The 2016 New Year Honours list has been announced – and while most celebrities are happy to receive that letter from 10 Downing Street telling them that they’re being considered for a gong, not every star who’s been offered an honour by Her Majesty (or rather: her Prime Minister) has accepted it.
From scientists to writers, movie stars to musicians, here are just a handful of the celebrities – past and present – who have refused a CBE, OBE or knighthood over the years…
Hawking revealed in 2008 that he’d turned down a knighthood over 10 years earlier. In his correspondence with the government, he apparently "refused it on principle… showing harsh criticism of what he sees as the UK government's mismanagement of science funding."
Offered a knighthood for directing the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, Boyle explained that he couldn’t accept it because "no one person was any more important than anyone else" in the creation of the ceremony, "and that includes me."
Like Boyle, Livingstone was offered an honour – albeit a CBE, rather than a knighthood – in the 2013 New Year list. "It was for services to the Olympics, not for my services to politics or newts I’m afraid," he explained. "I just don’t believe politicians should get all these gongs."
The Beatles became MBEs in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours – but Lennon sent his medal back four years later, with a letter saying: "Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts."
In 2012, Broadbent revealed he turned down an OBE a few years earlier. "I’m not that comfortable with actors receiving honours, partly because I think they ought to go to those who really help others," he explained. "Besides, I like the idea of actors not being part of the Establishment."
Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders
The comedy duo were offered OBEs in 2001 but refused them, Saunders later explaining: "At the time we were being paid very well to have a lot of fun, we didn't deserve a pat on the back. It felt a bit fake to stand alongside people who devoted their lives to truly worthy causes."
Poet Zephaniah publicly turned down his Order of the British Empire – offered in 2003 by Tony Blair – saying: "I have been fighting against the legacy of empire all my life... Anybody who has thought of giving me this OBE can't have read my work."
The writer and playwright turned down a CBE in 1988 and a knighthood in 1996. Of becoming a ‘Sir’, he said: "I felt that, in my case, it just wouldn't suit me, that's all. It would be like wearing a suit every day of your life."
At the time of his passing in 2013, many wondered why one of Britain’s finest actors had never become Sir Peter O'Toole. The reason? He was offered a knighthood in 1987, but turned it down for "personal and political reasons".
Blackman was offered a CBE in 2002 – but as she explained years later: "Since I’m a republican I thought it would be somewhat hypocritical to pop up to the Palace."
The Monty Python star turned down a CBE in 1996 "because I think they are silly". (He also refused a Lib Dem peerage in 1999, as he found the prospect of spending winter in Britain "too much of a price to pay".)
Kipling declined a knighthood in both 1899 and 1903. His wife reportedly explained his decision by saying that he felt could "do his work better without it".
The musician declined the CBE in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003. "I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that," he once explained. "I seriously don't know what it's for. It's not what I spent my life working for."
The TV chef and domestic goddess refused an OBE in 2001 – although she’s never explained why. (Perhaps she’s holding out to be Dame Nigella..?)
L. S. Lowry
Lowry holds the record for most honours declined – a grand total of five, ranging from OBE to knighthood. His friend and fellow artist Harold Riley later explained that Lowry didn’t have "anything against the system" but "indicated that he didn't wish to change his situation by something being latched on to him".