Queen is stripping people of honours at record rate, investigation shows

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II poses after confering the honour of a knighthood upon 100-year-old veteran Captain Tom Moore during an investiture at Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on July 17, 2020. - British World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore was made a a Knight Bachelor (Knighthood) for raising over £32 million for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen in July 2020, the last time she carried out an investiture in person. (Chris Jackson/AFP)

Honours from the Queen are being stripped from their recipients at a faster rate than any other decade, according to an investigation.

Harvey Weinstein was one of the last people to have his honour "cancelled and annulled" by the Cabinet Office, on behalf of the Queen, last year.

According to The Times, his was part of a record decade for annulments, with 70 people having their honour cancelled.

The paper calculated that 70 in one decade was more than three times the number of any other decade since the Queen acceded to the throne, except for the 1950s when 26 people had their honour cancelled and annulled.

While some of these cancellations are widely reported, as Weinstein's was, others go largely unnoticed, which has prompted calls for a wider level of transparency in the cancellation process.

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The Cabinet Office works on behalf of the Queen to cancel honours if the person is no longer considered fit to hold one.

Lord Lexden, who sat on the House of Lords constitution committee until 2015, told The Times: “Secret disgrace is no disgrace at all. A person to whom an award is made receives public honour; its loss should be accompanied by public dishonour.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 24: Harvey Weinstein enters a Manhattan court house as a jury continues with deliberations in his trial on February 24, 2020 in New York City. On Friday the judge asked the jury to keep deliberating after they announced that they are deadlocked on the charges of predatory sexual assault. Weinstein, a movie producer whose alleged sexual misconduct helped spark the #MeToo movement, pleaded not-guilty on five counts of rape and sexual assault against two unnamed women and faces a possible life sentence in prison. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Harvey Weinstein outside court in New York in February 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

One whose honour cancellation was not reported was Peter Cornwell, a former civil servant who had his MBE taken away in 2009. His child sex offences conviction is only public knowledge because of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. 

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We have increased transparency in the honours forfeiture system, including making more information about the process available publicly, increasing engagement with complainants and appointing independent members to the committee.

"The vast majority of forfeiture decisions are published - including those relating to child sex abuse. Any exceptions to this reflect broader duty of care considerations.

"We rightly provided full evidence to the statutory Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, to support the work of the Inquiry and in recognition of the seriousness of the issues raised."

Records of cancelled and annulled honours are made in the London Gazette, the official public record.

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Reasons are occasionally given, though they have been somewhat sporadic in Yahoo UK research. Some of those cancelled and annulled were accompanied by reasons during the 1980s. 

Usually several cancellations are announced in one day in the Gazette. On 15 August 2017, 11 people were stripped of their titles in one day.

When Weinstein's was cancelled, his was one of nine announced as annulled on 18 September 2020.

According to figures, 70 titles were cancelled and annulled in 2011-2020, a rise on the 20 cancelled and annulled between 2001-2010.

In 1991-2000, there were 20 cancellations, and in 1981-1990, there were 21.

There were 26 between 1951 and 1960. The Queen acceded to the throne in February 1952 after the death of her father.  

Titles only apply to the person while they are alive, and it is technically incorrect to refer to someone by their honour once they have died.

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