Rod Stewart knighted in Queen's birthday honours

Rod Stewart tops list of honourees that includes footballer Alan Shearer, astronaut Tim Peake and Downton’s Penelope Wilton

After almost 50 years as rock royalty, Rod Stewart has been honoured by the real thing, receiving a knighthood from the Queen in her birthday honours.

Stewart, 71, was recognised not only for a 45-year career in which he had sold more than 100m albums worldwide, but also for his long commitment to several charities.

On Friday night, the singer said he had “led a wonderful life” and had enjoyed a “tremendous career thanks to the generous support of the great British public. This monumental honour has topped it off and I couldn’t ask for anything more”. With a nod to one of his songs, he added: “I thank Her Majesty and promise to ‘wear it well’.”

The musician topped a list of honorees that also included the Downton Abbey actor Penelope Wilton, who received a damehood, footballer Alan Shearer, who was awarded a CBE for his charity work with disabled people, and the astronaut Tim Peake, who received a CMG, or companion of the order of St Michael and St George, a diplomatic honour granted for overseas service, which was awarded for the first time to a recipient in space.

Since no one has previously been in orbit when they were given an award, Sir Simon McDonald, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, asked the European Space Agency to set up a special phone line to the International Space Station to ask the astronaut if he would accept it.

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake has received a CMG for his charity work. Photograph: Picasa/ESA/Nasa

Peake, who was due to return to earth next week, said the honour was not for him, but for “the hundreds of dedicated staff … all working in pursuit of one of the greatest scientific and technical challenges of our time – exploring our solar system for the benefit of people on Earth. This award is for them.”

Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, otherwise known as the TV presenters Ant and Dec, each received OBEs for services to broadcasting and entertainment. In a joint statement, the pair said that as “two ordinary lads from the west end of Newcastle” they were “shocked but incredibly honoured” to receive the awards.

“We hope us receiving this honour can inspire young people to chase their dreams and believe that anything is possible. This will definitely be the proudest our mams have ever been,” they added.

Also recognised was the tennis player Jamie Murray, who joins his brother Andy as an OBE, and Leon Smith, captain of Great Britain’s triumphant Davis Cup team. England’s cricket captain, Alastair Cook, meanwhile, will be celebrating his CBE on Saturday at Lords, where the third Test against Sri Lanka continues.

Janet Street-Porter
Janet Street-Porter has become a CBE. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA

The broadcaster Janet Street-Porter has become a CBE and the actor Brian Blessed an OBE, while the wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn was made a companion of honour, one of the highest awards to be granted. The Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells was knighted, as was the philosopher Roger Scruton, while Louise Casey, who has held a number of government roles involving homelessness and antisocial behaviour, becomes a dame.

In total, 1,004 people received awards, 47% of them women, the lowest proportion since 2012, when just 41.5% of honorees were women. The proportion of ethnic minority recipients, 8.2%, hit a record high, while 5.2% of recipients considered themselves to have a disability.

Alongside the high-profile names, the largest proportion of those honoured were individuals working in their communities, either in paid or voluntary roles: 70% of those on the list fall into this category. Sir Jonathan Stephens, chair of the government committee that oversees the awards, said he was eager to encourage more nominations from members of the public, particularly from BME communities. “We are very keen that people realise that anyone can nominate and be nominated, in any walk of life.”

Among those receiving awards was Hilda Lyons, who celebrates her 96th birthday on Saturday and was given the British Empire Medal for her work since the 1970s with Redbridge Dippers, a swimming club in Essex for disabled adults. She told the Guardian it was “lovely” being honoured on her birthday, “but I have enjoyed every minute of the work I have got the award for”. She no longer coaches from the pool, but has certainly not retired from the club, saying she was still very much involved.

Athlete Martine Wright
Martine Wright, Team GB athlete and now MBE. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Also recognised was Martine Wright, who lost both legs in the 7/7 bombings before going on to represent Team GB at the 2012 Paralympics in the sitting volleyball. She described her MBE as “one of the most extraordinarily, unbelievably honourable things to have been bestowed on me”, adding she had agreed to accept it only as a recognition of the health professionals and others who had saved her life, and the volunteers who make amateur sport possible.

The youngest honoree, at just 21 years old, was Gary Doyle, a plumbing apprentice from Castlewellan, County Down, who was given a British Empire Medal for “services to skills” after winning gold at the world plumbing and heating championships in Brazil last year.

Myra Brodie, a school crossing warden from Leicestershire, became an MBE, as did Valerie Johnson, director of Frankie’s fish and chips shop in Brae, Shetland, and Shahzada Saleem, a taxi driver and competitive strongman from the west Midlands, who was honoured for services to the Asian sport of stone lifting.


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

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