A record proportion of Queen’s birthday honours went to women this year with Arlene Foster, the former Northern Ireland premier, among those who topped the list of people honoured for their contributions to public life ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee celebrations.
Honours also went to people who played a role in the fight against Covid-19. Sir Pascal Soriot, chief executive of drugmaker AstraZeneca, is made a knight for his services to UK life sciences and his company’s rapid development of a vaccine.
In order to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, which will be celebrated throughout the UK in a four-day holiday from Thursday, a particular emphasis was placed on “sustained public service, the environment and sustainability, and youth engagement”.
Women received 584, or 51.5 per cent, of the honours, slightly more than in 2015, when the previous record was set.
Among them were Dame Susan Ion, a global expert in nuclear engineering who spent 30 years at British Nuclear Fuels. She is made a Dame Grand Cross for the international impact she has on energy strategy and “for her work fostering the next generation of engineers from under-represented groups”.
Dame Bernadette Kelly, who has had a long career in the civil service and played a leading role on Brexit planning and in keeping the transport network running during the coronavirus pandemic, is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Those honoured for public service during the coronavirus pandemic include Dame Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for England and NHS director responsible for infection prevention and control, is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The youngest people to be honoured, twins Elena and Ruben Evans-Guillen, 11, receive British Empire Medals for their efforts raising £50,000 for the NHS.
In the business world, Dame Karen Jones, the chief executive of Prezzo who also founded the restaurant chain Café Rouge, is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Tom Joule, founder of clothes maker Joules, becomes an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
James Walker, the managing director of Walkers Shortbread and Richard Walker, (no relative) the chief executive of frozen-food chain Iceland, are both knighted for their services to the food industry.
Fewer controversial political nominations were made than in previous years. Foster, Northern Ireland’s former first minister and former leader of the Democratic Unionist party, is made a dame, while Conservative MP and former attorney-general Jeremy Wright is knighted, just days after castigating prime minister Boris Johnson for his role in the continuing partygate scandal.
Tory MPs Maria Miller, Tracey Crouch and Chris Skidmore are also on the list, while Labour MP Nia Griffith is made a dame and her party colleague Stephen Timms, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, is knighted.
Euan Blair, son of the former prime minister Tony Blair and chief executive of the apprenticeship company Multiverse, becomes a MBE for his services to education.
Among those named from the arts are Stephen Hough, who becomes the first UK-born classical pianist to gain a knighthood since 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Isaac Julien, the film-maker and Turner prize nominated artist, also receives a knighthood. One of his early films was Young Soul Rebels, set at the time of the Silver Jubilee.
Among other celebrities to be honoured, Damian Lewis, the Homeland series actor; Clare Balding, the BBC sports presenter; and fashion designer Stella McCartney are made CBEs. Moeen Ali, the England cricketer, and Rio Ferdinand, the former England footballer, are made OBEs.
This year’s list also names three Companions of Honour — of which there are only 65 recipients at any time: Sir Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses for his services to literature; Sir Quentin Blake, for his long career as an illustrator; and Dame Marina Warner, the writer and historian for “her services to the humanities”.
Sir Salman said: “It was with great surprise and delight that I learned of this extraordinary honour. It’s a privilege to be included in such illustrious company, both past and present.”
Nearly 20 people involved in the COP26 climate negotiations are also recognised. They include Archibald Young, lead negotiator for the UK Presidency of COP26, and Nigel Topping, UK climate action champion for COP26, both of whom are made Companions of the Order of St Michael and St George.