June 10, 2022

Salman Rushdie, Ian Rankin and Joanne Harris amongst those recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list


Each year, around her official birthday, Queen Elizabeth II awards “Honours” to  deserving people from all walks of life, recognising people who have made achievements in public life and/or committed themselves to “serving and helping Britain.”

The recipients are bestowed with a title, the most well-known probably being MBEs, OBEs, and CBEs, and they receive their award or medal from The Queen or another Member of the Royal Family at a special ceremony.

Revealed last week before the Jubilee celebrations, this year’s the honours list recognised several names from the world of literature, including Salman Rushdie, Joanne Harris, James Daunt, and Ian Rankin. On receiving his Knighthood, Rankin said, as reported by The Bookseller:

“It may not make writing my next book any easier but it is gratifying to be recognised both for my crime novels and the work I do for charity. I’m not sure what Detective Inspector John Rebus would make of it – he’d almost certainly tell me not to get too big-headed. I’ll do my best, while pouring a glass of something refreshing.”

The United Kingdom’s Honours system goes all the way back to the the Norman Conquest in 1066, with the Normans introducing knighthoods as part of their feudal government. King Edward III created the first honour, the Order of Chivalry, which was bestowed upon high-ranking military figures members only, or the aristocracy. This did not change until the early but nineteenth century. In 1917,  amidst the carnage of WW1, King George V invented a new Order of Chivalry called the Order of the British Empire to reward both men and women who had made an outstanding contribution to the war effort. Today, honours are not  limited to the military or the famous: they can be awarded to anyone making an impact in their field whether that be in community, voluntary and local services, the arts, science, or education to name but a few.

Who receives which honour is decided by an honours committee, although the public can also nominate anyone they deem worthy.  The committee’s recommendations go to the Prime Minister and then to the Queen.

It was announced last week that those being made Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), the second highest ranking Order of the British Empire award included author and chair of the Society of Authors Joanne Harris; Chair of the Royal Society of Literature, Professor Daljit Nagra; author and illustrator Michael Foreman; poet Gwyneth Lewis poet; Chair of The Reading Agency, Matthew Littleford; and Caroline Norbury, chief executive of Creative UK who said on her recognition:

“I am incredibly grateful to receive this honour, which recognises the efforts of so many of my colleagues to continually champion the UK’s world-leading Creative Industries. The past few years have been difficult for creative and cultural organisations, but I am optimistic that investing in the UK’s talent and creative ingenuity will build a fairer, more prosperous future for us all.”
Receiving the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), the highest ranking Order of the British Empire, was James Daunt, the founder of Daunt Books, Managing Director of Waterstones and CEO and Barnes & Novel, for services to Publishing.

This year, The Order of the Companions of Honour was awarded to Quentin Blake, for services to Illustration; Salman Rushdie, for services to Literature; and Marina Warner, for service to the Humanities. Introduced by King George V in 1917, today it is an honour given to people in the Commonwealth realms who have made a significant contribution to the arts, science, medicine or the government over a long period of time. It is limited to just 65 people at any one time and has in the past been awarded to David Attenborough, Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling. On his award this year, Rushdie said:

“It was with great surprise and delight that I learned of this extraordinary honour. It’s a privilege to be included in such illustrious company, both past and present.”

The full list of those honoured can be viewed here.


Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.