Elvis Costello Explains His Decision To Accept OBE, Despite Initial Discomfort

"It is hard to receive anything named for the 'British Empire', and all that term embodies, without a pause for reflection."

Elvis Costello has explained his decision to accept a CBE, admitting he was initially unsure about whether he should, citing his discomfort with the history of the British Empire “and all that term embodies”.

The singer is one of several stars who has been recognised on the Queen’s birthday honours list this year, with Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman and musician M.I.A. also making the cut.

However, in a blog posted on his official website, Costello said he originally planned to turn down the honour, but changed his mind after a conversation with his mother.

Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello
Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

He wrote: “Reading the letter [to say he’d been awarded a CBE], I thought for a while, then folded the document and slept on the news until the morning when I could place a call to England and speak to my mother, Lillian MacManus.

“Lillian is almost the same age as Her Majesty, so I regard myself as immensely fortunate that I am still able to seek her counsel. She suffered a severe stroke last year, just two days before my 64th birthday, but thanks to the prompt attention of an incredible NHS specialist ward and the sustained dedication and kindness of her home care team, she has recovered her wits and words to a truly remarkable degree.”

Costello continued: “I began my call by telling my Mam that the Prime Minister, Mrs. May, had put my name forward for an O.B.E.

“‘But she’s rubbish’, Lillian cut in before I could complete the news. Well, that aside, I said, ‘Of course, I won’t be accepting the award’. I didn’t get much further with that statement either. I listened carefully to my mother’s argument that if something is deserved then one must be gracious in acceptance.

“So, as a good lad, who likes to do what will make his Mam most proud, I knew that I must put old doubts and enmities aside and muster what little grace I possess.”

He also noted that he would be accepting the award in memory of his late grandfathers, both of whom fought in World War I.

Costello concluded jokingly: “To be honest, I’m pretty tickled to receive this acknowledgement for my ‘Services To Music’, as it confirms my long held suspicion nobody really listens to the words in songs or the outcome might have been somewhat different.”

This year’s honours list also includes nods for authors Joanna Trollope and Lee Child, who are made CBEs, while adventurer and television star Bear Grylls is made an OBE.


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