New Year Honours: What are they, how do you get one - and how do you get 'promoted'

Everything you need to know about OBEs, CBEs, knighthoods and damehoods

Kate Ng
Thursday 31 December 2015 17:05
A knighthood medal is the biggest honour for some
A knighthood medal is the biggest honour for some

What are the Queen’s Honours?

According to the official website of the British Monarchy, honours are “granted to deserving and high-achieving people” of any background and community.

Anyone who has made “achievements in public life” and are committed to serving Britain can be nominated for an honours.

Whether or not someone gets an honours, and what kind of honours they receive, is decided by a committee. Their decisions then go to the Prime Minister, and then to the Queen, who awards the honour.

What types of honours are there?

The major Queen’s Honours include a knighthood or damehood (KBE or DBE), Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

More information on all other honours, including The George Medal, The Queen’s Gallantry Medal, and the Royal Victorian Order (RVO), can be found here.

How do you get one?

A knighthood or damehood is usually granted to someone who has made a “major contribution to the country at a national or international level”, according to Awards Intelligence Service. It also requires a commitment over a long period of time.

Such a person’s work and achievements should also be seen as an “inspiration” to others, and have significant influence on “their peers, industry or nation”.

For example, Dr Michael Jacobs, who leads the specialist infectious diseases team at the Royal Free Hospital and helped treat three Britons who were infected by Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, received a knighthood for his service this year.

OBEs, MBEs and CBEs are more focused on local achievements, whether in business, community or charity.

CBEs are the most prestigious of the three, and are awarded for prominent or leading roles at a national or regional level. also says you can be awarded one for a “distinguished, innovative contribution to any area”.

I've already got an MBE - how do I get promoted?

The longer you spend committed to the work you do and achieving greater recognition, the higher your chances of being granted a more prestigious award will be.

However, you cannot nominate yourself for any of the Queen's Honours - someone else must nominate you and your work, or you can nominate someone else.

To nominate someone, you must fill in the official nomination document informing the Honours and Appointments Secretariat at the Cabinet Office about your nominee’s outstanding work and achievements.

New Year's Honours List 2016

The nomination needs to be accompanied by at least two supporting letters by people who have worked directly with the nominee.

Some awards cannot be applied every year, and have a waiting period of two years before a re-nomination can be made.

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