CBE and OBE: Royal Honours bestowed on Eric Clapton

CBE and OBE: Royal Honours bestowed on Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton has not yet been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. However, he has received two royal honours.

On 3 November 2004 in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Eric Clapton was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE. It was conferred by the Princess Royal (Princess Anne). It had been announced in the 2004 New Year’s Honours List, by Queen Elizabeth II on 31 December 2003.

In 1994 the Queen made Eric Clapton an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in her New Year’s Honours List for “contribution to British Life.”

If honoured again, he would receive a knighthood. He would then be known as Sir Eric Clapton.

Royal honours in the United Kingdom are made within Orders of Knighthood, such as the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Bath. Up until the 19th Century, appointment to orders of chivalry was restricted to the aristocracy and high-ranking military. In 1917, George V created the Order of the British Empire. He realized the need for an honour that could be more widely awarded. At first, it was only given to British combatants, civilians and foreigners who assisted in the war effort (World War I). For the first time, women were included in a chivalric order. In 1918, civilian and military divisions were established within the Order to reward “services to the State”.

The only criterion to receive an award within the Order of the British Empire is “valuable service.” It is broadly defined. Civilian awards are routinely given for service to the arts (musicians, actors, painters, sports figures), public service (teachers, nurses, police officers), and for volunteer work with charitable organizations.

The grades within the Order of the British Empire are:
Grand Cross (GBE)
Knight / Dame (KBE / DBE)
Commander (CBE)
Officer (OBE)
Member (MBE)

Those who have been awarded CBEs, OBEs, and MBEs have no title but can put the letters after their names.

Honours are announced twice a year – at New Year and in June (the Queen’s Birthday) – with approximately 1,500 awards being issued at each. The majority falls within the Order of the British Empire. About 15% are at the highest levels (CBE and above). The Queen confers honours on the advice of the Prime Minister, so recommendations must be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office. The recipients are then selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the public and the government.

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