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Introduction

The Order of Merit was instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII. The membership of the order is limited to the sovereign plus 24 members. There is no limit on the number of foreign honorary members. The Order of Merit is the sole gift of the sovereign.

The Insignia of the Order of Merit

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

Past Members of the Order of Merit

Past British holders of the Order have included

  • Florence Nightingale and Lord Lister (medicine)
  • Alma Tadema, Holman Hunt, Augustus John and Graham Sutherland (artists)
  • Henry Moore (sculptor)
  • Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten (composers)
  • Thomas Hardy, James Barrie, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Graham Greene and Ted Hughes (Writers)
  • Bertrand Russell (philosopher and mathematician)
  • Sir Winston Churchill and Earl Attlee (former Prime Ministers)
  • General Baden-Powell (founder of the Scout Movement)
  • Field Marshals Roberts, Haig, Kitchener and Earl Alexander of Tunis
  • Admirals Jellicoe, Beatty and Earl Mountbatten of Burma
  • Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (aircraft designer)
  • Cardinal Basil Hume (Roman Catholic Church)

Present Members of the Order of Merit

The present members of the Order of Merit are Queen Elizabeth II (as Sovereign) and those listed below.

No. Name Known for Appointed
1 The Duke of Edinburgh Royal consort 10 Jun 68
2 Sir Michael Atiyah Mathematician and former President of the Royal Society 17 Nov 92
3 Sir Aaron Klug Biophysicist and former President of the Royal Society 23 Oct 95
4 The Lord Foster of Thames Bank Architect 25 Nov 97
5 Sir Roger Penrose Mathematical physicist 9 May 00
6 Sir Tom Stoppard Playwright 9 May 00
7 The Prince of Wales Heir to the throne 27 Jun 02
8 The Lord May of Oxford Ecologist and former President of the Royal Society 28 Oct 02
9 The Lord Rothschild Philanthropist 28 Oct 02
10 Sir David Attenborough Broadcaster and naturalist 10 Jun 05
11 The Baroness Boothroyd First female Speaker of the House of Commons 10 Jun 05
12 Sir Michael Howard Military historian 10 Jun 05
13 The Lord Eames of Armagh Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh 13 Jun 07
14 Sir Tim Berners-Lee Inventor of the World Wide Web 13 Jun 07
15 Lord Rees of Ludlow Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society 13 Jun 07
16 Jean Chrétien Former Prime Minister of Canada 13 Jul 09
17 Neil MacGregor Art historian 4 Nov 10
18 David Hockney Artist 1 Jan 12
19 John Howard Former Prime Minister of Australia 1 Jan 12
20 Sir Simon Rattle Orchestral conductor 1 Jan 14
21 Sir Magdi Yacoub Cardiothoracic surgeon 1 Jan 14
22 The Lord Darzi of Denham Surgeon

31 Dec 15

23 Dame Ann Dowling Mechanical Engineer 31 Dec 15
24 Sir James Dyson Inventor and Industrial Designer 31 Dec 15

With the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, there are currently no honorary members of the order.

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