Colin Firth awarded CBE


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The Independent Online

Hollywood royalty Colin Firth was today awarded a CBE by the Prince of Wales - whose grandfather the actor brought to life on the screen.

King George VI's battle to overcome a stutter was famously portrayed by Firth, who won a string of awards for his moving performance.

Playing the monarch in The King's Speech earned Firth a Bafta, Gold Globe and most notably the Best Actor Oscar, and garnered huge critical acclaim for the film.

The 51-year-old chatted briefly to the prince after the presentation was made in Buckingham Palace's ballroom where the investiture ceremony was held.

But he declined to talk to waiting media before returning to his seat to watch other recipients receive their honours.

It was the sight of Firth emerging from a lake in a dripping wet shirt and britches during the BBC's Pride and Prejudice series that made him an instant heart-throb.

His role as the brooding hero Mr Darcy in 1995 caught the eye of a legion of female fans and film directors.

It was the part that defined him for many years although he tried to distance himself from it, saying it was "just another role".

Firth's parents were academics and as a child he spent time in Africa and America before the family settled in Winchester, Hampshire.

He is also a prominent political campaigner, though he publicly withdrew his support for the Liberal Democrats after the row over tuition fees.

The celebrity has been an demand as an actor since leaving the Drama Centre London where he learned his craft.

He was picked for a succession of television and theatre parts before his portrayal of Robert Lawrence in the TV production Tumbledown earned him a Royal Television Society Best Actor award.

After his groundbreaking role as Mr Darcy in the costume drama other parts followed in quick succession from a typical gentleman in The English Patient to a football-obsessed teacher in the film version of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and an aristocrat in Shakespeare in Love.

Six years after first playing Mr Darcy he took on a character with the same name in the film Bridget Jones's Diary opposite Renee Zellweger.

He revealed another side to his personality when he showed of his vocal cords as banker Harry Bright in the Abba-themed movie musical Mamma Mia! and earned his first Bafta for his portrayal of a suicidal English college professor living in Los Angeles in A Single Man.

But his role as George VI, who battles a speech impediment with the help of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush, captured the imagination of the movie-going public.

The father-of-three has already been recognised for his work on behalf of his wife's native Italy.

Firth, who married producer Livia Giuggioli in 1997, was made a Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity in 2005.

The actor also has a son from an earlier relationship with actress Meg Tilly.

During the ceremony Sir David Higgins - the man credited with ensuring the London 2012 Olympic venues were built on time and on budget - was knighted by the prince.

Sir David, a quiet, modest Australian, oversaw the enormous construction project during his time as chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and left his post in February last year.

During 2011 a host of venues were completed from the velodrome to the main stadium and aquatic centre.

Speaking about the knighthood Sir David said: "It's a fantastic honour, I'm very privileged and I was delighted to see other members of the Olympic Delivery Authority receive honours as well.

"Everything I did was part of a large team and the most encouraging thing is to see what it does for the communities around the Games. I was really focused on regeneration and restoring communities and returning communities to prosperity."

Sir David was previously chief executive of Lend Lease, the construction firm responsible for the Sydney Olympics and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, and left the ODA to become the chief executive of Network Rail.

Solicitor Mark Stephens, a media specialist partner with law firm Finers Stephens Innocent and a familiar face in television studios as a legal expert was made a CBE.

The lawyer has been described by the Law Society Gazette as, "the patron solicitor of previously lost causes".

In his role as a broadcaster Mr Stephens comments on a wide range of issues from super injunctions to defamation tourism.

In the past he has been involved in a number of high profile cases including the extradition battle of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

His CBE also recognised his role within the arts as he is chairman of the Contemporary Arts Society which develops public collections of contemporary art in the UK.

Mr Stephens said: "We like to think we can spot the geniuses of the future. We put modern, cutting edge work in regional collections across the country."

He added that much of his legal work dealt with human rights issues and that he had been successful in getting his cases heard at the European Court of Human Rights on important points of principle.

The lawyer said the prince enquired if he was involved in the Leveson Inquiry, which the solicitor is not.

Mr Stephens said: "He asked me about the Leveson inquiry and I told him I had won 11 phone hacking cases last week. (I've) kept my clients' profiles pretty low I've felt they've been intruded upon enough."