The Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established by King George V in 1917 to recognize the contributions and service of British subjects during the First World War. It has since evolved to honor individuals from all walks of life for their service to the United Kingdom and beyond. The honor is bestowed upon those who have made distinguished contributions in their respective fields, including the arts, sciences, charity, public service, and the military.
What is an OBE?
OBE stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which is one rank within the broader Order of the British Empire. The order includes five classes across two divisions, civil and military:
- Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GBE)
- Knight Commander (KBE) or Dame Commander (DBE)
- Commander (CBE)
- Officer (OBE)
- Member (MBE)
The OBE is the second-highest ranking Order of the British Empire award a person can receive next to a Commander (CBE). It is often awarded to individuals who have played a major local role in any activity, such as business leaders, philanthropists, entertainers, and public servants.
Who Receives an OBE?
Recipients of an OBE are usually individuals who have done outstanding work in their community or field of work that has gained them national recognition. For example, a businessman who has spurred economic growth and innovation or a musician who has influenced the British culture may be honored with an OBE. The award is also given to those who have spent a long time volunteering, making a difference in people’s lives through charity work, or demonstrating exceptional dedication to their profession. And of course, we all know that Noel Clarke has an OBE too. You can read about some other interesting facts about Noel Clarke right here on our blog too.
The Nomination and Awarding Process
The process of receiving an OBE begins with a nomination, which can be submitted by anyone to the honours committee. The nomination must detail the candidate’s specific contributions and is subject to rigorous vetting. The committee reviews the nominations and recommends candidates to the Prime Minister, who then submits them to the Queen for approval.
The honors are traditionally announced twice a year: the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June and the New Year Honours List. The formal investiture ceremony typically takes place at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen or a senior member of the Royal Family presents the medals.
Why the OBE is Significant
The OBE is not only a token of recognition but also serves to highlight individuals who have become role models in society. An OBE can raise the profile of the work being done in various fields, inspire others, and signify the importance the UK places on such contributions. It demonstrates the country’s gratitude to those who enrich society with their efforts.
The Global Reach of the OBE
While the OBE is a British honor, it is not exclusive to UK citizens. Honorary awards can be given to foreign nationals who have made a significant impact on the United Kingdom or in international arenas that benefit the UK. These individuals receive the award on an honorary basis, and while they are not entitled to use the title ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame,’ they are still recognized for their substantial contributions.
The Evolving Nature of Honors
Throughout the years, the criteria for receiving an OBE have evolved. What started as an honor for contributions during wartime has grown to encompass a wide range of fields and achievements. The modern honors system strives to be more diverse and representative of British society, celebrating achievements in all sectors and acknowledging the changing dynamics of the public sphere.
The Order of the British Empire, and the OBE within it, represents a cherished tradition of acknowledging dedication, hard work, and excellence. Receiving an OBE is a distinction that carries with it both national pride and the responsibility of upholding the ideals of service and merit the order promotes. As the UK continues to recognize the varying ways in which individuals contribute to the fabric of society, the OBE remains a shining emblem of acknowledgment and respect.