28 Jan 2012

Public figures snub British honours

4:09 pm on 28 January 2012

Artist Lucian Freud, sculptor Henry Moore and author Roald Dahl are among scores of well-known people to have rejected British honours.

Papers released by the British government on Thursday list names 277 people who refused honours between 1951 and 1999 and have since died.

Alfred Hitchcock refused an award in 1962, only to accept a knighthood shortly before his death in 1980.

Other public figures named on the official list include painters Francis Bacon and L.S. Lowry and Brave New World novelist Aldous Huxley.

Poet Philip Larkin refused the chance in 1968 to become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) but later accepted a higher ranking CBE, or Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Evelyn Waugh, who wrote Brideshead Revisited and Scoop rejected an offer in 1959 to become a CBE.

Author Graham Greene turned down the same honour three years earlier, only to accept honours later in life.

The Chronicles of Narnia creator C.S. Lewis also said no to a CBE, as did Brief Encounter actor Trevor Howard, in 1982.

The government was forced to publish the document after repeated requests under freedom of information laws.

Previously, rejected honours only came to light through unofficial leaks or if the person involved chose to speak about their decision.

The list gave no details of why people rejected their honours. In the past, people have given a range of reasons, from antipathy to the monarchy and Britain's colonial past, to a general lack of interest in prizes or a fear of perpetuating snobbery.

The late J.G. Ballard, whose books include Crash and Empire of the Sun, said he turned down an honour for services to literature in 2003.

"The whole thing is a preposterous charade," he was once quoted as saying in the Sunday Times newspaper. "Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a non-existent empire. It makes us look like a laughing stock."