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  • Queen Elizabeth II
    Queen of the Commonwealth realms Reign since 6. February 1952 Coronation 2. June 1953 Predecessor: George VI Heir-apparent: Charles, Prince of Wales Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; bo...
  • Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1874 - 1965)
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, Hon. RA (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 19...
  • Ted Hughes (b. - 1998)
    Edward James Hughes OM , (17 August 1930 – 28 October 1998), more commonly known as Ted Hughes, was an English poet and children's writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best po...
  • Graham Greene (1904 - 1991)
    Greene, (Henry) Graham (1904–1991), author, was born on 2 October 1904 at St John's, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the fourth of six children of Charles Henry Greene (1865–1942), teacher,...
  • Thomas Hardy, OM (1840 - 1928)
    Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Rom...

The Order of Merit

The Order of Merit is a special honour awarded to individuals of great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science.

The Order was founded by King Edward VII at the time of his coronation in 1902, to be ‘given to such persons, subjects of Our Crown, as may have rendered exceptionally meritorious services in Our Crown Services or towards the advancement of the Arts, Learning, Literature, and Science or such other exceptional service as We are fit to recognise’.

The Order of Merit is in the sole gift of the Sovereign and is restricted to 24 members as well as additional foreign recipients.

Past British holders of the Order have included:

There are very few foreign recipients, although those given the Order have included:

  • Dr Albert Schweitzer
  • General Eisenhower
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta and
  • Nelson Mandela.

There is also a military division included in the 24. Although the last member of this was Lord Mountbatten, the military division has never been abolished.

The badge is an eight-pointed cross of red and blue enamel surmounted by the imperial crown; in the centre, upon blue enamel and surrounded by a laurel wreath, are the words in gold lettering 'For Merit'.

Download an image of the badge: © Buckingham Palace.

The insignia for the military division (when used) is differentiated by crossed swords in the centre of the badge.

Between 1907 and 1913 portraits of 24 of the early members of the Order were commissioned, of which 14 were by William Strang. With the outbreak of the First World War this practice fell into abeyance. In 1987 The Queen revived the tradition with the intention that each member should be drawn by a different artist. Since 1987 nearly 60 further portraits of members of the Order of Merit have been added to the Royal Collection. (The only current member of the order not so far to have been drawn for the series is Neil MacGregor, appointed in November 2010.)

View a gallery of images of the latest eight portraits commissioned by Her Majesty

Motto:

For merit

Chapel:

Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace

Ranks:

Member

Post-nominals:

OM

Founded:

1902

A list of current members

Honorary Members Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, O.M. 21st March, 1995

Substantive Members His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., O.M., G.B.E., A.C., Q.S.O., F.R.S. 10th June, 1968

The Reverend Professor William Owen Chadwick, O.M., K.B.E., F.B.A. 11th November, 1983

Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley, O.M., F.R.S. 11th November, 1983

Doctor Frederick Sanger, O.M., C.H., C.B.E., F.R.S. 11th February, 1986

The Right Honourable Margaret Hilda, Lady Thatcher, L.G., O.M., F.R.S. 7th December, 1990

Sir Michael Francis Atiyah, O.M., F.R.S. 17th November, 1992

Sir Aaron Klug, O.M., F.R.S. 23rd October, 1995

Norman Robert, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, O.M., R.A. 25th November, 1997

Sir Anthony Alfred Caro, O.M., C.B.E. 9th May, 2000

Professor Sir Roger Penrose, O.M., F.R.S. 9th May, 2000

Sir Thomas Stoppard, O.M., C.B.E. 9th May, 2000

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, K.G., K.T., G.C.B., O.M., A.K., Q.S.O., A.D.C. 27th June, 2002

Robert McCredie, Lord May of Oxford, O.M., A.C., F.R.S. 28th October, 2002

Nathaniel Charles Jacob, Lord Rothschild, O.M., G.B.E. 28th October, 2002

Sir David Frederick Attenborough, O.M., C.H., C.V.O., C.B.E., F.R.S. 28th April, 2005

The Right Honourable Betty, Baroness Boothroyd, O.M. 28th April, 2005

Professor Sir Michael Eliot Howard, O.M., C.H., C.B.E., M.C. 28th April, 2005

The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Robert Henry Alexander, Lord Eames, O.M. 13th June, 2007

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, O.M., K.B.E. 13th June, 2007

The Right Honourable Martin John, Lord Rees of Ludlow, O.M., P.R.S. 13th June, 2007

The Right Honourable Jean Chretien O.M., P.C.,C.C., Q.C. 13th July, 2009

Neil MacGregor, O.M. 4th November, 2010

David Hockney O.M., C.H., R.A. 1st January, 2012

The Honourable John Howard O.M., A.C., S.S.I. 1st January, 2012