New year honours 2023: Mary Quant and Lionesses among those recognised

Brian May and Grayson Perry are knighted, Denise Lewis is made a dame and Frank Skinner becomes MBE

The fashion designer Mary Quant, the Lionesses and the Queen guitarist Brian May are among those recognised in the first new year honours of the king’s reign.

Quant, 92, who as one of the most influential fashion figures in the swinging 60s popularised the miniskirt and hot pants, becomes a Companion of Honour, one of the top honours.

May, 75, an astrophysicist and animal welfare campaigner, is knighted. He said: “I regard it as a kind of charge, like a kind of commission to do the things that one would expect a knight to do: to fight for justice, to fight for people who don’t have any voice. And, in my case, for all creatures who don’t have a voice, and I regard it as a kind of endorsement of what I do.”

Grayson Perry, 62, the artist, writer and broadcaster, is also knighted.

Virginia McKenna, 91, the actor and co-founder of the Born Free Foundation, is made a dame in recognition of her wildlife conservation work. She said the award “really belongs to all those striving to end wild animal suffering and keep wildlife in the wild”.

The Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis, 50, now president of Commonwealth Games England, said of becoming a dame: “It’s an incredible honour. I’m just trying to take it in and its enormity.”

Prof Sir Michael Marmot, the author of The Health Gap and the director of UCL’s Institute of Health, who has spoken out on how policies such as austerity have affected public health, becomes a Companion of Honour. He said he was “astonished”.

The idea that what he did should be recognised in such a way was wonderful, he said. “There are some countries where I would not be allowed to say what I say. I would not be allowed to tell the truth.”

Leah Williamson.
Leah Williamson. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

In sport, the England women’s football team scored well, with the captain, Leah Williamson, receiving an OBE, and Lucy Bronze, Beth Mead and Ellen White – the Lionesses’ all-time top goalscorer – awarded MBEs. The team’s Dutch head coach, Sarina Wiegman, is made an honorary CBE by the Foreign Office. The former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings, 77, has been made a CBE.

The first woman to run one of Britain’s biggest banks, Alison Rose, the chief executive of NatWest Group, is one of 15 women made dames, and said the honour was “a reflection of the fantastic work of all my colleagues at NatWest Group”. Out of a total of 1,107 recipients of all honours, 50% are women. At CBE level or above, 45% are women.

David Harewood.
David Harewood. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

The actor and broadcaster David Harewood, 57, who found international fame as the CIA director David Estes in the US drama Homeland, is awarded an OBE after becoming a prominent advocate of better mental health support. Stephen Graham, 49, the star of This is England and well known for high-profile parts in several award-winning films and dramas, also becomes an OBE.

Frank Skinner, 65, the broadcaster and comedian, becomes an MBE and said: “I deal mainly in laughs and applause and they disappear into the air quite quickly. So getting a proper medal that you can hold on to and polish regularly feels [as if it] has given my career a sense of permanence that I like.”

The saxophonist, broadcaster and winner of two Mobo awards YolanDa Brown, 40, said she was “excited and honoured” to have been made an OBE. Janet Kay, 64, known as the “Queen of Lovers Rock”, who hit the charts in the 1970s with Silly Games, is made an MBE. So too is the opera mezzo-soprano Christine Rice, who said: “To be given an MBE is the culmination of so much joyful and serious endeavour. Thank you!”

The chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said he was “enormously honoured and deeply humbled” to have been knighted, adding: “It will be particularly moving for me to receive this award from his majesty the king in his first year as our monarch.”

Noreen Riols, 96, one of the last two surviving female members of the French section of the Special Operations Executive – the British espionage and sabotage organisation known as “Churchill’s secret army” – has dedicated her MBE to the memory of her late comrades.

The list also recognises senior diplomats at the forefront of the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine, with damehoods for Melinda Simmons, the ambassador in Kyiv, and Deborah Bronnert, the ambassador in Moscow.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who campaigned for the clean air act known as Ella’s law, named after her daughter who died in 2013 from air pollution, is made a CBE. She said her daughter would be proud of what she had achieved so far in her fight for cleaner air.

Helen Belcher.
Helen Belcher. Photograph: Andrew Eberlin/PA

Helen Belcher, the director of Transactual and a trustee of Trans Media Watch, who is made an OBE, said that while it was “very gratifying to be recognised in that way”, she also felt “a slight fear of what the press reaction is going to be because it’s almost as if trans people can’t do anything right at the moment in the current environment”.

This year’s list is the first published since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the first to be signed off by her son Charles as king.

Jason Knauf, the former royal aide who made a complaint of bullying against the Duchess of Sussex, which she denied, has been recognised for his service to the monarchy.

He is made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (RVO) after working for seven years for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and later the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Honours within the RVO are in the king’s gift and are bestowed independently of Downing Street to people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way.

When working for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as their communications secretary in October 2018, Knauf emailed his concerns about Meghan to William’s then private secretary, in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff. The duchess’s legal team have in the past strenuously denied the allegation.

Themes reflected in the list of recipients include sustained public service, youth engagement and support for environmental and climate change action.

Recipients are selected by independent committees, with those chosen then formally approved by the prime minister and the king.

Organisations that resort to paying for professional services to try to succeed in getting a nomination have faced criticism and are discouraged. Sir Hugh Robertson, the chair of the sport honours committee, said such applications could easily be spotted compared with those submitted by members of the community, and were less likely to be selected.

“You can sort of spot the polished ones. If you came to me and said, ‘I desperately want a nomination, how should I do it?’ the last thing you should do is pay someone to draw the thing up, because it’s just so obvious after a while,” he said.

Of those submitted by community members, he said: “They are written with passion, not polish.”

• This article was amended on 31 December 2022. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Noreen Riols was the last surviving female member of the French section of the Special Operations Executive.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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