While people such as John Lennon and Carla Lane have famously returned their honours as a sign of protest, others have been stripped of the recognition after having done something to “damage” the reputation of the system.
Revoking an honour is called a forfeiture. Reasons why someone may lose this privilege include, but are not limited to, incarceration for at least three months and being reprimanded by a regulatory body for something directly relevant to their award.
Here are 14 people who had their titles revoked:
1. Anthony Blunt
Anthony Blunt, the Queen’s art adviser, was stripped of his knighthood in 1979 after he was exposed as a Soviet spy.
After being offered immunity from prosecution, Blunt confessed in 1964.
His background was kept secret in government circles for many years, before being publicly revealed by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979. After his background was made public he was stripped of his knighthood.
2. Rolf Harris
Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris was stripped of his CBE in 2015 after he was jailed for indecent assaults on girls as young as seven.
A note published in the London Gazette last year announced: “The Queen has directed that the appointment of Rolf Harris to be a Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, dated 17 June 2006, shall be cancelled and annulled and that his name shall be erased from the register of the said order.”
Harris was jailed in July 2014 for five years and nine months.
3. Stuart Hall
The former BBC broadcaster was stripped of his OBE by the Queen after he was jailed in 2013 for a series of sexual assaults on young girls.
A note published on the London Gazette in October 2013 read: “The Queen has directed that the appointment of James Stuart Hall to be an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, dated 31 December 2011, shall be cancelled and annulled and that his name shall be erased from the register of the said order.”
During Hall’s sentencing, the judge said he had acted with “a sense of arrogance and immunity... vile bravado and horrible betrayal”, according to the BBC.
Hall was released from jail in 2015 after serving half of his sentence for sexual abuse.
4. Jean Else
In 2011 the Queen directed that Jean Else’s Damehood, which was awarded in December 2000, be “cancelled and annulled and that her name shall be erased from the register of the said order”.
The former head teacher was initially given the honour for services to education after transforming a failing Manchester comprehensive into one of Britain’s top-ranked schools.
But she was later accused by the General Teaching Council’s professional conduct committee of cronyism for promoting her sister and for failing to observe minimum standards in recruiting and promoting staff.
5. Roger Casement
Roger Casement lost his knighthood before his execution for treason due to his role in the 1916 Easter Uprising.
The Irish-born diplomat and human rights campaigner had tried to deliver weapons to republicans ahead of the uprising.
6. Fred Goodwin
The former head of Royal Bank of Scotland lost his knighthood in 2012 after he was criticised over his role in the bank’s near-collapse in 2008.
At the time, a Cabinet spokesperson said that “the failure of RBS played an important role in the financial crisis of 2008/9”.
He was originally given the honour in 2004 for “services to banking”.
7. Naseem Hamed
Naseem Hamed was stripped of his MBE after spending time in jail for dangerous driving.
He was involved in a car crash at 90mph, which left the driver of another car with every major bone in his body broken, as well as injuries to his brain, according to the Guardian.
8. Lester Piggott
Former jockey Lester Piggott was stripped of his OBE after he was jailed for tax fraud.
9. Jack Lyons
Jack Lyons, part of the so-called Guinness Four, lost his knighthood after being convicted of illegally boosting the price of shares.
10. Kim Philby
Kim Philby lost his OBE after he was exposed as a member of the so-called Cambridge Five spy ring, alongside Anthony Blunt.
Philby defected to the Soviet Union and his honour was cancelled and annulled in 1965.
11. Vidkun Quisling
Vidkun Quisling’s CBE was revoked by King George VI in 1940 for collaborating with the Nazis when he headed a German puppet government in Oslo.
He was found guilty of treason and shot in 1945.
The word “quisling” is often now used to mean a “collaborator” or “traitor”.
12. Nicolae Ceausescu
Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had his knighthood revoked the day before he was executed by a revolutionary firing squad.
13. Robert Mugabe
Deposed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe had his honorary knighthood annulled in 2008.
At the time, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We can no longer justify an individual who is responsible for a consistent campaign of human rights violations and the disregard for the democratic process retaining an honour.”
14. Benito Mussolini
Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was stripped of his honorary knighthood when Italy joined with Nazi Germany to declare war on the UK which is as good a reason as any.