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10 people who refused honours

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The Queen’s New Year Honours list has been announced, leaving scores of recipients beaming with pride. But not everyone has queued up to bow to the system...

Nigella Lawson

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Perhaps surprisingly for the daughter of a life peer, Nigella Lawson declined an OBE. “I'm not saving lives,” the celebrity chef explained.

Jon Snow

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Following the offer of an honour in 2000, Snow went on to make a Channel 4 investigative programme "Secrets of the Honours System".

Writing for the Independent, Snow explained how the medals had lost their lustre.

Having been offered an OBE in 2000, and turned it down at the very least because I was a working journalist, I was motivated to find out more about how the whole thing worked.

 

Roald Dahl

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The beloved children's author turned down an OBE, supposedly because he was holding out for a knighthood instead, but he died in 1990 without ever receiving one.

John Lennon

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The Beatle returned the MBE he had been awarded in 1965 as a protest against Britain's involvement in “the Nigeria-Biafra thing”, its support of the US in Vietnam, and against “Cold Turkey” slipping down the charts.

Danny Boyle

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In 2012 the film director and creative force behind the London Olympics' opening ceremony declined a knighthood. Speaking in March 2013 Boyle said "It's just not me".

LS Lowry

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The Mancunian painter holds the record for refusing the most state honours. In total he turned down five awards, including a knighthood, between 1955 and 1976.

Benjamin Zephaniah

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Zephaniah made headlines in 2003 when he publicly revealed why he had snubbed the Establishment.

Writing in the Guardian, the poet wrote:

OBE, me? Up yours, I thought...I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.

David Bowie

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Bowie was offered an CBE and then in 2000 he was offered an OBE in the Queen's birthday honour's. 

Howard Gayle

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In 2016 Gayle, the first black footballer to play for Liverpool F.C and a campaigner for Show Racism a Red Card, declined an offer of an MBE.

Gayle explained his reasons for declining the honour on his Facebook:

 

Honorable mention: (Dame) Helen Mirren

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She did eventually accept, but Mirren first declined a CBE in 1996.

The subsequent offer of a damehood was accepted by Mirren in 2003 for services to the performing arts, three years before she won an Oscar for her turn as the Queen in the film of the same title.


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