Friday, 5 November 2010

OM Appointment

The QUEEN has been pleased to appoint Mr Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) to be a member of the Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit, founded by 1902 by King Edward VII, is a special mark of honour conferred by the Sovereign on individuals of exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service. Appointments to the Order are in the Sovereign's personal gift and ministerial advice is not required.

At any point in time, there can only be a total of 24 members of the OM. This has been the case since King Edward VII established it in 1902 to reward those whose accomplishments in the arts, sciences and learning may go unsung.

Also, the honour does not come with a title, so there's no immediately obvious way of knowing someone has been bestowed with it.

Members are given a red and blue enamel badge, which reads "For Merit". When a member dies the badge is returned to the Queen, who receives the next-of-kin personally. She also has a portrait painted of each member, which becomes part of the royal collection, and hosts a gathering for the entire Order every five years.

In Northern Ireland, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Eames OM, former Archbishop of Armagh, is a member of the Order.

It's thought the number of members is so small to keep it exclusive.

People who have been awarded the honour include Florence Nightingale - who was the first woman - TS Eliot and Sir Winston Churchill. There have been 11 honorary members from foreign countries, like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Although nearly all prime ministers of the 20th Century have been knighted, only six of the 20 received the OM. Lady Thatcher is a member of the current group.

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