Order of the Companions of Honour

Order of the Companions of Honour
Riband and badge of the "Companions of Honour"
Awarded by the sovereign of the Commonwealth realms
Type Order
Motto In Action Faithful and in Honour Clear
Awarded for Nationally important service
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Companion (CH)
Established 1917
Ribbon bar of the order
Lord Tweedsmuir, as Governor General of Canada, wearing the Companion of Honour badge around his neck as part of his ceremonial Windsor uniform

The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded in June 1917 by King George V as a reward for outstanding achievements and is "conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition, constituting an honour disassociated either from the acceptance of title or the classification of merit."[1]

Founded on the same date as the Order of the British Empire,[1] it is sometimes regarded as the junior order to the Order of Merit.[2] Now described as "awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time",[3] the first recipients, were all decorated for "services in connection with the war" and were listed in the London Gazette in August 1917 with the award taking effect from 4 June 1917.[4]


The order consists of the Sovereign plus no more than 65 members. Additionally, foreigners from outside the realms may be added as honorary members. Membership confers no title or precedence, but those inducted into the single-class order are entitled to use the post-nominal letters CH. Appointments can be made on the advice of Commonwealth realm prime ministers.[2] For Canadians, the advice to the Sovereign can come from a variety of officials.[5]

Originally, the order was limited to 50 ordinary members, but in 1943 it was enlarged to 65, with a quota of 45 members for the United Kingdom, seven for Australia, two each for New Zealand and South Africa, and 9 for India, Burma, and the colonies. The quota numbers were altered in 1970 to 47 for the United Kingdom, 7 for Australia, 2 for New Zealand, and 9 for other Commonwealth realms. The quota was adjusted again in 1975 by adding 2 places to the New Zealand quota and reducing the 9 for the other countries to 7.[6]

While able to nominate candidates to the Order, New Zealand and Australia have effectively stopped the allocation of this award to their citizens in preference to their national awards. Up to this point in time, those countries have nominated only politicians who have served as Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.


The insignia of the order is in the form of an oval medallion, surmounted by an imperial crown, and with a rectangular panel within, depicting on it an oak tree, a shield with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom hanging from one branch, and, on the left, a mounted knight in armour. The insignia's blue border bears in gold letters the motto IN ACTION FAITHFUL AND IN HONOUR CLEAR, Alexander Pope's description (in iambic pentameter) in his Epistle to Mr Addison of James Craggs, later used on Craggs' monument in Westminster Abbey. Men wear the badge on a neck ribbon (red with golden border threads) and women on a bow at the left shoulder.

Current Companions

Member number[n 1] Name Post-nominals Known for Date of appointment Age
01 (237) Papua New Guinea Sir Michael Somare GCL, GCMG, CH, PC, MP Former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea 3 June 1978 80
02 (246) Australia Doug Anthony AC, CH, PC Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia 31 December 1981 86
03 (249) United Kingdom The Lord Carrington KG, GCMG, CH, MC, PC, DL Politician 11 June 1983 97
04 (265) United Kingdom Sydney Brenner CH, FRS, FMedSci Biologist 31 December 1986 89
05 (267) United Kingdom The Lord Tebbit CH, PC Politician 31 July 1987 85
06 (269) United Kingdom Stephen Hawking CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA Physicist 17 June 1989 74
07 (270) United Kingdom The Lord Baker of Dorking CH, PC Politician 13 April 1992 82
08 (271) United Kingdom The Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville CH, PC Politician 13 April 1992 82
09 (278) United Kingdom The Lord King of Bridgwater CH, PC Politician 13 April 1992 83
10 (282) United Kingdom Dame Janet Baker CH, DBE Opera singer 31 December 1993 83
11 (287) United Kingdom The Lord Owen CH, PC Politician 11 June 1994 78
12 (289) United Kingdom Sir David Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE Broadcaster and naturalist 30 December 1995 90
13 (291) United Kingdom The Lord Hurd of Westwell CH, CBE, PC Politician 30 December 1995 86
14 (294) United Kingdom David Hockney OM, CH Artist 14 June 1997 79
15 (296) United Kingdom The Lord Heseltine CH, PC Politician 2 August 1997 83
16 (297) United Kingdom The Lord Patten of Barnes CH, PC Politician and former Governor of Hong Kong 31 December 1997 72
17 (298) United Kingdom Peter Brook CH, CBE Theatre director 13 June 1998 91
18 (299) United Kingdom Sir John Major KG, CH, PC Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 31 December 1998 73
19 (300) United Kingdom Bridget Riley CH, CBE Artist 31 December 1998 85
20 (305) Canada John de Chastelain CC, CMM, CD, CH Canadian general and diplomat 31 December 1998 79
21 (311) United Kingdom Sir Harrison Birtwistle CH Composer 30 December 2000 82
22 (312) United Kingdom Sir Michael Howard OM, CH, CBE, MC, FBA Historian 15 June 2002 94
23 (313) United Kingdom Sir Howard Hodgkin CH, CBE Artist 31 December 2002 84
24 (316) United Kingdom James Lovelock CH, CBE, FRS Scientist and environmentalist 31 December 2002 97
25 (317) United Kingdom Dan McKenzie CH, FRS Geophysicist 14 June 2003 74
26 (318) United Kingdom The Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG, CH Diplomat 14 June 2003 71
27 (320) United Kingdom Dame Judi Dench CH, DBE Actress 11 June 2005 82
28 (321) United Kingdom Sir Ian McKellen CH, CBE Actor 31 December 2007 77
29 (322) United Kingdom The Lord Rogers of Riverside CH Architect 14 June 2008 83
30 (323) United Kingdom The Lord Howard of Lympne CH, QC, PC Politician 11 June 2011 75
31 (324) United Kingdom The Lord Young of Cookham Bt, CH, PC Politician 20 September 2012 75
32 (325) United Kingdom The Lord Coe CH, KBE Athlete, politician, organiser of 2012 Olympics 29 December 2012 60
33 (326) United Kingdom Peter Higgs CH, FRS Physicist 29 December 2012 87
34 (327) United Kingdom The Lord Strathclyde CH, PC Politician 7 January 2013 56
35 (328) United Kingdom The Lord Campbell of Pittenweem CH, CBE, PC, QC Politician 15 June 2013 75
36 (329) United Kingdom Sir Nicholas Serota CH Museum curator 15 June 2013 70
37 (331) United Kingdom The Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve CH, CBE, FBA, FRS, FMedSci Philosopher 31 December 2013 75
38 (332) United Kingdom Dame Maggie Smith CH, DBE Actress 14 June 2014 81
39 (333) United Kingdom Kenneth Clarke CH, QC, PC, MP Politician 22 July 2014 76
40 (334) United Kingdom The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG, CH, KBE, PC Politician 1 January 2015 75
41 (336) United Kingdom Dame Mary Peters CH, DBE Athlete 1 January 2015 77
42 (337) United Kingdom The Lord Young of Graffham CH, PC, DL Politician 1 January 2015 84
43 (339) United Kingdom The Lord Woolf CH, PC, FBA, FMedSci Judge 12 June 2015 83
44 (341) United Kingdom Sir Roy Strong CH, FRSL Art historian, museum director 1 January 2016 81
45 (342) United Kingdom Dame Vera Lynn CH, DBE Singer 11 June 2016 99
46 (343) United Kingdom The Lord Smith of Kelvin KT, CH Businessman 11 June 2016 72
47 (344) United Kingdom The Baroness Amos CH, PC Politician and diplomat 11 June 2016 62
48 (345) United Kingdom George Osborne CH, PC, MP Politician 4 August 2016 45

Honorary Companions

Member number Name Post-nominals Known for Date of appointment Age
1 (261) India Amartya Sen CH Economist 11 May 2000 83
2 (304) Netherlands Bernard Haitink CH, KBE Conductor 12 June 2002 87
3 (340) South Africa Desmond Tutu CH Social rights activist and clergyman 30 November 2015 85

See also


  1. The number shown in brackets is the individual's place in the wider sequence of appointment since the Order's inception.


  1. 1 2 "A New Order". The Times. 25 August 1917. p. 7. (subscription required (help)).
  2. 1 2 "The Monarch of the Today > Queen Ann arbor to the new one w public > Honours > Companions of Honour". Royal.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 23 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  3. "The honours system: Types of honours and awards". UK Government. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30250. p. . 24 August 1917.
  5. McCreery, Christopher (2005a). The Canadian Honours System. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-55002-554-5.
  6. Rayment, Leigh. "Companions of Honour". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
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