The Orders Of The British Empire – An Explainer

by | Jul 6, 2022

Understanding the intricacies of Knighthood and the Orders of The British Empire is complex and can become a minefield when you start researching what a Knighthood is and how to become a Knight. The Orders of The British Empire are often confused with Knighthood and although they are very similar, only the top 2 tiers of Knight Grand Cross and Knight Commander are able to use the title of Sir.

At Bayleaf Honours, we understand everything there is to know about the 6 Orders of Knighthood and can explain easily which one applies best to your nominees situation.

The Orders of The British Empire (Knighthood) are listed as follows:

Knight and Dame Grand Cross (GBE),

Knight and Dame Commander (KBE and DBE, respectively),

Commander (CBE),

Officer (OBE),

Member (MBE)

British Empire Medal (BEM)

Typically, the majority of requests we deal with are related to CBE, OBE or MBE but we will explain the details of all the Orders of The British Empire.

What is a Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE)?

A Knight/Dame Grand Cross is the Highest Rank in The Most Excellent Order of The British Empire. It is a great honour and very rarely awarded. Anyone awarded this rank has usually previously been awarded a Knighthood at a lower rank and only just over 100 people have ever been awarded this honour. Some well known individuals who have been awarded the Knight Grand Cross include Sir David Attenborough and Daniel Craig.

What is a Knight Commander?

A Knight Commander or a Dame Commander is the second highest rank in the Order of The British Empire. This rank is limited to 845 awards and although it is sometimes awarded as the first Knighthood an individual receives, it can also be awarded as a second honour. Famous individuals awarded the rank of Knight Commander include Sir Terry Wogan and Sir Roger Moore.

What is a Commander of The British Empire (CBE)?

CBE stands for Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the CBE is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award (excluding a knighthood/damehood), followed by OBE and then MBE. The CBE is usually awarded to individuals for prominent, favourable representation of the country at a national or international level. For example Sir Paul McCartney was awarded the CBE for services to the country in the music industry.

What is an Officer of The British Empire (OBE)?

The rank, Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), is awarded to individuals for having a major local role in any activity or someone who has made a great impact in their industry. To be nominated for an OBE you must have gone above and beyond the call of duty in either your paid or unpaid roles and benefited others through your work or achievements, nationally or internationally. This could be charity work in the UK or abroad, helping to develop new groundbreaking medical treatments or setting up a new innovative startup which benefits its users in a life changing way. Famous individuals who have been awarded an OBE include JK Rowling, the author of The Harry Potter series and David Beckham for his services to football. You can nominate someone for an OBE by filling out the online nomination form. The team at Bayleaf Honours are available to help and advise with the validity of your application.

What is a Member of The British Empire (MBE)?

An MBE is awarded to individuals for outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact. Sports people and musicians often receive MBEs although it is open to nomination for anyone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve their local community. You cannot nominate yourself for an MBE, you must be nominated by someone else and if you have someone in mind that you would like to nominate for an MBE, Bayleaf Honours can help you put together the perfect nomination application.

British Empire Medal (BEM)

The British Empire Medal (BEM) (formerly British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service) is a British and Commonwealth award for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. The current honour was created in 1922 to replace the original medal, which had been established in 1917 as part of the Order of the British Empire.

Nominating someone for an honour or Knighthood is a great way to show appreciation for the work, dedication and self sacrifice they have undergone to serve their community, Queen & country. If you are unsure of how to get started with a nomination, our team is waiting to answer your questions and you can reach out to us by completing our contact form.

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