Order of the British Empire

The Order was created in 1917 by King George V as a reward for civilian support to the war effort. The massive involvement of civilian workers, and non-combatant service personnel, including many women, made this the first honour which was meant to be bestowed on 'ordinary people'. For the first time, the King decided, women and citizens of other countries should be honoured.

Following the end of the First World War in 1918, the Order was split into Military and Civil divisions, and includes a number of ranks.

  • Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE)
  • Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE)
  • Commander (CBE)
  • Officer (OBE)
  • Member (MBE)
The Order is one of "...chivalry of the British democracy. Valuable service is the only criterion for the award, and the Order is now used to reward service in a wide range of useful activities..." including service to art, science, public service and work for charity or the comunity as a whole. Recipients are not limited to famous faces - anyone from street sweepers to teachers to celebrities may be nominated, and there are some 100,000 living members of the Order.

Nominations can be made by anyone, and as the Monarch confers the honours on the recommendation of Government, should be sent to the Prime Minister's Office. The list is put to the Queen, and the honours announced and awarded twice a year - the New Year's Honours List and the Monarch's Birthday Honours List. Occasional honours are awarded on a change of government.

Investiture is carried out by the Monarch, usually at Buckingham Palace, and acceptance into the Order is seen as a great honour, and they are entitled to an invitation to a special service held in St. Paul's Cathedral in a chapel especially built in the crypt and dedicated to this use in 1969. The service is held every four years, and is attended by up to 2000 members.

Formally known as the The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, even the Queen refers to it by its shorter, less formal name.

http://www.royal.gov.uk/faq/honour.htm
Encyclopædia Britannica

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