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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Nominating someone for an honour

The honours system recognises people of outstanding merit, and those who have committed themselves to service to the nation. It's been around for centuries, but it was a closed system for many years. Only since 1993 has everybody been free to nominate.

Who can be nominated?

Anyone can be nominated, but only exceptional people are honoured. If you want to see your candidate on the honours list, make sure your nomination has what it takes to make it all the way to Buckingham Palace. Achievement comes in many forms but honours committees are looking for someone who has made a difference in their field of work or community.

Honours can be awarded for all sorts of work - paid or unpaid - but your nominee must still be involved in the activity for which they are nominated.

Before you make your nomination, ask yourself the following questions. Has your nominee:

  • made a difference to their community or field of work?
  • brought distinction to British life and enhanced its reputation?
  • exemplified the best sustained and selfless voluntary service?
  • demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurship?
  • carried the respect of their peers?
  • changed things, with an emphasis on achievement?
  • improved the lot of those less able to help themselves?
  • displayed moral courage and vision in making and delivering tough choices?

Nomination forms

To get started, you'll need a copy of the nominations form and the guidance notes, these are linked below. Alternatively, you can write or telephone the Cabinet Office and ask for a paper version to be sent to you.

You can return the form by post, fax or email. If you need a copy of the guidance notes in Braille, you can ask for one using the contact information below.

Honours and Appointments Secretariat
Cabinet Office
Ground Floor
Room G39
1 Horse Guards Road

Fax: +44 (0)20 7276 2766

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7276 2777


Writing a letter of support for a nomination

If you are writing a letter of support, you may find the booklet linked below useful.

What happens to a nomination

Nominations are collated and then segregated according to the nominee's area of expertise. Expert committees can then compare like with like - for instance, teacher with teacher - and the best candidates are put forward to the Prime Minister, who then presents the list to The Queen.

Which order?

The committee considers the appropriate order and level. There is no need to specify this in any nomination. Note that:

  • senior civil servants and military officers may be considered for the Order of the Bath
  • diplomats and others serving the UK abroad may be considered for the Order of St Michael and St George
  • anyone may be considered for awards in the Order of the British Empire, including for the British Empire Medal
  • anyone may be considered for the award of Companion of Honour

Which level?

Once the Order has been identified the criteria below are used by committees for deciding the level of award. The assessment committees also use precedent to aid their consideration.

Companion of Honour

A pre-eminent and sustained contribution in the arts, science, medicine or government.


A pre-eminent contribution in any field of activity (usually, but not exclusively, at national level), or in a capacity which will be recognised by peer groups as inspirational and significant nationally and demonstrates sustained commitment. Key factors are:

  • pre-eminent and sustained contribution
  • recognised by peer groups as inspirational
  • impact of contribution felt at a national level


A prominent national role of a lesser degree, a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs through achievement or service to the community, or a highly distinguished, innovative contribution in his or her area of activity. Key factors are:

  • achievement or service in a leading role at a regional level
  • highly distinguished and innovative contribution of wide impact


Distinguished regional or county-wide role in any field, through achievement or service to the community including notable practitioners known nationally. Key factors are:

  • regional or county-wide role
  • impact of contribution felt by a significant number of people or across a broad geographical area


Achievement or service in and to the community which is outstanding in its field and has delivered sustained and real impact which stands out as an example to others. Key factors are:

  • outstanding achievement or service
  • sustained contribution
  • real impact
  • local role model


Achievement or contribution of a very 'hands-on' service to the community in a local geographical area. This might take the form of sustained commitment in support of very local charitable and/or voluntary activity; or innovative work that has delivered real impact but that is relatively short (three to four years) in duration. Key factors are:

  • sustained, local contribution, or
  • innovative, high impact work of a relatively short duration

At all levels, awards illuminate areas of dedicated service which merit public recognition.

In terms of service the difference is determined by the extent of the person's influence. In terms of achievement the difference is determined by the significance of the person's impact in their chosen profession.

Checking progress

As you can imagine, verifying a large number of nominations takes time. The nominee should not expect to hear anything for at least 12-18 months. You can contact the Honours and Appointments Secretariat if you would like to check on progress.

The decision

If selected, candidates are sent a letter asking them whether they would be willing to accept an Honour. Almost everyone does and their names will appear in The London Gazette at the New Year or on The Queen's official birthday in June.

Additional links

Birthday Honours List 2012

The Queen's Birthday Honours List for 2012 has been published

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Do the honours!

Find out how to nominate an unsung hero

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