Order of the Companions of Honour

The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded on 4 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]

Order of the Companions of Honour
Riband and badge of the "Companions of Honour"
Awarded by the sovereign of the Commonwealth realms
Established4 June 1917
MottoIn Action Faithful and in Honour Clear
Awarded forNationally important service
StatusCurrently constituted
SovereignQueen Elizabeth II
GradesCompanion (CH)

Ribbon bar of the order

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.[4] The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court is now the Chapel of the Order.[5]


Lord Tweedsmuir, as Governor General of Canada, wearing the Companion of Honour badge around his neck

The order consists of the Sovereign and a maximum 65 members. Additionally, foreigners or Commonwealth citizens from outside the Commonwealth 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.[6]

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 nine for India, Burma, and the other British colonies. The quota numbers were altered in 1970 to 47 for the United Kingdom, seven for Australia, two for New Zealand, and nine for other Commonwealth realms. The quota was adjusted again in 1975 by adding two places to the New Zealand quota and reducing the nine for the other countries to seven.[7]

While still able to nominate candidates to the Order, the Cabinet of Australia has effectively stopped the allocation of this award to that country's citizens in preference to other Australian honours. The last Australian member, Doug Anthony, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, died on 20 December 2020.[8] Margaret MacMillan, a Canadian historian, was given the award in 2017. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, a New Zealand soprano, was given the award in 2018. Margaret Atwood, a Canadian author, was appointed in 2019.


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's 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]NamePost-nominalsOccupationDate of appointmentAge
01 (267) The Lord TebbitCH, PCPolitician31 July 198790
02 (270) The Lord Baker of DorkingCH, PCPolitician13 April 199286
03 (271) The Lord Brooke of Sutton MandevilleCH, PCPolitician13 April 199287
04 (278) The Lord King of BridgwaterCH, PCPolitician13 April 199288
05 (282) Dame Janet BakerCH, DBEOpera singer31 December 199387
06 (287) The Lord OwenCH, PCPolitician11 June 199483
07 (289) Sir David AttenboroughOM, GCMG, CH, CVO, CBEBroadcaster; naturalist30 December 199595
08 (291) The Lord Hurd of WestwellCH, CBE, PCPolitician30 December 199591
09 (294) David HockneyOM, CHArtist14 June 199784
10 (296) The Lord HeseltineCH, PCPolitician2 August 199788
11 (297) The Lord Patten of BarnesCH, PCPolitician; former Governor of Hong Kong31 December 199777
12 (298) Peter BrookCH, CBEDirector13 June 199896
13 (299) Sir John MajorKG, CH, PCFormer Prime Minister of the United Kingdom31 December 199878
14 (300) Bridget RileyCH, CBEArtist31 December 199890
15 (305) John de ChastelainCC, CMM, CD, CHCanadian Army officer; diplomat31 December 199883
16 (311) Sir Harrison BirtwistleCHComposer30 December 200087
17 (316) James LovelockCH, CBE, FRSEnvironmentalist31 December 2002102
18 (317) Dan McKenzieCH, FRSGeophysicist14 June 200379
19 (318) The Lord Hannay of ChiswickGCMG, CHDiplomat14 June 200375
20 (320) Dame Judi DenchCH, DBEActress11 June 200586
21 (321) Sir Ian McKellenCH, CBEActor31 December 200782
22 (322) The Lord Rogers of RiversideCH, FRIBA, FREng, RAArchitect14 June 200888
23 (323) The Lord Howard of LympneCH, QC, PCPolitician11 June 201180
24 (324) The Lord Young of CookhamBt, CH, PCPolitician20 September 201280
25 (325) The Lord CoeCH, KBEPolitician; Athlete; organiser of 2012 Olympics29 December 201264
26 (326) Peter HiggsCH, FRSPhysicist29 December 201292
27 (327) The Lord StrathclydeCH, PCPolitician7 January 201361
28 (328) The Lord Campbell of PittenweemCH, CBE, PC, QCPolitician15 June 201380
29 (329) Sir Nicholas SerotaCHCurator15 June 201375
30 (331) The Baroness O'Neill of BengarveCH, CBE, FBA, FRS, FMedSciPhilosopher31 December 201379
31 (332) Dame Maggie SmithCH, DBEActress14 June 201486
32 (333) The Lord Clarke of NottinghamCH, QC, PCPolitician22 July 201481
33 (336) Lady Mary PetersLG, CH, DBEAthlete1 January 201582
34 (337) The Lord Young of GraffhamCH, PC, DLPolitician1 January 201589
35 (339) The Lord WoolfCH, PC, FBA, FMedSciJudge12 June 201588
36 (341) Sir Roy StrongCH, FRSLArt historian; museum director1 January 201685
37 (343) The Lord Smith of KelvinKT, CHBusinessman11 June 201676
38 (344) The Baroness AmosCH, PCPolitician; diplomat11 June 201667
39 (345) George OsborneCH, PCPolitician; former Chancellor of the Exchequer4 August 201650
40 (347) Sir Richard EyreCH, CBEDirector31 December 201678
41 (348) Dame Evelyn GlennieCH, DBEMusician31 December 201656
42 (349) Sir Alec JeffreysCH, FRSGeneticist31 December 201671
43 (353) Sir Mark ElderCH, CBEConductor17 June 201774
44 (354) Dame Beryl GreyCH, DBEDancer17 June 201794
45 (355) Sir Paul McCartneyCH, MBEMusician17 June 201779
46 (356) J. K. RowlingCH, OBEAuthor17 June 201755
47 (357) Dame Stephanie ShirleyCH, DBE, FREngEntrepreneur; philanthropist17 June 201787
48 (358) Delia SmithCH, CBECook; author17 June 201780
49 (359) The Lord Stern of BrentfordCH, FRS, FBAEconomist17 June 201775
50 (361) The Lord BraggCH, FRS, FBA, FRSLBroadcaster30 December 201781
51 (362) Lady Antonia FraserCH, DBE, FRSLAuthor30 December 201788
52 (363) Margaret MacMillanCC, CHHistorian30 December 201777
53 (364) Richard HendersonCH, FRS, FMedSciBiologist9 June 201876
54 (365) Dame Kiri Te KanawaONZ, CH, DBE, ACOpera singer9 June 201877
55 (366) Margaret AtwoodCC, OOnt, CH, FRSC, FRSLAuthor29 December 201881
56 (367) The Lord McLoughlinCH, PCPolitician10 September 201963
57 (368) Sir Elton JohnCH, CBEMusician28 December 201974
58 (369) Sir Keith ThomasCH, FBA, FLSW, FRHistSHistorian28 December 201988
59 (370) Sir Paul SmithCH, CBE, RDIFashion designer10 October 202075
60 (371) Sir David ChipperfieldCH CBE RA RDI RIBA Architect31 December 202067
61 (-)Vacant following the death of Dame Vera Lynn, on 18 June 2020.
62 (-)Vacant following the death of Sir Terence Conran, on 12 September 2020.
63 (-)Vacant following the death of Doug Anthony, on 20 December 2020.
64 (-)Vacant following the death of Sir Michael Somare, on 26 February 2021.
65 (-)Vacant following the death of Baroness Williams of Crosby, on 12 April 2021.

Honorary Companions

Member numberNamePost-nominalsOccupationDate of appointmentAge
1 (261) Amartya SenCH, FBAEconomist11 May 200087
2 (304) Bernard HaitinkCH, KBEConductor12 June 200292
3 (340) Desmond TutuCHSocial rights activist; clergyman30 November 201589

See also

  • List of members of the Order of the Companions of Honour
  • List of honorary British knights and dames
  • List of people who have declined a British honour


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


  1. "A New Order". The Times. 25 August 1917. p. 7.
  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. "No. 30250". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1917. p. 8799.
  5. http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/event/the-queen-duke-of-edinburgh-attend-evensong-in-celebration-of-the-centenary-of-the-order-of-the-companions-of-honour-700063722#dame-judi-dench-arrives-to-attend-evensong-at-the-chapel-royal-court-picture-id695723388
  6. McCreery, Christopher (2005a). The Canadian Honours System. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-55002-554-5.
  7. Rayment, Leigh. "Companions of Honour". Archived from the original on 26 September 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  8. Barbour, Lucy (20 December 2020). "Doug Anthony, former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, dies aged 90". Australia: ABC News. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
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