or "dame".

Recipients of the other honours, such as the Order of the Companions of Honour given to Higgs and Coe or the Royal Victorian Order personally picked out by the queen, receive no title but can put the letters after their names.

The New Year's honours carried the usual batch of courtiers - even the royal household's switchboard operator got a medal - as well as senior civil servants, soldiers, charity executives, successful entrepreneurs, established academics, volunteers, and community workers.

Some of the more eclectic honors included the OBE handed to card game columnist Andrew Michael Robson "for services to the game of Bridge", and OBE given to river conservationist Andrew Douglas-Home "for services to Fishing".


  • ron.wale.3 - 2012-12-30 14:13

    I don't see my name!

  • vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-12-30 14:43

    That is a travesty of the highest order. Paul McCartney was awarded an MBE as a Beatle. Now his daughter is awarded an OBE. That gives her a higher ranking than her father! Fashion designer over the greatest musician/composer ever? I demand that the queen immediately rectify the error by declaring Sir Paul a honourary prince or better. She has until midnight on the 31st of December to comply with my demand or I will stop speaking english in protest.

      stirer.kathray - 2012-12-30 18:56

      You begin to wonder about the level of the awards when you read that even the royal switchboard operator got a medal. I notice that no South Africans are mentioned. We are a member of the Commonwealth of Nations - I might have expected that Sir Jacques Kallis would be recognised for his services to the game of cricket? His stats show that he is the greatest allrounder of not only the modern game, but in the history of cricket. (Gnash your teeth, Sir Garfield Sobers!)

      gordon.turner.37 - 2012-12-30 22:08

      Stirrer you obviously missed the fact that south africa became a republic in 1960 and the queen is no longer our head of state.

  • wreford.white.9 - 2012-12-30 17:04

    @vernon: if you were born and raised in SA you probably don't speak English anyway. But I sympathise with your sentiments!

      beth.cameron.94 - 2012-12-30 19:02

      What a gross and incorrect assumption! Numerous South Africans who have been born and bred in this country have English as their home language, including myself. Where you have gleaned your information from is a mystery, but please be made aware that your assumption is very incorrect.

  • gordon.stanton.7 - 2012-12-31 08:38

    may the force be with you

  • gordon.stanton.7 - 2012-12-31 08:39

    may the force be with you

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