01/26/2012

Even the Queen can get rejected by the best and brightest

Obe-headshots
Here are some of the people who have rejected honours that are bestowed by Queen Elizabeth. Top row, from left: actor Robert Morley, author Roald Dahl, artist Lucian Freud, author C.S. Lewis. Bottom, from left: sculptor Henry Moore, filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, author Aldous Huxley, actor Trevor Howard.

Alfred Hitchcock, C.S. Lewis, Henry Moore, Aldous Huxley ... all these gentlemen were artistically gifted in different ways, but they do share a membership in a special club -- people who said 'No' to the Queen.

After a 15-month battle via the Freedom of Information Act, the British government has opened up this week, at least partially, a list of people who have turned down honours bestowed by the Queen.

The list covers 48 years -- 1951-99 -- and contains the names of 277 people who declined various titles that the Queen gives out annually on New Year and Birthday lists for distinguished service. Only deceased persons were included on the list.

What we don't know is why they turned up their nose at a knighthood or CBE or MBE. It does make for interesting rading through. The arts community is well represented, from authors Graham Greene and Roald Dahl to playwright JB Priestly to artist Lucian Freud British screen stars Trevor Howard and Robert Morley also took a pass.

Before the FOI judgment, a list was leaked in 2003, but generally it was only through rumour or public declaration by a nominee that information came to light about who turned their back on the highest of empire honours.

Among those who have turned down knighthoods are David Bowie, Keith Richards, John Cleese, Stephen Hawking and George Bernard Shaw. Others, like John Lennon, received an MBE, but returned it in protest of government policy. Here's the list of refusals among the now-deceased:

Queen church

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at St Paul's Cathedral in central London to attend a service for the Order of the British Empire in May 2004. The event, at which around 2,500 holders of KBE, CBE,MBE or OBE medals are present, is held every four years, with the Queen only attending every eight years. (AFP/Getty Images)

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In fact, these are the very sorts of folks who are likely to reject the queen, maybe on grounds of not liking royalty, or maybe because they underestimate the Queen as a thinking person, or maybe they are shy, or maybe it is just not academic enough for them. But, why am I speculating on their behalf? It does not really matter whether they accept or not.

Its interesting that there is a Middleton (same last name as Prince Williams new wife) on the list and not too long ago (1979) compared to others.

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