As the joke goes, royal honours are so common these days they may as well be handed out in Christmas crackers. Each year a new batch of businessmen, musicians, actors, athletes and the like are bestowed with titles supposedly befitting their achievements. Most recently, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, former rugby pro Johnny Wilkinson and Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond are to receive CBEs, footballer Frank Lampard an OBE, and comedian Lenny Henry shall be hitherto known as ‘Sir’ (presumably in recognition of his role in starting Comic Relief, rather than his work publicising Premier Inns).
There also happens to be a sizable list of people who have turned down royal recognitions over the years, too. They are of course not so well publicised. Modern protocol stipulates potential awardees are contacted by government officials well in advance in order to gauge levels of interest, or maybe just to avoid any public embarrassment. All of which makes perfect sense, because imagine the ignominy should, say, Joey Essex publicly denounce the honours system as “an archaic throwback to Britain’s piratical heritage” after an attempted honouring in 2020. Would be pretty embarrassing for all involved.
But let’s drag ourselves away from the realms of fantasy for long enough to instead focus on some of those who’ve, over the years, turned down that opportunity of namely decorations and a meeting with the queen.