New Year’s honours list 2023: what are the different types of honours? OBE, MBE, BEM and more explained

The New Year’s Honours list marks the achievements and services from people across the UK

With the end of 2022 on the horizon, soon the New Year’s Honours list for 2023 will be announced, marking the achievements and service of people from across the UK.

Ahead of the list being revealed, it’s important to know what it is that individuals are being awarded for, with many people not knowing the differences between each of the awards and honours that are given out each year.

This is everything you need to know, from the difference between being given a knighthood or damehood and a Companion of Honour award to what CBE, OBE, MBE and more stand for.

What are the different types of honours and awards?

These are all the different types of honours and awards, as per the government website:

  • Companion of Honour: this is awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time
  • Knight or Dame: this is awarded for having a major contribution in any activity, usually at national level. Other people working in the nominee’s area will see their contribution as inspirational and significant, requiring commitment over a long period of time
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE): this is awarded for having a prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. You can also get one for a distinguished, innovative contribution to any area
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE): this is awarded for having a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area
  • Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE): awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community. This will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others
  • British Empire Medal (BEM): awarded for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community. This could be a long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or innovative work of a relatively short duration (three to four years) that has made a significant difference
  • Royal Victorian Order (RVO): an award given by the King - usually to people who have helped him personally, like members of the Royal household staff or British ambassadors

How are people nominated for an honour?

Anyone can nominate anyone else for an honour online through the government website, although the application process differs between whether you want to nominate someone in the UK, overseas or for a gallantry award.

Once you’ve completed your nomination, you’ll get an acknowledgement - however you may not hear anything else for 12 to 18 months. All of the nominees are checked by different government departments to ensure that they’re suitable for an honour, including checks made by HM Revenue and Customs.

The honours committee also reviews the nominations that are sent on. A person cannot be nominated for a specific honour - instead, it’s the honours committee that makes that decision. These recommendations are then sent to the Prime Minister and then to the King, who awards the honour.

What are the orders?

These are the orders and who can be nominated:

  • Order of the Bath: senior civil servants and military officers
  • Order of St Michael and St George: diplomats and people serving the UK abroad
  • Order of the British Empire: anyone
  • Companion of Honour (award): anyone
  • Royal Victorian Order: people who have served the King or the Monarchy in a personal way

According to the government, “most awards are in the Order of the British Empire”.

Related topics: