Order of Merit

The Order of Merit (French: Ordre du Mérite)[n 1] is an order of merit 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.[1][2] While all members are awarded the right to use the post-nominal letters OM and wear the badge of the order,[3] the Order of Merit's precedence among other honours differs between countries.

Order of Merit
Ordre du Mérite
Order of Merit Dorothy Hodgkin (cropped)
Badge and ribbon bow of the order
Awarded by the monarch of the Commonwealth realms (since 1952)
TypeDynastic order
Established26 June 1902
MottoFor Merit
EligibilityAll living citizens of the Commonwealth realms
Awarded forAt the monarch's pleasure
StatusCurrently constituted
SovereignQueen Elizabeth II
First sovereignKing Edward VII
GradesMember (OM)
Next (higher)Dependent on state
Next (lower)Dependent on state
Order of Merit (Commonwealth realms) ribbon

Ribbon of the order


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.[4] Later, it was thought by Queen Victoria, her courtiers, and politicians alike,[5] 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.[4]

Victoria's husband, Albert, Prince Consort, took an interest in the matter; it was recorded in his diary that he met Robert Peel on 16 January 1844 to discuss the "idea of institution of a civil Order of Merit" and, three days later, he conferred with the Queen on the subject.[6] 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.[7]

Eduard VII
King Edward VII, founder of the Order of Merit

Victoria's son, King Edward VII, eventually founded the Order of Merit on 26 June 1902 (the date for which his coronation had been originally planned[8]) 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".[9] All modern aspects of the order were established under his direction, including the division for military figures.[3]

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.[3] 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.[10] 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 that are not realms.

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.[3]

Eligibility and appointment

Order of Merit in Westminster Cathedral (cropped)
Reverse of the badge

All citizens of the Commonwealth realms are eligible for appointment to the Order of Merit.[2] 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;[3] the order has thus been described as "quite possibly, the most prestigious honour one can receive on planet Earth."[11] 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.[3] 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).[1]

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 laurel wreath, and bearing in gold lettering the words FOR MERIT;[12] the insignia for the military grouping is distinguished by a pair of crossed swords behind the central disk.[2] 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.[12] Since 1991, it has been required that the insignia be returned upon the recipient's death.[13]

Current members

Substantive members

Member number[a] Portrait Name Known for Date of appointment Present age
1 (122) Prince Philip March 2015 (cropped) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Consort of Elizabeth II[14] 10 June 1968[15] 98
2 (169) Norman Foster dresden 061110 The Lord Foster of Thames Bank
Architect and Pritzker laureate 25 November 1997[15] 84
3 (175) Roger Penrose at Festival della Scienza Oct 29 2011 Sir Roger Penrose
Mathematical physicist 9 May 2000[15] 88
4 (176) Image-Tom Stoppard 1 (cropped) Sir Tom Stoppard
Playwright 9 May 2000[15] 82
5 (177) Charles Prince of Wales Charles, Prince of Wales
Heir apparent to Elizabeth II 27 June 2002[15] 70
6 (178) BobMayHarvard The Lord May of Oxford
Ecologist and former President of the Royal Society 28 October 2002[15] 81
7 (179) The Lord Rothschild
Philanthropist 28 October 2002[15] 83
8 (180) Weston Library Opening by John Cairns 20.3.15-139 (cropped) Sir David Attenborough
Broadcaster and naturalist 10 June 2005[15] 93
9 (181) Official portrait of Baroness Boothroyd crop 2 The Baroness Boothroyd
First female Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom 10 June 2005[15] 89
10 (182) Sir Michael Howard
Military historian 10 June 2005[15] 96
11 (183) Official portrait of Lord Eames crop 2 The Lord Eames
Former Primate of All Ireland and former Archbishop of Armagh 13 June 2007[15] 82
12 (184) Sir Tim Berners-Lee (cropped) Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Inventor of the World Wide Web and Director of the World Wide Web Consortium 13 June 2007[15] 64
13 (185) Martin Rees-6Nov2005 The Lord Rees of Ludlow
Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society 13 June 2007[15] 77
14 (186) Jean Chrétien 2008 Jean Chrétien
Former Prime Minister of Canada 13 July 2009[16] 85
15 (187) Neil MacGregor Frankfurter Buchmesse 2015 Neil MacGregor
Art historian and former Director of the British Museum 4 November 2010[17] 73
16 (188) David Hockney
Artist 1 January 2012[18] 82
17 (189) Image-Howard2003upr John Howard
Second-longest serving Prime Minister of Australia (1996-2007) 1 January 2012[18] 80
18 (190) Rattle BPH-Rittershaus1-Wikipedia Sir Simon Rattle
Orchestral conductor 1 January 2014 [19] 64
19 (192) M Yacoub Sir Magdi Yacoub
Cardiothoracic surgeon 1 January 2014[19] 83
20 (193) WISHLordDarzi The Lord Darzi of Denham
Surgeon 31 December 2015[20] 59
21 (194) Ann Dowling in Cambridge 2011 Dame Ann Dowling
Mechanical engineer 31 December 2015[20] 67
22 (195) Sir James Dyson CBE FREng FRS Sir James Dyson
Inventor and industrial designer 31 December 2015[20] 72
  1. ^ The number shown in brackets is the individual's place in the wider order of appointment since the Order of Merit's inception.
  1. ^ The number shown in brackets is the individual's place in the wider order of appointment since the Order of Merit's inception.

Honorary members

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.[3] Similarly, though it was not listed in the Canadian order of precedence for honours, decorations, and medals until December 2010,[21] 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.[22][23]

Some orders of precedence are as follows:

Country Preceding Following
Australia Australia
Order of precedence
Knight/Lady of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (KT/LT) Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia (AK/AD)
Canada Canada
Order of precedence[24]
Cross of Valour (CV) Companion of the Order of Canada (CC)
New Zealand New Zealand
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB) Member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ)[25]
United Kingdom United Kingdom Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB) Baronet's Badge (Bt)[26]


  1. ^ For use in Canada, in accordance with the country's policy of official bilingualism.


  1. ^ a b "Order of Merit". Royal Household. Archived from the original on 18 July 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Order of Merit". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Jackson, Michael D. (Summer 2007), "The Order of Merit 1902–2002: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour by Stanley Martin, CD" (PDF), Canadian Monarchist News / Les Nouvelles Monarchiques du Canada (Book review), Oakville, Ontario: Monarchist League of Canada / La Ligue Monarchiste du Canada (26), p. 15, archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2009, retrieved 10 June 2019
  4. ^ a b Martin 2007, p. 11
  5. ^ Martin 2007, p. 12
  6. ^ Martin 2007, p. 13
  7. ^ Martin 2007, pp. 18–20
  8. ^ Martin 2007, p. 1
  9. ^ Mountbatten, Philip (2007), "Foreword", written at London, in Martin, Stanley (ed.), 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
  10. ^ McCreery, Christopher (2005). The Canadian Honours System. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 98. ISBN 9781550025545.
  11. ^ Editorial Board (15 July 2009), "Order Worthy?", National Post, archived from the original on 15 July 2009, retrieved 29 July 2009
  12. ^ a b "For Children > Medals and Uniforms > Medals > Picture 4: The Order of Merit". Clarence House. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  13. ^ Martin 2007, p. 56
  14. ^ Curry, Bill (26 April 2013). "Prince Philip first Royal to be awarded Order of Canada". The Globe and Mail.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "The Queen and the UK > Queen and Honours > Order of Merit > List of current members". Royal Household. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Queen gives Chrétien Order of Merit". CBC. 13 July 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Mr Neil MacGregor appointed to the Order of Merit, 4 November 2010". Royal Household. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  18. ^ a b "Appointments to the Order of Merit". Royal Household. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  19. ^ a b "New Year Honours 2013: The Full List". The Guardian. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  20. ^ a b c "New Year's Honours 2016". 30 December 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  21. ^ Government of Canada (8 December 2010). "Order of Merit (O.M.) Order". Canada Gazette. Queen's Printer for Canada. 144 (25). SI/2010-88. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  22. ^ McCreery, Christopher (2005), The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-3940-5
  23. ^ Taber, Jane (13 July 2009). "Chrétien 'thrilled' by rare honour from Queen". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  24. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Order of Precedence". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  25. ^ New Zealand Defence Force. "The Wearing of Medals in New Zealand Table – A guide to the correct order of wear". Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  26. ^ "No. 56878". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3351.


External links

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Indian Order of Merit

The Indian Order of Merit (IOM) was a military and civilian decoration of British India. It was established in 1837, (General Order of the Governor-General of India, No. 94 of 1 May 1837) although following the Partition of India in 1947 it was decided to discontinue the award and in 1954 a separate Indian honours system was developed, to act retrospectively to 1947. For a long period of time the IOM was the highest decoration that a native member of the British Indian Army could receive and initially it had three divisions. This was changed in 1911 when Indian servicemen became eligible for the Victoria Cross. A civilian division of the IOM also existed between 1902 and 1939, however, it was only conferred very rarely.

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourgish: [ʒɑ̃ːkloːt ˈjuŋkɐ]; born 9 December 1954) is a Luxembourgish politician serving as President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019. From 1995 to 2013 he served as the 23rd Prime Minister of Luxembourg; from 1989 to 2009 he was also Minister for Finances.

By the time he left office, he was the longest-serving head of any national government in the EU, and one of the longest-serving democratically elected leaders in the world, his tenure encompassing the height of the European financial and sovereign debt crisis. From 2005 to 2013, Juncker served as the first permanent President of the Eurogroup.In 2014, the European People's Party (EPP) had Juncker as its lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, for the presidency of the Commission in the 2014 elections. This marked the first time that the Spitzenkandidat process was employed. Juncker is the first president that prior to the election has campaigned as a candidate for the position, a process introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon. The EPP won 220 out of 751 seats in the Parliament. On 27 June 2014, the European Council officially nominated Juncker for the position, and on 15 July 2014, the European Parliament elected him with 422 votes out of the 729 cast. He succeeded José Manuel Barroso as President on 1 November 2014. Juncker stated that his priorities would be the creation of a digital single market, the development of an EU Energy Union, the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade Agreement, the continued reform of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union—with the social dimension in mind—and a "targeted fiscal capacity" for the Eurozone, as well as to negotiate a new deal with Britain.

Military awards and decorations

Military awards and decorations are a distinction given as a mark of honor for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement. It is often a medal consisting of a ribbon and a medallion.

While the United States Government does not consider all its military awards and medals as being "decorations", other countries tend to refer to all their military awards and medals as "decorations". Civil decorations awarded to military personnel should not be considered military decorations, although some orders of chivalry have civil and military divisions. Decorations received by police and fire brigade personnel may sometimes be considered alongside military decorations, on which they may be modelled, although they are strictly not military awards.


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New Zealand Order of Merit

The New Zealand Order of Merit is an order of merit in New Zealand's honours system. It was established by royal warrant on 30 May 1996 by Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, "for those persons who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits", to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.

In the order of precedence, the New Zealand Order of Merit ranks immediately after the Order of New Zealand.

Order "For Merit to the Fatherland"

The Order "For Merit to the Fatherland" (Russian: Орден «За заслуги перед Отечеством», Orden "Za zaslugi pered Otechestvom") is a state decoration of the Russian Federation. It was instituted on March 2, 1994 by Presidential Decree 442. Until the re-establishment of the Order of St. Andrew in 1998, it was the highest order of the Russian Federation. The order's status was modified on January 6, 1999 by Presidential Decree 19 and again on September 7, 2010 by Presidential Decree 1099.

Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or Bundesverdienstorden, BVO) is the only federal decoration of Germany. It was created by the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss, on 7 September 1951, and has been awarded to over 200,000 individuals in total, both Germans and foreigners. Since the 1990s the number of annual awards has declined from over 4,000, first to around 2,300–2,500 per year, and now under 2,000, with a low of 1752 in 2011. In recent years women have made up a steady 30–31% of recipients. Colloquially, the decorations of the different classes of the Order are also known as the Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz).

Most of the German federal states (Länder) have each their own order of merit as well, with the exception of the Free and Hanseatic Cities of Bremen and Hamburg, which reject any orders (by old tradition their citizens, particularly former or present senators, will refuse any decoration in the form of an order — the most famous example: former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt).

Order of Merit of the Italian Republic

The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italian: Ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana) was founded as the senior order of knighthood by the second President of the Italian Republic, Luigi Einaudi in 1951. The highest ranking honour of the Republic, it is awarded for "merit acquired by the nation" in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers. The post-nominal letters for the order are OMRI. The order effectively replaced national orders such as the Civil Order of Savoy (1831), the Order of the Crown of Italy (1868), the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (1572) and the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (1362).

Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary

The Hungarian Order of Merit (Hungarian: Magyar Érdemrend) is the second highest State Order of Hungary. Founded in 1991, the order is a revival of an original order founded in 1946 and abolished in 1949. Its origins can be traced to the Order of Merit of the Kingdom of Hungary which existed from 1922 until 1946.

Since 2011, the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary is the highest State Order of Hungary.

Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland

The Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Polish: Order Zasługi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) is a Polish order of merit created in 1974, awarded to persons who have rendered great service to Poland. It is granted to foreigners or Poles resident abroad. As such it is sometimes referred to as a traditional "diplomatic order".

Orders, decorations, and medals of Italy

The Italian honours system is a means to reward achievements or service to the Italian Republic, formerly the Kingdom of Italy including the Italian Social Republic.

Ordre national du Mérite

The Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) is a French order of merit with membership awarded by the President of the French Republic, founded on 3 December 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. The reason for the order's establishment was twofold: to replace the large number of ministerial orders previously awarded by the ministries; and to create an award that can be awarded at a lower level than the Legion of Honour, which is generally reserved for French citizens. It comprises about 187,000 members worldwide.

PDC Order of Merit

The PDC Order of Merit is a world ranking system used by one of the darts organisations, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Following the 2007 PDC World Darts Championship it superseded a world ranking system based on points being awarded for performances in ranking tournaments.

PGA European Tour

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Patriotic Order of Merit

The Patriotic Order of Merit (German: Vaterländischer Verdienstorden, or VVO) was a national award granted annually in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was founded in 1954 and was awarded to individuals and institutions for outstanding contributions to the state and society in various areas of life.

Philippe of Belgium

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Queen Sonja of Norway

Queen Sonja of Norway (born Sonja Haraldsen on 4 July 1937) is the wife of King Harald V.

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