Order of Merit
|Order of Merit|
|Insignia of the Order of Merit presented to Dorothy Hodgkin, displayed in the Royal Society in London|
|Awarded by the
monarch of the United Kingdom
(foundation – 1931)
monarch of the United Kingdom and the Dominions
monarch of the Commonwealth realms
|Eligibility||All living citizens of the Commonwealth realms|
|Awarded for||At the monarch's pleasure|
|First Sovereign||King Edward VII|
|Sovereign||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Grades (w/ post-nominals)||Member (OM)|
|Next (higher)||Dependent on state|
|Next (lower)||Dependent on state|
|Ribbon of the Order of Merit|
The Order of Merit (French: Ordre du Mérite)[n 1] is a dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Established in 1902 by King Edward VII, admission into the order remains the personal gift of its Sovereign—currently Edward VII's great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II—and is restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from the Commonwealth realms plus a limited number of honorary members. While all members are awarded the right to use the post-nominal letters OM and a medallion for life, the Order of Merit's precedence among other honours differs between realms.
The first mention of a possible Order of Merit was made following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in correspondence between First Lord of the Admiralty Lord Barham and William Pitt, though nothing came of the idea. Later, it was thought by Queen Victoria, her courtiers, and politicians alike, that a new order, based on the Prussian order Pour le Mérite, would make up for the insufficient recognition offered by the established honours system to achievement outside of public service, in fields such as art, music, literature, industry, and science. Victoria's husband, Albert, Prince Consort, took an interest in the matter; it was recorded in his diary that he met on 16 January 1844 with Robert Peel to discuss the "idea of institution of a civil Order of Merit" and three days later he conferred with the Queen on the subject. The concept did not wither and, on 5 January 1888, British prime minister Lord Salisbury submitted to the Queen a draft constitution for an Order of Merit in Science and Art, consisting of one grade split into two branches of knighthood: the Order of Scientific Merit for Knights of Merit in Science, with the post-nominal letters KMS and the Order of Artistic Merit for Knights of Merit in Art, with the post-nominal letters KMA. However, Sir Frederic Leighton, President of the Royal Academy, advised against the new order, primarily because of its selection process.
It was Victoria's son, King Edward VII, who eventually founded the Order of Merit on 26 June 1902 (the date for which his coronation had been originally planned) as a means to acknowledge "exceptionally meritorious service in Our Navy and Our Army, or who may have rendered exceptionally meritorious service towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science"; all modern aspects of the order were established under his direction, including the division for military figures. From the outset, prime ministers attempted to propose candidates or lobbied to influence the monarch's decision on appointments, but the Royal Household adamantly guarded information about potential names. After 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into being and the Dominions of the British Empire became independent countries, equal in status to the UK, the Order of Merit continued as an honour open to all these realms and, in many, became a part of their national honours systems. The order's statutes were amended in 1935 to include members of the Royal Air Force and, in 1969, the definition of honorary recipients was expanded to include members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
From its inception, the order has been open to women, Florence Nightingale being the first woman to receive the honour, in 1907. Several individuals have refused admission into the Order of Merit, such as Rudyard Kipling, A. E. Housman, and George Bernard Shaw. To date, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, remains the youngest person ever inducted into the Order of Merit, having been admitted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968, when he was 47 years of age.
Eligibility and appointment
All citizens of the Commonwealth realms are eligible for appointment to the Order of Merit. There may be, however, only 24 living individuals in the order at any given time, not including honorary appointees, and new members are personally selected by the reigning monarch of the realms, currently Queen Elizabeth II, with the assistance of her private secretaries; the order has thus been described as "quite possibly, the most prestigious honour one can receive on planet Earth." Within the limited membership is a designated military division, with its own unique insignia; though it has not been abolished, it is currently unpopulated, Lord Mountbatten of Burma having been the last person so honoured. Honorary members form another group, to which there is no numerical limit, though such appointments are rare; individuals from countries in the Commonwealth of Nations that are not headed by Elizabeth II are therefore considered foreigners, and thus are granted only honorary admissions, such as Nelson Mandela (South Africa) and Mother Teresa (India).
Upon admission into the Order of Merit, members are entitled to use the post-nominal letters OM, and are entrusted with the badge of the order, consisting of a golden crown from which is suspended a red enamelled cross, itself centred by a disk of blue enamel, surrounded by a gold laurel wreath, and bearing in gold lettering the words FOR MERIT; the insignia for the military grouping is distinguished by a pair of crossed swords behind the central disk. The ribbon of the Order of Merit is divided into two stripes of red and blue; men wear their badges on a neck ribbon, while women carry theirs on a ribbon bow pinned to the left shoulder, and aides-de-camp may wear the insignia on their aiguillettes. Since 1991, it has been required that the insignia be returned upon the recipient's death.
There have been no honorary members of the Order of Merit since the death of the last such member, Nelson Mandela, in December 2013.
As the Order of Merit is open to the citizens of sixteen different countries, each with their own system of orders, decorations, and medals, the order's place of precedence varies from country to country. While, in the United Kingdom, the order's postnominal letters follow those of Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, membership in the Order of Merit itself gives members no place in any of the orders of precedence in the United Kingdom. However, it has been claimed by Stanley Martin, in his book The Order of Merit 1902–2002: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour, that the Order of Merit is the pinnacle of the British honours system. Similarly, though it was not listed in the Canadian order of precedence for honours, decorations, and medals until December 2010, except relating to those who were appointed to the order prior to 1 June 1972, Christopher McCreery, an expert on Canadian honours and secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, stated that the Order of Merit was the highest civilian award for merit a Canadian could receive.
Some orders of precedence are as follows:
The Earl Roberts, the first member of the Order of Merit
Florence Nightingale, the first female member of the Order of Merit
The Lord Rutherford of Nelson, first New Zealand-born member of the Order of Merit
Samuel Alexander, the first Australian-born member of the Order of Merit
Jan Smuts, the first South African member of the Order of Merit
William Lyon Mackenzie King, the first Canadian member of the Order of Merit
|Member number||Country||Name||Date of appointment||Date of death|
|1[n 3]||The Earl Roberts||26 June 1902||14 November 1914|
|2||The Viscount Wolseley||26 June 1902||25 March 1913|
|3||The Lord Kitchener of Khartoum||26 June 1902||5 June 1916|
|4||The Lord Rayleigh||26 June 1902||30 June 1919|
|5||The Lord Kelvin||26 June 1902||17 December 1907|
|6||The Lord Lister||26 June 1902||10 February 1912|
|7||Sir Henry Keppel||26 June 1902||17 January 1904|
|8||John Morley||26 June 1902||23 September 1923|
|9||William Edward Hartpole Lecky||26 June 1902||22 October 1903|
|10||Sir Edward Hobart Seymour||26 June 1902||2 March 1929|
|11||Sir William Huggins||26 June 1902||12 May 1910|
|12||George Frederic Watts||26 June 1902||1 July 1904|
|13||Sir George Stuart White||30 June 1905||24 June 1912|
|14||Sir John Fisher||30 June 1905||10 July 1920|
|15||Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb||30 June 1905||9 December 1905|
|16||Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema||30 June 1905||25 June 1912|
|17||George Meredith||30 June 1905||18 May 1909|
|18||William Holman Hunt||30 June 1905||7 September 1910|
|22||The Earl of Cromer||29 June 1906||29 January 1917|
|23||James Bryce||11 February 1907||22 January 1922|
|24||Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker||30 June 1907||10 December 1911|
|25||Florence Nightingale||12 May 1907||13 August 1910|
|26||Henry Jackson||26 June 1908||25 September 1921|
|27||Alfred Russel Wallace||26 June 1908||7 November 1913|
|28||Sir William Crookes||8 July 1910||4 April 1919|
|29||Thomas Hardy||8 July 1910||11 January 1928|
|30||Sir George Trevelyan, Bt||19 June 1911||17 August 1928|
|31||Sir Edward Elgar, Bt||19 June 1911||23 February 1934|
|32||Sir Arthur Wilson||8 March 1912||25 May 1921|
|33||Sir J. J. Thomson||15 March 1912||30 August 1940|
|34||Sir Archibald Geikie||1 January 1914||10 November 1924|
|35||Sir John French||3 December 1914||22 May 1925|
|36||The Viscount Haldane||26 May 1915||19 August 1928|
|37||Henry James||1 January 1916||28 February 1916|
|38||Sir John Jellicoe||31 May 1916||20 November 1935|
|39||Arthur Balfour||3 June 1916||19 March 1930|
|41||Sir David Beatty||3 June 1919||11 March 1936|
|42||Douglas Haig||3 June 1919||29 January 1928|
|44||David Lloyd George||5 August 1919||26 March 1945|
|45||Sir J. M. Barrie, Bt||2 January 1922||19 June 1937|
|46||F. H. Bradley||3 June 1924||18 September 1924|
|47||Sir Charles Scott Sherrington||3 June 1924||4 March 1952|
|48||Sir James George Frazer||1 January 1925||7 May 1941|
|49||/||Lord Rutherford of Nelson||1 January 1925||19 October 1937|
|50||Sir Charles Algernon Parsons||3 June 1927||11 February 1931|
|51||Sir George Abraham Grierson||4 June 1928||9 March 1941|
|52||Robert Seymour Bridges||3 June 1929||21 April 1930|
|53||John Galsworthy||3 June 1929||31 January 1933|
|54||/||Samuel Alexander||3 June 1930||13 September 1938|
|55||M. R. James||3 June 1930||12 June 1936|
|56||G. M. Trevelyan||3 June 1930||21 July 1962|
|57||Sir Charles Madden, Bt||1 January 1931||5 June 1935|
|58||Philip Wilson Steer||1 January 1931||18 March 1942|
|59||Sir William Henry Bragg||3 June 1931||10 March 1942|
|60||John William Mackail||1 January 1935||13 December 1945|
|61||John Edward Masefield||3 June 1935||12 May 1967|
|62||Ralph Vaughan Williams||3 June 1935||26 August 1958|
|63||Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins||3 June 1935||16 May 1947|
|64||Sir Philip Chetwode, Bt||1 January 1936||6 July 1950|
|65||Herbert Fisher||1 February 1937||18 April 1940|
|66||The Lord Baden-Powell||11 May 1937||8 January 1941|
|67||Sir Arthur Eddington||9 June 1938||22 November 1944|
|68||The Lord Chatfield||2 January 1939||15 November 1967|
|69||Sir James Hopwood Jeans||2 January 1939||16 September 1946|
|70||Sir Cyril Newall||29 October 1940||30 November 1963|
|71||/||Gilbert Murray||1 January 1941||20 May 1957|
|72||Sir Edwin Lutyens||1 January 1942||1 January 1944|
|73||Augustus John||11 June 1942||31 October 1961|
|74||Edgar Adrian||11 June 1942||4 August 1977|
|75||Sir William Searle Holdsworth||1 January 1943||2 January 1944|
|76||Sir Dudley Pound||3 September 1943||21 October 1943|
|77||The Lord Passfield||8 June 1944||13 October 1947|
|78||Sir Henry Hallett Dale||8 June 1944||23 July 1968|
|79||Sir Giles Gilbert Scott||8 June 1944||8 February 1960|
|80||/||Alfred North Whitehead||1 January 1945||30 December 1947|
|82||Sir Winston Churchill||1 January 1946||24 January 1965|
|83||The Viscount Portal of Hungerford||1 January 1946||22 April 1971|
|84||The Viscount Alanbrooke||13 June 1946||17 June 1963|
|85||The Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope||13 June 1946||12 June 1963|
|86||The Earl of Halifax||13 June 1946||23 December 1959|
|87||Jan Smuts||1 January 1947||11 September 1950|
|89||William Lyon Mackenzie King||17 November 1947||22 July 1950|
|90||T. S. Eliot||1 January 1948||4 January 1965|
|91||Sir Robert Robinson||9 June 1949||8 February 1975|
|92||The Earl Russell||9 June 1949||2 February 1970|
|93||Sir Alexander Cadogan||1 January 1951||9 July 1968|
|94||The Viscount Trenchard||1 January 1951||10 February 1956|
|95||G. E. Moore||7 June 1951||24 October 1958|
|96||Clement Attlee||5 November 1951||8 October 1967|
|97||Wilder Penfield||1 January 1953||5 April 1976|
|98||Walter de la Mare||1 June 1953||22 June 1956|
|100||The Lord Hailey||31 May 1956||1 June 1969|
|101||Sir John Cockcroft||1 January 1957||18 September 1967|
|102||The Viscount Waverley||8 December 1957||4 January 1958|
|103||Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet||12 June 1958||31 August 1985|
|104||The Viscount Samuel||21 November 1958||2 February 1963|
|105||The Earl Alexander of Tunis||23 April 1960||16 June 1969|
|106||Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood||23 April 1960||9 October 1967|
|107||Graham Sutherland||23 April 1960||17 February 1980|
|108||Sir Geoffrey de Havilland||23 November 1962||21 May 1965|
|109||Sir Basil Spence||23 November 1962||19 November 1976|
|110||Sir Owen Dixon||29 May 1963||7 July 1972|
|112||George Peabody Gooch||16 August 1963||31 August 1968|
|113||Henry Moore||16 August 1963||31 August 1986|
|114||Benjamin Britten||23 March 1965||4 December 1976|
|115||Dorothy Hodgkin||23 March 1965||29 July 1994|
|116||The Earl Mountbatten of Burma||15 July 1965||27 August 1979|
|117||/||The Lord Florey||15 July 1965||21 February 1968|
|118||Patrick Blackett||20 November 1967||13 July 1974|
|119||Sir William Walton||20 November 1967||8 March 1983|
|120||Ben Nicholson||23 April 1968||6 February 1982|
|121||/||Sir Solly Zuckerman||23 April 1968||1 April 1993|
|123||E. M. Forster||1 January 1969||7 June 1970|
|124||Malcolm MacDonald||14 July 1969||11 January 1981|
|125||The Lord Penney||14 July 1969||3 March 1991|
|126||Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor||14 July 1969||27 June 1975|
|127||Dame Veronica Wedgwood||14 July 1969||9 March 1997|
|128||John Cawte Beaglehole||21 March 1970||10 October 1971|
|129||Lester B. Pearson||20 May 1971||27 December 1972|
|130||Sir Isaiah Berlin||20 May 1971||5 November 1997|
|131||Sir George Edwards||20 May 1971||2 March 2003|
|132||Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin||17 April 1973||20 December 1998|
|133||Paul Dirac||17 April 1973||20 October 1984|
|134||Harold Macmillan||2 April 1976||29 December 1986|
|135||The Lord Hinton of Bankside||2 April 1976||22 June 1983|
|136||The Lord Clark||2 April 1976||21 May 1983|
|137||/||Sir Ronald Syme||2 April 1976||4 September 1989|
|138||The Lord Todd||24 October 1977||10 January 1997|
|139||The Lord Franks||24 October 1977||15 October 1992|
|140||Sir Frederick Ashton||24 October 1977||18 October 1988|
|141||J. B. Priestley||24 October 1977||14 August 1984|
|142||The Lord Olivier||6 February 1981||11 July 1989|
|143||Sir Peter Medawar||6 February 1981||2 October 1987|
|144||Leonard Cheshire||6 February 1981||31 July 1992|
|145||The Reverend Owen Chadwick||11 November 1983||17 July 2015|
|146||Sir Andrew Huxley||11 November 1983||30 May 2012|
|147||Sir Sidney Nolan||11 November 1983||28 November 1992|
|148||Sir Michael Tippett||11 November 1983||8 January 1998|
|150||Graham Greene||11 February 1986||3 April 1991|
|151||Frederick Sanger||11 February 1986||19 November 2013|
|152||Sir Frank Whittle||11 February 1986||9 August 1996|
|153||Sir Yehudi Menuhin||25 February 1987||12 March 1999|
|154||Sir Ernst Gombrich||15 February 1988||3 November 2001|
|155||Max Perutz||15 February 1988||6 February 2002|
|156||Dame Cicely Saunders||30 November 1989||14 July 2005|
|157||Sir George Porter||30 November 1989||31 August 2002|
|158||The Lady Thatcher||7 December 1990||8 April 2013|
|159||Dame Joan Sutherland||29 November 1991||10 October 2010|
|160||Francis Crick||27 November 1991||28 July 2004|
|161.||Dame Ninette de Valois||17 November 1992||8 March 2001|
|163||Lucian Freud||6 December 1993||20 July 2011|
|164||The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead||6 December 1993||5 January 2003|
|167||Sir John Gielgud||9 December 1996||21 May 2000|
|168||The Lord Denning||25 November 1997||5 March 1999|
|170||Sir Denis Rooke||25 November 1997||2 September 2008|
|171||Ted Hughes||10 August 1998||28 October 1998|
|172||Basil Hume||25 May 1999||17 June 1999|
|173||Sir James W. Black||9 May 2000||22 March 2010|
|174||Sir Anthony Caro||9 May 2000||23 October 2013|
|191||Martin Litchfield West||1 January 2014||13 July 2015|
Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, known as Mother Teresa, appointed to the Order of Merit in 1983 and died in 1997
Nelson Mandela, appointed to the Order of Merit in 1995 and died in 2013
|Number||Country||Name||Date of appointment||Date of death|
|19.||Prince Yamagata Aritomo||21 February 1906||1 February 1922|
|20.||Prince Ōyama Iwao||21 February 1906||10 December 1916|
|21.||Marquess Tōgō Heihachirō||21 February 1906||30 May 1934|
|40.||Ferdinand Foch||29 November 1918||20 March 1929|
|43.||Joseph Joffre||26 June 1919||3 January 1931|
|81.||Dwight D. Eisenhower||12 June 1945||28 March 1969|
|88.||John Gilbert Winant||1 January 1947||3 November 1947|
|99.||Albert Schweitzer||25 February 1955||4 September 1965|
|111.||Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan||12 June 1963||17 April 1975|
|149.||/||Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa)||18 November 1983||5 September 1997|
|165.||Nelson Mandela||21 March 1995||5 December 2013|
- For use in Canada, in accordance with the country's policy of official bilingualism.
- The number shown in brackets is the individual's place in the wider order of appointment since the Order of Merit's inception.
- The number shown is the individual's place in the wider order of appointment since the Order of Merit's inception.
- The Royal Household. "The Queen and the UK > Queen and Honours > Order of Merit". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "It's an Honour > Orders > Order of Merit". Queen's Printer for Canada.
- Jackson, Michael D. (2007), "The Order of Merit 1902–2002: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour" (PDF), Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada), Summer 2007 (26): 15, retrieved 28 July 2009[dead link]
- Martin 2007, p. 11
- Martin 2007, p. 12
- Martin 2007, p. 13
- Martin 2007, pp. 18–20
- Martin 2007, p. 1
- Mountbatten, Philip (2007), "Foreword", written at London, in Martin, Stanley, The Order of Merit: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour, New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., pp. xvii, ISBN 978-1-86064-848-9, retrieved 14 October 2009
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Honours > Orders > Order of Merit". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
- McCreery, Christopher (2005). The Canadian Honours System. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 98. ISBN 9781550025545.
- Editorial Board (15 July 2009), "Order Worthy?", National Post, retrieved 29 July 2009[dead link]
- Clarence House. "For Children > Medals and Uniforms > Medals > Picture 4: The Order of Merit". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
- Martin 2007, p. 56
- Curry, Bill (26 April 2013). "Prince Philip first Royal to be awarded Order of Canada". The Globe and Mail.
- The Royal Household. "The Queen and the UK > Queen and Honours > Order of Merit > List of current members". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
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- The Royal Household. "Appointments to the Order of Merit". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "New Year Honours 2013: The Full List". The Guardian. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- Jackson, Michael D. (2007). "The Order of Merit 1902–2002: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour by Stanley Martin, CD" (PDF). Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Summer 2007 (26): 15. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
- Government of Canada (8 December 2010). "Order of Merit (O.M.) Order". Canada Gazette (Queen's Printer for Canada) 144 (25). SI/2010-88. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Honours > Order of Precedence". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
- McCreery, Christopher (2005), The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-3940-5
- Taber, Jane (15 July 2009), "Chrétien 'thrilled' by rare honour from Queen", The Globe and Mail, retrieved 24 July 2009
- New Zealand Defence Force. "Medals Home > general medals information > order of wear". Queen's Printer for New Zealand. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
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- The London Gazette: . 2 September 1902.
- The London Gazette: . 12 February 1907.
- The London Gazette: . 29 November 1907.
- The London Gazette: . 9 November 1908.
- The London Gazette: . 8 July 1910.
- The London Gazette: . 15 May 1906.
- Martin, Stanley (2007), The Order of Merit: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour, New York City: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., ISBN 978-1-86064-848-9
- "Merit, Order of". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
- "Merit, Order of". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.