National honours – recognising the extraordinary

Elizabeth Ann Packer receiving the BEM medal from the former Lord-Lieutenant David Laing for services to the community.
Elizabeth Ann Packer receiving the BEM medal from the former Lord-Lieutenant David Laing for services to the community.

While for many, modesty and shyness can make gratitude and recognition uncomfortable, it is centrally human to find pleasure in thanking and being thanked for something done worthy of appreciation. Whether it is a friend, family or a stranger who helped us along the way and whether small or life-changing, a response is as important and affirming to the helped as it is to the helper.

We all know what it feels like when something positive we do is ignored. The motivation to help in future can be dimmed. A ‘thank you’ though, builds us up, whether giver or receiver. It doesn’t cost us either. In that sense, it is priceless.

What is true at a personal level, is just as true at a societal level. If a society fails to mark and express its gratitude for individual or collective contributions to the life of its communities, then it is diminished. This is why at a national level the UK’s system for awarding honours has a key role to play in ensuring that people who make our lives better are suitably thanked. It is a bi-annual moment when the country, by act of the Sovereign, can publicly declare its appreciation of the beyond-ordinary contribution of individuals to the lives of us all.

The National Honours System is your honours system. The vast majority of honours are based on nominations by members of the public. Yes, nominations go through a careful process of scrutiny by specialist non-political committees and a validation process, and not all nominations are accepted. A national honour should have a rarity value and not be handed out on just a ‘say so’. The process can also take a considerable while, but when an honour is awarded, it makes a difference; a difference not just to the individual, but to the community that has benefited.

There is thus great worth in receiving an honour, in one of the following four categories:

CBE

Commander of the Order of the British Empire: for achievement or service in a leading role regionally or nationally

OBE

Officer of the Order of the British Empire: for a contribution felt by a significant body of people across a county or region

MBE

Member of the Order of the British Empire: for outstanding achievement or service by a local role model

BEM

The starting point for any nomination is the form and guidance to be found here to the Cabinet Office webpage for UK National Honours.


Although recent months have been immensely difficult for so many, with heartbreaking suffering and in some areas overwhelming need, we have also seen extraordinary acts of selflessness and sacrifice, kindness and generosity by individuals and groups; conduct that has been truly heartwarming and elevating. If you feel that someone you know has gone beyond the ordinary and been extraordinary, perhaps now is the time to consider making a nomination for an individual National Honour.

So, why not make a difference to someone who has made a difference?

Dominic Hopkins, DL Solicitor with Hewitsons LLP and the Under Sheriff of Northamptonshire, is also a Deputy Lieutenant for the County and assists HM Lord-Lieutenant, Mr James Saunders Watson, as a member of the County’s Honours Committee
Dominic Hopkins, DL Solicitor with Hewitsons LLP and the Under Sheriff of Northamptonshire, is also a Deputy Lieutenant for the County and assists HM Lord-Lieutenant, Mr James Saunders Watson, as a member of the County’s Honours Committee