Sir David Attenborough, David Hockney and Betty Boothroyd among those named in Queen's Order of Merit

Television presenter and author Baroness Floella Benjamin is among six leading figures chosen by the late Queen to become members of the Order of Merit and appointed by the King which includes David Hockney and Baroness Betty Boothroyd.

Among the distinguished group are a molecular biologist and a geneticist – both Noble Prize winners – an award-winning architect, a former nurse who led the way in sickle cell treatment and a leading historian.

The Order of Merit was created in 1902 by Edward VII to honour leaders in the arts, sciences, culture and military.

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Appointments to the Order are in the Sovereign’s personal gift and the six were chosen by the late Queen in early September.

Sir David AttenboroughSir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough

Members are limited to 24 individuals which include conservationist Sir David Attenborough, entrepreneur Sir James Dyson and Yorkshire’s most famous artistic son, David Hockney.

The artist was awarded the Order of Merit in 2012 despite turning down a knighthood in 1990.

The Order of Merit does not come with a title but members are given a red and blue enamel badge, which reads "For Merit".

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When a member dies the badge is returned to the monarch, who receives the next-of-kin personally.

Former speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Betty Boothroyd, in her office at Westminster, London.Former speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Betty Boothroyd, in her office at Westminster, London.
Former speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Betty Boothroyd, in her office at Westminster, London.

Baroness Boothroyd, 93, famously the only woman to have served as Speaker of the House of Commons, was awarded the honour in 2005.

Trinidad-born Baroness Benjamin first came to prominence as a presenter on the popular BBC children’s programme Play School.

She has gone on to write more than 30 books with her memoir Coming To England now studied in schools, she served as Chancellor of the University of Exeter for 10 years and as Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, helped organise the National Windrush Monument unveiled at Waterloo Station.

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In 2010 she entered the House of Lords, where she speaks on diversity, equality, and children’s issues.

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, a former nurse and health visitor, was the UK’s first sickle-cell and thalassaemia nurse specialist and created the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at the University of West London.

Also appointed to the order is geneticist and cell biologist Sir Paul Nurse, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine and now chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute.

Molecular Biologist Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is another new member of the Order and a former president of the Royal Society.

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Architect Sir David Adjaye is known for designing many notable buildings around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Also recognised is Margaret MacMillan, Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford.