Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II
|Status Currently constituted|
Grades Companion (CH)
|Motto In Action Faithful and in Honour Clear|
Awarded for Nationally important service
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded in June 1917 by King George V as a reward for outstanding achievements and is "conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition, constituting an honour disassociated either from the acceptance of title or the classification of merit."
Founded on the same date as the Order of the British Empire, it is sometimes regarded as the junior order to the Order of Merit. Now described as "awarded for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time", the first recipients, were all decorated for "services in connection with the war" and were listed in The London Gazette in August 1917 with the award taking effect from 4 June 1917.
The order consists of the Sovereign plus no more than 65 members. Additionally, foreigners from outside the realms may be added as honorary members. Membership confers no title or precedence, but those inducted into the single-class order are entitled to use the post-nominal letters CH. Appointments can be made on the advice of Commonwealth realm prime ministers. For Canadians, the advice to the Sovereign can come from a variety of officials.
Originally, the order was limited to 50 ordinary members, but in 1943 it was enlarged to 65, with a quota of 45 members for the United Kingdom, seven for Australia, two each for New Zealand and South Africa, and 9 for India, Burma, and the colonies. The quota numbers were altered in 1970 to 47 for the United Kingdom, 7 for Australia, 2 for New Zealand, and 9 for other Commonwealth realms. The quota was adjusted again in 1975 by adding 2 places to the New Zealand quota and reducing the 9 for the other countries to 7.
While able to nominate candidates to the Order, New Zealand and Australia have effectively stopped the allocation of this award to their citizens in preference to their national awards. As of 2016 those countries have nominated only politicians who have served as Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.
The insignia of the order is in the form of an oval medallion, surmounted by an imperial crown, and with a rectangular panel within, depicting on it an oak tree, a shield with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom hanging from one branch, and, on the left, a mounted knight in armour. The insignia's blue border bears in gold letters the motto IN ACTION FAITHFUL AND IN HONOUR CLEAR, Alexander Pope's description (in iambic pentameter) in his Epistle to Mr Addison of James Craggs, later used on Craggs' monument in Westminster Abbey. Men wear the badge on a neck ribbon (red with golden border threads) and women on a bow at the left shoulder.