Olivia Colman awarded CBE in Queen's birthday honours list

Sculptor Rachel Whiteread becomes a dame and Tunnock’s teacake creator is knighted

Olivia Colman, who plays the Queen in the forthcoming series of Netflix’s The Crown, has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, adding to her haul of awards in 2019.

Colman has already won an Oscar, a Bafta and a Golden Globe this year for her performance as another British monarch, Queen Anne, in the film The Favourite.

The actor, who receives the honour under her real name, Sarah Sinclair (she was born Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman and married Ed Sinclair in 2001), said she was “totally thrilled, delighted and humbled” to be in the company of her fellow honourees “most of whom have been nowhere near as visible as I have, but should be – and hopefully now will be.”

The sculptor Rachel Whiteread and Laura Lee, the chief executive of the Maggie’s cancer centres, become dames, and the actor Simon Russell Beale and Simon Woolley, the founder of Operation Black Vote, are both knighted.

Beale, best known for his stage performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company and elsewhere, said: “I think my mother, were she alive, would be very proud.”

Lee said she was “overwhelmed and humbled … but I feel the honour is less in recognition of myself and more an acknowledgement of what Maggie’s does.”

Prof Mark Caulfield, the chief scientist and head of the 100,000 Genomes project, Robert Cohan, the 94-year-old founding artistic director of The Place theatre, and Boyd Tunnock, the founder of the confectionery firm and creator of the Tunnock’s teacake, also receive knighthoods.

Boyd Tunnock
‘Deeply honoured and grateful’: Boyd Tunnock, of teacake fame, in 2012. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Tunnock, who is 86 and is honoured for services to business and charity, said: “When you get to my age very few things surprise you, but this certainly did and I am deeply honoured and grateful to Her Majesty the Queen. Our primary purpose in life is to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Our country is full of very worthwhile causes that we can all make a contribution to in some way.”

Caulfield, of Queen Mary University of London, said: “I have been incredibly lucky to stand amongst and alongside giants from our NHS, Genomics England, our universities, the government, our funders and, most importantly, our participants. Together they helped me to transform genomics in healthcare.”

The authors Joanna Trollope and Lee Child, who receive CBEs; the musician Elvis Costello, the historian and TV presenter Bettany Hughes, the chief Scout, Bear Grylls, and the novelist Sarah Waters get OBEs; while MBEs go to and the television historian Dan Snow, The Good Fight actor Cush Jumbo, the Women’s British Open golf winner last year, Georgia Hall, and the former QPR manager Chris Ramsey who receives the honour for services to football and diversity in sport.

Coventry-born Child, the author of the Jack Reacher novels, whose real name is James Grant, said: “Someone read my books and enjoyed them enough to put my name forward … which in itself is all a writer could ask for.”

Bettany Hughes
Bettany Hughes: ‘I owe all this to my brilliant, diligent teachers … and to my darling dad.’ Photograph: Mike Lawn/Rex/Shutterstock

Hughes paid tribute to her father, who died in February while she was filming in Egypt. “Of course I owe all this to my brilliant, diligent teachers at school and university,” she said. “And to my darling dad – only just passed – who, across close on a century, always took time out to listen to the stories of others.”

Grylls said his OBE was “something, if I’m honest, that I never expected to happen”. He added: “I really do feel it’s a team effort. This award is for every one of those incredible Scout volunteers. We now have over half a million Scouts and volunteers in this country who give up so much of their time and energy to help young people, and this award is for you guys. So if you’re a Scout volunteer, congratulations – we share this one together.”

In total, 1,073 people have received awards in this year’s birthday honours, three-quarters of whom are recognised for their service to their local communities. Women make up 47% of recipients, 10.4% of the total are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, 5.9% consider themselves to have a disability and 2.8% identify as LGBT.

The lists of those to be honoured are drawn up by 10 committees, following loose guidelines set down by the prime minister. These are considered by a central honours committee before being submitted to Downing Street and the Queen.

Theresa May’s guidance, issued when she became prime minister in 2016, said the committees should focus in particular on those helping children and young people to achieve their potential, removing barriers to success and working to tackle discrimination.

The former head of the Pensions Regulator (TPR), who came in for stark criticism over her handling of successive crises at BHS and Carillion, is also included in the birthday honours list.

Lesley Titcomb stepped down from her role leading the regulator last year following a report by two parliamentary committees investigating the collapse of the government contractor Carillion, which lambasted her organisation’s “feeble response” to the company’s underfunding of its pension scheme. She has now been awarded a CBE.

Titcomb had come under fire during the parliamentary inquiry after Carillion’s collapse. MPs accused TPR of issuing “empty threats” to the outsourcing group’s management which were never acted upon. The MPs added that organisation was “chronically passive” and suggested change was needed. But it added: “We are far from convinced that current leadership is equipped to effect that change.”

The assessment of Titcomb’s response to Carillion followed earlier criticism from MPs related to the failure of the department store chain BHS, which collapsed with a £571m pension deficit.

The regulator was subsequently given some credit for its role in helping secure a £363m payment from former BHS owner Sir Philip Green, although Frank Field, the chair of parliament’s work and pensions select committee, said that if the regulator had been “nimbler, more assertive and more pro-active” the crisis could have been averted in the first place.


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

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