List of People Who Have Refused Honours

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These are a few of the people who have declined the Crown, a dukedom, marquessate, earldom, vicountcy, barony, life peerage, baronetcy, knighthood, appointment to the Order of Bath, appointment to the Order of Merit, appointment to the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, appointment to the Order of the Indian Empire, appointment to the Royal Victorian Order or an appointment to the Order of the British Empire (GBE, KBE, DBE, CBE, OBE, MBE). 

Oliver Cromwell, Neville Chamberlain, William Ewart Gladstone, R.H. Tawney (asked Ramsay MacDonald what he had done to the Labour Party to cause them to offer him an earldom and told Clement Attlee that he was demoralized Labour was still interested in such baubles), Leonard Elmhirst (“My own work has been among country people. Acceptance would neither be easy for me to explain nor easy for my friends to comprehend”), John Cleese, Michael Foot, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, J.B. Priestley, Jack Jones, Charles Babbage, Frank Auerbach, Peter Bennenson (on the grounds of human rights abuses perpetrated by the British government), Alan Bennett, Arnold Bennett, David Bowie, Danny Boyle, Peter Brook, Francis Crick, Michael Faraday (“I must remain Michael Faraday to the last”), Albert Finney, Michael Frayn, Geraldine McEwan, Ian Alberry, John Freeman, Richard Hamilton, Patrick Heron, Keith Hill, Aldous Huxley, Muhammed Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan: “I prefer to be plain Mr. Jinnah”), Augustus John, Rudyard Kipling, T.E. Lawrence, L.S. Lowry (four times), Humphrey Littleton, Kingsley Martin, Henry Moore, John Osborne, Peter O’Toole, John Piper, Mark Rylance, Simon Russell Beale, Amartya Sen, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Scofield, Alastair Sim, George Stephenson, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Norman Willis, A.E. Housman, H.G. Wells, Francis Bacon, Robert Graves, Ben Nicholson, Leonard Woolf, A.J.P. Taylor (“The Establishment draws its recruits from outside as soon as they are ready to conform to its standards and become respectable. There is nothing more agreeable than to make peace with the Establishment, and nothing more corrupting”), Michael Bogdanov, Jim Broadbent (who said that the usual excuse given by those who accept honours is that they want to please their parents and that he also wanted to please them by refusing as they would have been disgusted with him had he accepted), Caryl Churchill, Andrew Cruickshank, Dawn French, Pam Gems, Caryl Phillips, Hughie Green, Tony Harrison, Hattie Jacques, Jonathan Kent, Estelle Kohler, Nigella Lawson, Philip Larkin, Ken Loach, Ian McDiarmuid, Stanley Middleton, Bill Nighy, Eric Porter, Dennis Potter, Anthony Sampson, Jon Snow, Kenneth Williams (“When offered something which obviously isn’t worth the price, we still have the right to say ‘No thanks””), Michael Winner, Susannah York, Benjamin Zephaniah (“I get angry when I hear the word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized”), Jonzi D., Alan Watkins, Rachel Whiteread, J.G. Ballard (“The honours system is a Ruritarian charade that helps prop up the top-heavy monarchy”), Nancy Banks Smith, Julian Barnes, Clive Bell, Michael Billington, Michael Blakemore, Honor Blackman, John Boorman, David Cornwell (also known as John le Carré), Bernie Ecclestone, Brian Eno, C.S. Forester, Trevor Griffiths, John Gross, Jocelyn Herbert, C.S. Lewis, Ken Livingstone, Malcolm McDowell, George Melley, Stanley Morrison, Peter Nichols, Ben Nicholson, Sean O’Casey, Gareth Pierce, Ronald Pickup, Karel Reisz, Alan Rickman, David Storey, Sue Townsend, Claire Tomalin, Polly Toynbee, Paul Weller, Andrew Young, Peter Alliss, Lindsay Anderson, Julie Christie, John Lydon (Johnny Rotten; hard to believe he was offered one but it says so in Wikipedia). Both John Lennon and Rabindranath Tagore handed their honours back. Others such as Isaiah Berlin, E.M. Forster, Paul Dirac, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, David Hockney, Harold Pinter and Doris Lessing turned down titles or empire-related honours but took CHs or OHs.


 Timothy O’Grady

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4 Responses to List of People Who Have Refused Honours

    1. I should have refused the name “Earl”, but I was too young to argue.

      Comment by earl diddley on 17 October, 2015 at 6:50 am
    2. Probably an overenthusiastic spellchecker, but John Le Carré’s real name is David Cornwell, not Cromwell.

      Comment by Ross on 19 October, 2015 at 4:42 pm
    3. Wow such talent

      Comment by Natalya car on 3 June, 2016 at 6:49 am
    4. Stop putting me forward for an honour-mr or sir will suffice,for now!

      Comment by John winstanley on 31 December, 2016 at 10:30 pm

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