Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter, famed for playing quirky characters as well as British royalty, joins a former prisoner, a reality TV guru and several Olympics organizers on the list of people being awarded honors by Queen Elizabeth II this New Year.
Bonham Carter missed out on the best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth, the supportive wife of King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” Her other major roles have included characters in films such as “Planet of the Apes” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The queen, who is the daughter of King George VI and Elizabeth, awarded Bonham Carter a CBE, short for Commanders of the Order of the British Empire. Bonham Carter has said she is dedicating the CBE to her late father.
Businessman Gerald Ronson, who was convicted in 1990 for a share-trading scandal and served six months of a one-year jail sentence, was awarded a CBE for his services to charity. Ronson fought a long legal battle to clear his name, and although the European Court of Human Rights later ruled his trial was unfair, Britain’s highest appeal court never overturned his conviction. He now runs property company Heron International and is a leading philanthropist.
Peter Bazalgette, who brought the show “Big Brother” to the U.K. and devised a string of much-copied lifestyle and reality shows, was made a knight. Professor Geoffrey Hill, who has been described as the greatest living poet in the English language, also became a knight.
Britain’s honors are bestowed twice a year by the monarch — at New Year’s and on her official birthday in June. Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.
In descending order, the honors are knighthoods, CBE, OBE — an Officer of the Order of the British Empire— and MBE — Member of the Order of the British Empire. Knights are addressed as “sir” or “dame.” Recipients of the other honors have no title but can put the letters after their names.
The queen or occasionally another member of the royal family presents the award at a ceremony known as an “investiture.” Several investitures are held at Buckingham Palace in London throughout the year.
Most of the honors go to people who are not in the limelight, for services to community or industry, but they also reward a sprinkling of famous faces.
As Britain prepares for the 2012 London Olympics, several organizers were recognized for their work.
John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which is building the venues and infrastructure of the games, was made a knight for services to engineering and construction. Charles Allen,who is in charge of making sure the whole country benefits from the games, was also made a knight. Howard Shiplee, director of construction at the ODA, was made a CBE.
Record producer Steve Lillywhite, who worked with rock groups such as U2, The Rolling Stones and The Smiths, was awarded a CBE for services to music.
Sky News journalist Alex Crawford, who filmed from a newly liberated Tripoli after traveling there with Libyan fighters who had overthrown Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, was awarded an OBE.