Knight to E5: Wizarding World Stars and Orders of the British Empire
Every June, the Queen’s Birthday Honours list recognizes achievements of people from across the United Kingdom. Although the public does not decide who receives these honors, in a recent poll of British people, a number of Potter alumni came out on top as choices for Orders of the British Empire.
In the run-up to this year’s list, which was released on June 8, the History Channel conducted a survey asking the public whom they felt should receive a knighthood or a damehood.
The results revealed that J.K. Rowling topped the list, with an incredible one in five people wanting the author to receive a damehood, one of the highest Orders of the British Empire. There were also mentions of Potter alumni such as British audiobook narrator Stephen Fry, Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), and Dawn French (the Fat Lady).
But what is an Order of the British Empire?
Awarded to both famous faces and members of the public, Orders of the British Empire recognize an individual’s outstanding achievements, contributions, or service to either their community or field of work. There are five types of order, each with a differing degree of precedence:
- Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)
- Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
- Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
- Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
For example, an MBE may be awarded to someone who has made a real, hands-on difference in their local community, whereas a knighthood may be awarded to someone whose achievements are recognized on a national (and sometimes international) stage.
So who from the wizarding world has been honored (as of June 2019)?
Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
An OBE is awarded to individuals who have a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area. Currently, there are quite a few familiar faces from the wizarding world with this honor, including Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), and of course, J.K. Rowling.
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
According to the UK Government website, a CBE is awarded to those who have “a prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level.” A CBE can also be awarded for an innovative contribution to an individual’s field. As of 2019, wizarding world stars with CBEs include Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge), and Sir Michael Gambon (Professor Dumbledore).
Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
There is a growing number of Potter stars who are joining the distinguished ranks of knights and dames, which makes sense considering one of the qualifying criteria of a knighthood or damehood is length of commitment to a particular field or cause. Knights and dames will have made a significant contribution at a national level to their area of work and in doing so, earn the right to use “Sir” or “Dame” before their name. Current knights and dames from the Potter family include Dame Julie Walters, Dame Emma Thompson, Sir Kenneth Branagh, and Dame Maggie Smith.
Can someone turn down an Order of the British Empire?
Yes, someone can turn down an OBE, CBE, or even a knighthood or damehood! An individual may have many reasons for not wanting to accept an Order of the British Empire, including political or personal reasons. Some Potter alumni who have chosen to decline an Order of the British Empire are Dawn French (the Fat Lady), Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour), Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn), and John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick).
Whom would you like to see honored with an Order of the British Empire? Let us know in the comments!