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Reflections of a working writer and reader



No thanks, your honour . . .

In the interest of lists, I found this one and couldn’t resist posting it:

  • Peter Alliss, golfer and commentator (declined OBE in 2002)
  • Frank Auerbach, artist (declined a knighthood in 2003)
  • Charles Babbage, scientist. (declined an unknown honour)
  • Francis Bacon, artist (declined CBE, in 1960 and CH in 1977)
  • J.G.Ballard, author (declined CBE in 2003)
  • Nancy Banks-Smith, television critic (declined CBE in 1970)
  • Leonard Barden, British Chess Champion in 1954 (declined an MBE)
  • Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty international (declined knighthood)
  • Alan Bennett, playwright (declined knighthood in 1996 and CBE in 1988)
  • Isaiah Berlin[sir] OM, philosopher (declined life peerage in 1980)
  • Honor Blackman, actress (declined CBE in 2002)
  • David Bowie, musician (declined CBE in 2000; declined knighthood in 2003)
  • Francis Boyd[sir], journalist (declined CBE in 1967; accepted knighthood in 1976)
  • Ken Branagh, actor and director (declined CBE in 1990s)
  • Benjamin Britten, composer (declined knighthood; accepted CH, OM and life peerage)
  • Jim Broadbent, actor (declined OBE in 2002)
  • Margaret Callaghan [lady] campaigner and fundraiser (declined DBE)
  • Winston S Chrchill, KG, OM, CH, statesman (declined dukedom in order to remain in House of Commons and to allow his son a political career)
  • John Cole, journalist (declined CBE in 1993)
  • Joseph Conrad, author (declined knighthood)
  • Joseph Corre, businessman (declined MBE in 2007)
  • John Cleese, actor and comedian (declined CBE in 1996)
  • Hugh Cudlipp, OBE, newspaper editor, (declined knighthood in 1966. Accepted Knighthood 1973 and a life peerage in 1974)
  • Hugh Bruce Cunningham, minister (declined knighthood in 1700s)
  • Roald Dahl, author (declined OBE in 1986)
  • Bernie Ecclesstone, owner of Formula One (declined CBE in 1996)
  • Michael Faraday, chemist and physicist (declined knighthood)
  • Albert Finney, actor (declined CBE in 1980 and knighthood in 2000)
  • Michael Frayn, dramatist (declined CBE in 1989 and knighthood in 2003)
  • Dawn French, comediene and writer.
  • Jennifer Saunders, comediene and writer.
  • Lucian Freud, artist (declined CBE in 1977; accepted CH in 1983 and OM in 1993)
  • John Galsworthy, novelist (declined knighthood, accepted OM)
  • Robert Graves, poet and novelist (declined CBE in 1957 and CH in 1984)
  • Graham Green, author (declined OBE in 1956; accepted CH in 1966 and OM in 1986)
  • Douglas Haig, general (declined viscountcy, later accepted earldom)
  • Thomas Hardy, novelist/poet (declined knighthood; accepted OM)
  • Lenny Henry, comedian (declined OBE; accepted CBE)
  • Wally Herbert [Sir] polar explorer (declined CBE, accepted knighthood)
  • Alfred Hithcock, director (declined CBE in 1962; accepted KBE in1980)
  • David Hockney, artist (declined knighthood in 1990; accepted CH in 1997)
  • Charles Holden, architect (declined unknown honour)
  • A.E.Houseman, poet (declined unknown honour)
  • Trevor Howard, actor (declined knighthood)
  • Aldous Huxley, author (declined knighthood in 1959)
  • Augustos John, artist (declined knighthood on a number of occasions, probably at the urging of his wife; accepted OM)
  • Anish Kapoor, artist (declined unknown honour)
  • Rudyard Kipling, author and poet (declined knighthood)
  • Richard Lambert, editor of the Financial Times (declined unknown honour)
  • Philip Larkin, poet (declined OBE 1968 on grounds that he deserved a higher honour; accepted CBE 1975 and CH 1985; declined Laureateship 1984)
  • T.E.Lawrence, CB, DSO, World War I soldier, diplomat, and author, best known as Lawrence of Arabia (declined KCB)
  • Nigella Lawson, cookery writer (declined OBE)
  • John Le Carrie, author (declined CBE)
  • Dorris Lessing, author (declined OBE in 1977 and DBE in 1993; accepted CH in 2000)
  • C.S.Lewis, author, Oxford professor (declined knighthood to avoid association with any political issues)
  • Ken Loach, film director (declined OBE)
  • L.S.Lowry, artist (declined OBE in 1955, CBE in 1961, knighthood in 1968, and CH in 1972 and 1976)
  • Geraldine McEwan, actress (declined OBE in 1986 and damehood in 2002)
  • Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum (declined knighthood in 1999)
  • Barry McGuigan, boxer (declined MBE in 1986; accepted MBE in 1994)
  • Alexander MacKenzie, second Prime Minister of Canada (declined knighthood as he thought it an affront to his Scottish heritage)
  • Dan McKenzie, earth scientist (declined knighthood; accepted CH in 2003)
  • Hank Marvin, guitarist. (declined OBE)
  • A.E.W.Mason, novelist (Declined unknown honour)
  • George Melly, musician, artist and raconteur (declined CBE in 2001)
  • Helen Mirren [Dame] actress (declined CBE in 1996; accepted DBE in 2003)
  • William Martin Murphy, industrialist, MP (declined knighthood in 1906)
  • V.S.Naipaul [sir] author (declined CBE in 1977; accepted knighthood in 1990)
  • Harold Pinter, playwright (declined knighthood; accepted CH)
  • Anthony Powell, writer (declined knighthood; accepted CH)
  • Vanessa Redgrave, CBE, actress and political activist. (declined DBE in 1999)
  • J.B.Priestly, OM, playwright (Declined unknown honour)
  • Richard Redgrave, artist (declined knighthood in 1869)
  • Keith Richards, guitarist (declined CBE)
  • John Singer Sargent, US painter (declined an honorary knighthood)
  • Paul Scofield, CH, CBE, actor (declined knighthood on several occasions)
  • Alastair Sim, CBE, actor (declined a knighthood)
  • Robert Simpson, composer (declined CBE)
  • Savenaca Siwatibau, academic (declined CBE)
  • Joan Smith, journalist (declined MBE)
  • Jon Snow, newscaster (declined OBE)
  • Claire Tomalin, journalist and biographer (Declined unknown honour)
  • Polly Toynbee, columnist (declined CBE in 2000)
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer (declined knighthood; accepted OM)
  • Evelyn Waugh, novelist (declined CBE in 1959)
  • Paul Weller, musician (declined CBE in 2007)
  • Rachel Whiteread, artist (declined MBE in 1997; accepted CBE in 2006)
  • Grace Williams, composer (declined OBE)
  • Mike Winner, director (declined OBE in 2006)
  • Pearl Witherington, SOE agent (declined MBE)
  • Bill Woodfull, cricketer (declined knighthood in 1934 for services to cricket; accepted OBE in 1963 for services to education)
  • W.B.Yates, Anglo-Irish poet (declined knighthood in 1915, seven years before becoming a Senator of the newly-formed Irish Free State)
  • Benjamin Zephaniah, poet (declined OBE)
  • Craig Murray, former United Kingdom Ambassador to Uzbekistan (declined LVO, OBE and CVO)

Some people changed their minds after accepting a gong:

Yasmin Alibhai-Brownjournalist (returned MBE in 2003)
Roy Bailey, folk singer (returned his MBE in August 2006 in protest at the UK government’s foreign policy in Lebanon and Palestine)
John Lennon, musician (returned MBE in 1969)
Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, cricketer (knighted in 1936; returned knighthood in 1947 on India’s independence)
Rabindranath Tagore, author and poet (knighted in 1915; returned knighthood in 1919 to protest the Amritsar massacre
Susie Wighton, aid worker (returned MBE in 2006 in protest at the UK government’s foreign policy in the Middle East)

One Response to “No thanks, your honour . . .”

  1. Rachel Fox says:

    Amazing list! Hadn’t heard about lots of those.

    jb says: Quite. They try to keep it dark.