Orders, decorations, and medals of the United Kingdom

The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories. The system consists of three types of award – honours, decorations and medals:

  • Honours are used to recognise merit in terms of achievement and service;
  • Decorations tend to be used to recognise specific deeds;
  • Medals are used to recognise service on a particular operation or in a specific theatre, long and/or valuable service, and/or good conduct.

Appointments to the various orders and awards of other honours are usually published in the London Gazette.

Brief history

Although the Anglo-Saxon monarchs are known to have rewarded their loyal subjects with rings and other symbols of favour, it was the Normans who introduced knighthoods as part of their feudal government. The first English order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter, was created in 1348 by Edward III. Since then, the system has evolved to address the changing need to recognise other forms of service to the United Kingdom.

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