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Sam Volpe

Famous faces from the Lionesses to Brian May and Grayson Perry honoured in King Charles' first New Year's Honours list

A bevy of famous faces from the worlds of sport, arts and culture, and politics are among those to be given gongs in King Charles III's first New Year's Honours list.

Queen guitarist - and astrophysicist - Brian May becomes a knight, while leading artist Grayson Perry has also been given the same honour. Four of the Lionesses from the England football team which won Euro 2021 have also been recognised - as have actors Stephen Graham and David Harewood.

Legendary Olympic heptathlete Denise Lewis has also been made a dame, while actress and animal rights campaigner Virginia McKenna, 91, is among the oldest to have been honoured, also becoming a dame.

Read more: Lady Elsie Robson unveils bench to mark 10-year fundraising partnership worth £3m for North East cancer care

Knighthoods and damehoods

Brian May

Queen guitarist, Brian May, has been knighted in the 2023 New Year Honours list (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Musician and animal welfare campaigner Sir Brian, 75, who famously played God Save The Queen on the roof of Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee before performing again at the Platinum Jubilee two decades later, has been appointed a knight bachelor for services to music and charity.

The virtuoso guitarist - who is also an astrophysicist - reacted to the gong by saying he felt it brought with it responsibility. He said: "I feel very good about it. The first reaction I suppose is ‘Oh my God’, because it’s a shock.

"I don’t think I expected it because I haven’t been conducting the kind of life which I thought would lead to a knighthood – I’ve been quite vociferous in criticising recent Governments for a start. So I imagined that I was on the wrong side for all that stuff. It’s a nice surprise to have this honour put upon me.

"I also think it comes with a responsibility to continue to behave in a way which benefits the country and the rest of the population here and the world as well."

Outside of music, Sir Brian has kept himself busy over the years - earning a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007 and campaigning for animal rights. He co-founded International Asteroid Day and also had one named after him – 52665 Brianmay.

He is also co-founder of the Save Me Trust, which campaigns for the rights of foxes and badgers, and is vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry attending the Action for Children's The Ultimate News Quiz 2022 (James Manning/PA Wire)

The newly-dubbed Sir Grayson Perry, 62, is one of Britain's most famous artists - noted for his tapestries, ceramic works and cross-dressing. He has been made a knight for his services to the arts.

In 2014, he became a CBE after an investiture by the then Prince of Wales, now King, and wore what he called his “Italian mother of the bride” outfit for the occasion where he was recognised for services to contemporary art.

The midnight blue dress had a matching fitted jacket with a wide brimmed black-hat decorated with what looked like ostrich feathers. He said at the time, the recognition was for “30 years of hard graft”.

Denise Lewis

Former Birchfield Harrier, Denise Lewis, has been made a Dame in the 2023 New Years Honours list (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Heptathlete Denise Lewis won an Olympic gold medal back in Sydney in 2000. On receiving news of her latest honour, she said: "Sydney for me was just epic on so many levels. It had that ripple effect on those around me, my club Birchfield Harriers. You just can’t quantify how a performance that you think is solely for you can affect others.

"I was endeared into the nation at that time, and it’s almost like going full circle having this damehood 22 years after that performance. It’s very emotional.”

She said she had been "“blown away” when she received notification of the honour. "I can’t even process it, but I haven’t stopped smiling since I heard the news,” she said.

Virginia McKenna

Virginia McKenna - actress and co-founder of the Born Free Foundation, has been made a Dame. (Ian West/PA Wire)

Virginia McKenna said her damehood “really belongs” to campaigners who are fighting to “end wild animal suffering and keep wildlife in the wild”. The 91-year-old actress has become a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to wildlife conservation and to wild animal welfare, in the New Year Honours.

She co-founded the Born Free Foundation and has been a vociferous charity campaigner for animals to remain free from captivity. She also promotes the protection of endangered species and natural habitats.

One of the most popular and acclaimed British film actresses of the 1950s and 1960s, the new Dame became a wildlife campaigner alongside her husband Bill Travers and their son Will, after McKenna and Travers featured in the 1966 film Born Free, set in Kenya.

McKenna said of her damehood: “This award may be in my name, but I feel it really belongs to all those striving to end wild animal suffering and keep wildlife in the wild. Bill and I shared a belief in the power of one. One animal that needs rescuing; one species that needs protecting; one human community that needs supporting; one ecosystem that needs conserving.

“And the power that resides in each of us every day to do something about it.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who has received a Knighthood for services to the Jewish Community, to Interfaith Relations and to Education (PA)

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has been knighted. Among a handful of Jewish community leaders to be recognised, he said he was "enormously honoured and deeply humbled”, adding: “It will be particularly moving for me to receive this award from His Majesty the King, in his first year as our monarch.”

Rabbi Mirvis took office as the most senior Orthodox Rabbi in the UK in 2013 - and has been vocal about the problem of antisemitism, especially in the wake of discriminatory comments from the likes of US rapper Kanye West. Rabbi Mirvis said people “shouldn’t be silent” in the wake of discriminatory comments from high-profile figures.

He said: "There is a great need for prevention of such incidents, and also protection and education is right at the core of what is needed to educate people about others and about the importance of reaching out to others, and of loving all people created in the image of God.”

CBEs

Sarina Wiegman

Sarina Wiegman poses on the red carpet (PA)

England women's football coach Sarina Wiegman - who is Dutch - has been made an honorary CBE in recognition of her role in leading the England team to unprecedented success at Euro 2021.

Pat Jennings

Northern Ireland football legend Pat Jennings has been made a CBE (PA)

Pat Jennings, the longstanding Northern Ireland footballer who played for his country as well as bridging the North London divide and turning out for both Tottenham and Arsenal has been made a CBE for services to football and to charity.

Pat played for Northern Ireland for more than twenty years - and has gone on to be a coach at Tottenham and carry out extensive charity work.

OBEs

Stephen Graham

Actor Stephen Graham has been made an OBE (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images f)

Actor Stephen Graham, famous for roles playing gritty hardmen, but also starred with Jodie Comer in the heartbreaking Help in 2021 - that show highlighted the difficulties which hit social care during Covid-19. However, he is perhaps best known for his role of short-fused English nationalist Andrew “Combo” Gascoigne in the 2006 film This Is England.

He later reprised the skinhead character in the Channel 4 series This Is England ’86, This Is England ’88 and This Is England ’90.

He has been open about his mental health, and has credited his fellow This Is England and Boiling Point co-star and wife Hannah Walters for helping him following a suicide attempt during a period of despair in his early 20s.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs in 2019, the actor said they moved in together in south London after what was technically their first date following a period of talking.

David Harewood

David Harewood has received an OBE in the 2023 New Years Honours list to go with his MBE received 11 years ago (Ian West/PA Wire)

Actor and broadcaster David Harewood has also been made an OBE after becoming a prominent voice for better mental health support. The 57-year-old, who found widespread fame playing CIA director David Estes in the US drama series Homeland, has been honoured for his services to drama and charity.

In 2019, he created a one-off BBC documentary titled Psychosis And Me, which saw him retrace his steps and delve into his breakdown after being sectioned aged 23.

The acclaimed actor later backed the launch of a new online platform, JAAQ.co.uk (Just ask a question), which helps prevent people with mental health problems “reaching crisis stage”, from founder Danny Gray, who previously appeared on Dragons’ Den.

Leah Williamson

(PA)

Leah Williamson captained the Lionesses to glory at Euro 2021 this summer, and as recognition for her leadership she has been made an OBE. She is one of four of the team to be honoured.

MBEs

Lucy Bronze, Beth Mead and Ellen White

Northumberland's England football hero Lucy Bronze who has been made an MBE (PA)

While captain Leah Williamson picks up an OBE, the trio of Northumberland's own Lucy Bronze, Beth Mead and Ellen White have all been made MBEs. Lucy said: "To be recognised for everything I’ve done throughout my career was a little bit surreal. It’s just something so different to football and something harder to compute.

“An MBE is obviously a huge honour and very special. The first person I told was my grandma. My grandma probably doesn’t understand many of the awards I’ve won in football but she adored the Queen, so I thought ‘this (MBE) is going to be her special thing’."

Asked why not all the Lionesses were included, Sir Hugh Robertson, chairman of the honours sports committee, told a press conference: “The approach that we’ve tried to take with this is when we have these events there is a danger in sort of carpet bombing the entire squad because then you get people who’ve done five minutes on the pitch and get an award.

“So what we’ve tried to do is stick to the principle of the honours system which is to recognise excellence and to recognise extraordinary contributions.”

Rachel Riley

Rachel Riley who has been made an MBE (PA)

Countdown's Rachel Riley is also now an MBE. The presenter and maths whiz has been honoured for for her efforts to raise awareness of the Holocaust and combat antisemitism.

She took over from Carol Vorderman as co-host of Channel 4’s Countdown in 2009 at the age of 22, after Vorderman stepped down from the role she had held since the show began in 1982.

Her tenure as the resident number cruncher has seen her work alongside presenters Jeff Stelling, Nick Hewer, Anne Robinson and Colin Murray. In January 2019, she made a speech at a Westminster reception for the Holocaust Educational Trust addressing the abuse she received on social media as a public figure.

She has also worked with the Centre for Countering Digital Hate to combat online abuse.

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