Penelope Wilton, the actress whose Downton Abbey character Isobel Crawley prided herself in her lack of titles, has been made a Dame.
The 70-year-old actress, who is due to star in new ITV drama Brief Encounters next month, has appeared in a raft of much-loved TV shows including Ever Decreasing Circles and Doctor Who where she played the courageous Prime Minister Harriet Jones. She is also due to appear as The Queen herself in the forthcoming Steven Spielberg adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG starring Mark Rylance.
Other celebrities to be rewarded included Rod Stewart who becomes a Knight.
Sir Rod Stewart, as he will now be known, was recognised for a 45-year career in which he had sold more than 100m albums worldwide, but also for his charity work.
On Friday night, the singer said he had “led a wonderful life” and had enjoyed a “tremendous career thanks to the generous support of the great British public. This monumental honour has topped it off and I couldn’t ask for anything more”. With a nod to one of his songs, he added: “I thank Her Majesty and promise to ‘wear it well’.”
Footballer and Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer was awarded a CBE for his charity work with disabled people and was delighted with the news.
I am honoured and humbled to be awarded the CBE. I will continue to make it my priority to help give something back to the North-East….
Broadcaster and journalist Janet Street-Porter becomes a CBE and the actor Brian Blessed an OBE while the wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn was made a companion of honour, one of the highest awards to be granted.
Astronaut Tim Peake has been given a CMG, or companion of the order of St Michael and St George, which is the first time an honour has been given to someone in space.
Sir Simon McDonald, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, asked the European Space Agency to set up a special phone line to the International Space Station to ask the astronaut if he would accept it.
Peake, who was due to return to earth next week, said the honour was not for him, but for “the hundreds of dedicated staff … all working in pursuit of one of the greatest scientific and technical challenges of our time – exploring our solar system for the benefit of people on Earth. This award is for them.”
In total, 1,004 people received awards, 47% of them women.
The youngest person to receive an honour was 21-year-old Gary Doyle, a plumbing apprentice from Castlewellan, County Down, who was given a British Empire Medal for “services to skills” after winning gold at the world plumbing and heating championships in Brazil last year.
Myra Brodie, a school crossing warden from Leicestershire, became an MBE, as did Valerie Johnson, director of Frankie’s fish and chips shop in Brae, Shetland. Shahzada Saleem, a taxi driver and competitive strongman from the west Midlands, was also honoured for services to the Asian sport of stone lifting.
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years writing for Stage newspaper, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.