British and Other Honours in Music

Introduction

Musicians have been honored by sovereigns and states for centuries (see some early examples). The transformation or creation of orders of knighthood as orders of merit has increased opportunities to reward or distinguish musicians, both composers and performers. This page records some of these honors bestowed on musicians.

This page was originally concerned only with British honors. I will extend it to other countries over time, but presently the British section is the most complete.

British Honours

Here is a listing of some British composers and musicians who earned knighthoods, baronetcies and peerages. The first musician to be knighted in Britain seems to be Stevenson in 1803, although the Penguin Dictionary of Music says Henry Bishop was "the first musician to receive knighthood at the hands of a British sovereign".

From the looks of it, composers were at least as frequently honored as conductors, if not more, and the practice began somewhat earlier for composers.

Sir Thomas Beecham was knighted on Jan 1, 1916, and inherited his father's baronetcy (which was 2 years old) in October 1916. So he wasn't even an heir when he "came into the business". I added RVW: it is said that he turned down knighthood but accepted the Order of Merit. Britten also turned down knighthoods repeatedly, but did accept a life peerage.

Corrections and additions welcome, of course. In particular, if anyone knows the coat of arms of Elgar, Britten or Menuhin, I'd be delighted. Elgar had no male heirs so the baronetcy became extinct with him. Britten's title was a life peerage, as was Menuhin's.

Concerning Period Instruments conductors: Roger Norrington was the first, and currently the only one to be knighted in 1997. Christopher Hogwood (b. 1941) was made CBE in 1989, John Eliot Gardiner (b. 1943) and Roger Norrington (b. 1934) in 1990, and Trevor Pinnock (b. 1946) in 1992. We can expect a slew of historically informed knights within a few years. Other conductors include Andrew Davis (b. 1944) CBE 1992. On the composer side, neither John Tavener, Gavin Bryars, Brian Ferneyhough or Alexander Goehr have yet been made CBE.

composers

  • Sir John Stevenson (1761-1833), kt. 1803 (in Ireland)
  • Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855), kt. 1842
  • Sir Julius Benedict (1804-85), kt. 1871
  • Sir George Elvey (1816-93), kt. 1871
  • Sir William Stendale Bennett (1816-75), kt. 1871
  • Sir George Alexander Macfarren (1813-87), kt. 1883
  • Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), kt. 1883
  • Sir William Cusins (1833-93), kt. 1892
  • Sir William Parratt (1841-1921), kt. 1892, CVO 1917, KCVO 1921
  • Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (1847-1935), kt. 1895, KCVO 1922
  • Sir J. Frederick Bridge (1844-1924), kt. 1897
  • Sir Hubert Parry (1844-1918), kt. 1898, bt 1902, CVO 1905
  • Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), kt 1902
  • Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), kt. 1911, OM 1911, GCVO 1933, bt 1931
  • Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), DBE 1922
  • Sir Walford Davies (1869-1941), OBE 1919, kt. 1922, KCVO 1937
  • Sir Landon Ronald (1873-1938), kt. 1922
  • Sir Hamilton Harty (1880-1941), kt 1925
  • Sir Edward German (1862-1936), kt. 1928
  • Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937), kt. 1929
  • Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946), kt 1930
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), OM 1935
  • Sir Percy Buck (1871-1947), kt. 1937
  • Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953), kt 1937, KCVO 1953
  • Sir George Dyson (1883-1964), kt. 1942
  • Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), kt 1950, KCVO 1969, CH 1971
  • Sir William Walton (1902-83), kt 1951, OM 1968
  • Sir William H. Harris (1883-1973), KCVO 1954
  • Sir Michael Tippett (1905-98), CBE 1959, kt 1966, CH 1979, OM 1983
  • Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-89), CBE 1957, kt. 1974
  • Baron Britten of Aldeburgh (1913-76), cr. 1976
    Benjamin Britten, CH 1957, OM 1965
  • Sir George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987), kt 1982
  • Dame Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-94), CBE 1977, DBE 1987
  • Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934), CBE 1981, kt 1987
  • Sir Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934), kt. 1988, CH 2000
  • Sir Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), kt 1991
  • Baron Webber (b. 1948), cr. 1997
    Andrew Lloyd Webber, kt 1992
  • Sir Malcolm Arnold (1920-2006), CBE 1970, kt 1993
  • Sir John Manduell (b. 1928), CBE ?, kt ?
  • Sir James Paul McCartney (b. 1942), MBE 1965, kt 1997
  • Sir Elton John (b. 1947), kt 1997
  • Sir Richard Bennett (b. 1936), CBE 1977, kt 1998
  • Sir John Tavener (b. 1944), kt 1999

conductors

  • Sir George Smart (1776-1867), kt 1811 (in Ireland)
  • Sir Michael Costa (1810-84), kt. 1869
  • Sir Charles Halle (1819-95), kt. 1888
  • Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), kt. 1892
  • Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944), kt. 1911, CH 1944
  • Sir George Henschel (1850-1934), kt. 1914
  • Sir Thomas Beecham (1877-1961), kt. 1916, 2d bt 1916, CH
  • Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983), kt. 1937, CH 1969
  • Sir Malcolm Sargent (1897-1965), kt. 1947
  • Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970), kt. 1949, CH 1969
  • Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962), kt. 1955
  • Baron Menuhin of Stoke d'Abernon (1916-99), cr. 1993
    Yehudi Menuhin, KBE(hon) 1965, OM 1987, British cit. 1985
  • Sir F. Vivian Dunn (b. 1908), KCVO 1969
  • Sir Georg Solti (1912-97), CBE 1968, KBE(hon) 1971, British cit. 1972
  • Sir Charles Groves (1915-92), CBE 1958, kt 1973
  • Eugen Ormandy (1899-1985, American), hon. KBE 1976
  • Sir Alexander Gibson (b. 1926), CBE 1967, kt. 1977
  • Sir Charles Mackerras (b. 1925), CBE 1974, kt. 1979, CH 2003
  • Sir John Pritchard (1921-89), CBE 1962, kt. 1983
  • Antal Dorati (1906-88, American), hon. KBE 1984
  • Sir Reginald Goodall (1901-90), CBE 1975, kt. 1985
  • Bernard Haitink (b. 1929, Dutch), hon. KBE 1977, hon. CH 2002
  • Sir Colin Davis (b. 1927), CBE 1965, kt. 1980, CH 2001
  • Sir Neville Marriner (b. 1924), CBE 1979, kt. 1985
  • Sir David Willcocks (b. 1919), CBE 1971, kt. 1987
  • Mstislav Rostropovich (b. 1927, Swiss), hon. KBE 1987
  • Sir Edward Downes (1924-2009), CBE 1986, kt. 1991
  • Sir Simon Rattle (b. 1955), CBE 1987, kt. 1994
  • Libor Pešek (b. 1933, Czech), hon. KBE 1996
  • André Previn (b. 1929, American), hon. KBE 1996
  • Sir Roger Norrington (b. 1934), CBE 1990, kt. 1997
  • Sir John Eliot Gardiner (b. 1943), CBE 1990, kt. 1998
  • Sir Andrew Davis (b. 1944), kt. 1999

vocalists

  • Sir Charles Santley (1834-1922), kt 1907 (also commander of St. Gregory, 1887)
  • Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), DBE 1918, GBE 1927
  • Sir Harry Lauder (1870-1950) kt. 1919 (for war recuriting efforts)
  • Dame Clara Butt (1873-1936), DBE 1920 (for charitable activities)
  • Dame Emma Albani [Emma Lajeunesse] (1852-1930), DBE 1925
  • Sir Henry A. Lytton (1865-1936), kt. 1930
  • Sir Steuart Wilson (1889-1966), kt 1948
  • Dame Maggie Teyte (1888-1976), DBE 1958
  • Dame Eva Turner (1892-1990), DBE 1962
  • Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992), kt 1971
  • Dame Joan Hammond (1912-1996), DBE 1974
  • Dame Vera Lynn (b. 1917), OBE 1969, DBE 1975
  • Dame Janet Baker (b. 1933), CBE 1970, DBE 1976, CH 1994
  • Dame Isobel Baillie (1895-1983), CBE 1951, DBE 1978
  • Sir Peter Pears (1910-1986), CBE 1957, kt 1978
  • Dame Gracie Fields (1898-1979), CBE 1938 [first variety performer], DBE 1978
  • Dame Joan Sutherland (b. 1926), CBE 1961, AC 1975, DBE 1979, OM 1991
  • Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (b. 1944), OBE 1973, DBE 1982, ONZ 1995
  • Dame Gwyneth Jones (b. 1936), CBE 1976, DBE 1986
  • Sir Donald McIntyre (b. 1934), CBE 1985, kt 1992
  • Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006), DBE 1992 (widow of British citizen)
  • Dame Margaret Price (b. 1941), CBE 1982, DBE 1993
  • Dame Josephine Barstow (b. 1940), CBE 1985, DBE 1995
  • Dame Felicity Lott (b. 1947), CBE 1990, DBE 1996
  • Sir Thomas Allen (b. 1944), CBE 1989, kt. 1999
  • Dame Shirley Bassey (b. 1937), CBE 1993, DBE 2000
  • Dame Clio Laine (b. 1927), DBE 1997

instrumentalists

  • Sir Robert Stewart (1825-1894), kt. 1872 (in Ireland), organist
  • Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), kt. 1888, organist
  • Sir Dykes Bower (1905-1981), kt. 1968, organist
  • Sir George Martin (1844-1916), kt. 1897, organist
  • Sir Frederick Cowen (1852-1935), kt. 1911, pianist
  • Sir Hugh Allen (1869-1946), kt. 1920, GCVO 1935, organist
  • Sir Ivor Atkins (1869-1953), kt. 1921, organist
  • Sir R. R. Terry (1865-1938), kt. 1922, organist
  • Sir Edward C. Bairstow (1874-1946), kt. 1932, organist
  • Sir Walter Alcock (1861-1947), kt. 1933, organist
  • Sir Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973), kt. 1935, organist
  • Sir Sydney Nicholson (1875-1947), kt. 1938, organist
  • Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965), CBE 1936, DBE 1941, pianist
  • Sir Ernest Bullock (1890-1979), kt. 1951, organist
  • Sir William McKie (1901-1984), kt. 1953, organist
  • Sir Thomas Armstrong (1898-1994), kt. 1958, organist
  • Sir Dykes Bower (1905-1981), kt. 1968, organist
  • Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1983), hon KBE 1977, pianist
  • Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-82), CBE 1958, kt. 1977, pianist
  • Sir David Lumsden (b. 1928), kt 1985, organist
  • Alfred Brendel (b. 1931, Czech), hon. KBE 1989, pianist
  • Dame Moura Lympany (b. 1916), CBE 1979, DBE 1992, pianist
  • Dame Gillian Weir (b. 1941), CBE 1989, DBE 1996, organist
  • Sir Philip Ledger (b. 1937), CBE 1985, kt 1999, organist
  • Dame Thea King (b. 1925), clarinettist, OBE 1985, DBE 2001
  • Sir James Galway (b. 1939), kt. 2001, flautist

Abbreviations: kt, kt bach=knight bachelor, bt=baronet, CBE=Commander of the Order of the British Empire, DBE=Dame of the OBE, KBE=Knight Commander of the OBE, GBE=Knight Grand Cross of the OBE, CVO=companion of the Royal Victorian Order, KCVO=knight commander of the RVO, GCVO=Knight Grand Cross of the RVO, OM=order of Merit, CH=Companion of Honour, AC=Companion in the Order of Australia, ONZ=Member of the Order of New Zealand.

A baron ranks above a baronet, who ranks above the knights grand cross, who rank above the knights, who rank above the knights bachelor. Knights of various orders are ranked between themselves. See the order of precedence in England and Wales for more information.


Roger Forder <100523.201@compuserve.com> writes:

The majority of musical knights will fall into the category of knights bachelor because it is the usual one for those knighted in recognition of distinguished activities outside the public service. The exceptions fall into three categories. The first are those who have been created KCVO or GCVO in recognition of personal service to the Sovereign. Most of these in your list were Masters of the King's or Queen's Music (spelt "Musick" until quite recently): Parratt, Elgar, Davies, Bax and Bliss. Cusins also held this position, but he had died by the time that the Royal Victorian Order was instituted in 1896. The second exception to the Knight Bachelor norm is the pair of knights who were honoured before they became British citizens, namely Solti and Menuhin. Such awards take the form of honorary membership of one of the orders of chivalry (as far as I know, there is no such thing as an honorary Knight Bachelor); Solti and Menuhin are therefore KBEs. The women form the third exception, since there are no Dames Bachelor (or Spinster!). All dames are Dames Commander or Dames Grand Cross of one of the orders, and thus far all musical dames have been created DBE.

OM is limited to 24, CH is limited to 65 (plus honorary foreign members). They are therefore highly regarded, the OM scarcely less so than Garter or Thistle. But neither CH nor OM use the title Sir, as they are not knights, nor (according to Debrett) do they have any explicit rank in the order of precedence. However, there is a agreed place for OM and CH when these designators are placed in a list of awards and decorations after the recipient's name: OM comes after GCB, while CH comes after GBE. In practice this implies an order of precedence which puts OM above all but the three most superior varieties of knighthood (KG, KT and GCB) and CH above all Knights Commander and Knights Bachelor; some books (eg the 1989 edition of Whitaker's Almanac) state this explicitly as a formal order of precedence.


Belgian Honours

Peeters, Flor (1903-86) was made a life baron in 1971, the third Belgian musician to receive the honor. Arthur Grumiaux (1921-86), a violinist, was made baron in 1973.

Dutch Honours

Grethe Krogh (b. 1928), Danish organist, received the Order of the Dannebrog in 1982.

Henriëtte Bosmans (1895-1952) received a posthumous Dutch knighthood. Elly Ameling (b. 1933) received a knighthood in 1971, Willem Breuker (b. 1944) in 1998.

Papal Honours

Knights of the Golden Spur

Source: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

  • Lasso, Orlando / Roland de Lassus (c1530-94), in 1574
  • Tartaglino, Hippolito (?1539-1582), organist
  • Bellasio [Belasio], Paolo (1554-94), organist, by Clement VIII (on his epitaph)
  • Agostini[Augustini], Pietro[Pier] Simone (c1635-1680) for fighting the Turks
  • Ferro, Marco Antonio ((d. 1662), lutenist
  • Merula, Tarquinio (1594-1665)
  • Poglietti, Alessandro (d. 1683), organist
  • Clement Johann Georg (1710-94)
  • Gluck, Christoph Willibald (1714-87) in 1756
  • Ditters von Dittersdorf, Carl (1739-99), in 1770
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-91), on July 5, 1770
  • Esser, Michael, Ritter von (1737-c1795), violinist, in 1772
  • Vogler, Georg Joseph (1749-1814), by Pius VI
  • Gallini, Giovanni Andrea Battista (1728-1805), dancer [uncertain]
  • Friberth, Carl (1736-1816), tenor and composer, in 1796 [uncertain]
  • Apell [Capelli], David August von (1754-1832), in 1800 by Pius VII for a mass he wrote
  • Paganini, Nicolò (1782-1840), in 1825
  • Rastrelli, Joseph (1799-1842), in 1828

Order of Saint-Gregory the Great

  • Santley, Sir Charles (1834-1922), in 1887 (commander)
  • Gastoué, Amédée (1873-1943), musicologist, in 1908
  • Berkeley, Lennox Sir (1903-89), in 1973
  • Peeters, Flor (1903-86) composer and organist, in 1958 (commander)
  • Toebosch, Louis (b. 1916) composer and organist, in 1965

Order of Saint-Silvester

  • Prosper-Charles Simon (1788-1866), organist, 1854

Undetermined Papal Honors

  • Robert Wagner (1914-92), choral conductor, in 1966
  • William Ferris (d. 2003), conductor, in 1989

French Honors

Under the Old Regime, the two main distinctions bestowed on musicians were ennoblement and the Ordre de Saint-Michel.

  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764): ennobled Dec 1763, knighted in 1764 (Saint-Michel)
  • Francoeur, knighted 1760 or 1764 (Saint-Michel).
  • Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747): his son was ennobled, knighted (St-Michel) in 1760

After 1789

Grand-Crosses of the Legion of Honor:
  • Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), OLH 1884, GOLH 1900, GCLH 1913
  • Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), ChLH 12.7.1890, OLH 5.4.1903, CLH 29.12.1910, GOLH 26.8.1920, GCLH 1920
  • Henri Dutilleux (b. 1916), GCLH 2004

Composers

  • André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813), ChLH 18.12.1803
  • Jean-François Lesueur (1760-1837), ChLH ?
  • Louis-Emmanuel Jadin 91768-1853) ChLH 1.5.1821
  • Vincenzo Bellini (1802-1835) ChLH 31.1.1835
  • Giuseppe Donizetti (1788-1856), ChLH 2.2.1836
  • Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) ChLH [AN, LH/2385/64]
  • Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) CLH 7.8.1842
  • Michele Carafa (1785-1872) ChLH 5.5.1847
  • Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) ChLH ?.8.1861
  • Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) ChLH 5.5.1839, OLH 12.8.1864
  • Félicien David (1810-76), OLH 14.8.1862
  • Charles-François Gounod (1810-1893) ChLH 12.7.1880
  • Jules Massenet (1842-1913) ChLH [AN, LH/1778/37]
  • César Franck (1822-1890) ChLH 6.8.1885
  • Claude Debussy (1862-1918) ChLH 13.1.1903
  • Béla Bártok (1881-1945), Hungarian, ChLH 17.9.1930
  • Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) CLH 1935
  • Kosaku Yamada (1886-1965), Japanese, ChLH 1936
  • Virgil Thompson (1896-1989), American, ChLH 1947
  • Max Matthews (b. 1926), American, ChLH 1994
  • Jacques Charpentier (b. 1933),
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was offered the Legion of Honor in 1920 but refused (Grove Music; but there is a file C/O/71 at the Grande chancellerie).

Performers

  • Nicolas Sejan (1745-1819), organist, ChLH ?
  • Charles-Simon Catel (1773-1830), ChLH 1825
  • Frédéric Kalkbrenner (1785-1849), ChLH 1828 [also Red Eagle Prussia 1833, Leopold of Belgium 1836]
  • Auguste Panseron (1795-1859), ChLH 1843
  • Louis-Barthélémy Pradher (1782-1843), pianist, ChLH 1826
  • Antoine Prumier (1794-1868), harpist, ChLH 1845
  • Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817-1869), organist, ChLH 1850
  • Prosper-Charles Simon (1788-1866), organist, ChLH 1858
  • Victor-Charles Mahillon (1841-1924), Belgian, ChLH 1889
  • Max d'Ollone (1875-1958), ChLH 1926, OLH 1938
  • Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish, ChLH ?
  • Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972), ChLH 1938
  • Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-76), American, cellist, ChLH
  • Turibio Santos (b. 1943), Brazilian, guitarist, ChLH 1985
  • Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944), British, OLH 1926 [also Crown of Belgium 1920]
  • Marguerite Long (1874-1966), CLH ?
  • Sándor Végh (1912-97), Hungarian, violinist, ChLH1992
  • Marie-Claire Jamet (b. 1933), harpist, ChLH ?
  • Marielle Nordmann (b. 1941), harpist, ChAL 1996, ChLH 1998

Other Countries

Brindis de Salas, Claudio José Domingo (1852-1911) made a baron by Wilhelm II of Germany.
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François Velde

Apr 21, 2010