LONDON (Reuters) – Receiving an honor from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth marks the pinnacle of many careers. But for more than 250 people named in a once-secret official document, the idea was so unappealing that they turned down the monarch’s offer.
Artist Lucian Freud, sculptor Henry Moore and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” author Roald Dahl all rejected honors, according to papers released by the British government on Thursday.
“Psycho” film director Alfred Hitchcock also refused an award in 1962, only to accept a knighthood shortly before his death in 1980.
Other public figures named on the official list include painters Francis Bacon and L.S. Lowry and the “Brave New World” novelist Aldous Huxley.
The British government was forced to publish the document after repeated requests under freedom of information laws.
Previously, rejected honors only came to light through unofficial leaks or if the person involved chose to spoke about their decision to snub the twice-yearly “gongs.”
Several well-known writers appeared on the list, which only includes people who are no longer alive.
Poet Philip Larkin refused the chance in 1968 to become an OBE, or Officer of the Order of the British Empire, one of the five classes of the chivalric order set up by King George V in 1917 to recognize service in the arts, science, charities and public bodies. Larkin later accepted a higher ranking CBE, or Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Eveyln Waugh, who wrote “Brideshead Revisited” and “Scoop,” rejected an offer in 1959 to become a CBE.
Graham Greene, author of “Our Man in Havana” and “The Quiet American,” turned down the same honor three years earlier, only to accept honors later in life. “The Chronicles of Narnia” creator C.S. Lewis also said no to a CBE.
The government gave no details of why people rejected their honors.
In the past, “refuseniks” have cited a range of reasons, from antipathy to the monarchy and Britain’s colonial past, to a general lack of interest in prizes or a fear of perpetuating snobbery.
The late J.G. Ballard, whose books include “Crash” and “Empire of the Sun,” said he turned down an honor for services to literature in 2003.
“The whole thing is a preposterous charade,” he was once quoted as saying in the Sunday Times newspaper. “Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a non-existent empire. It makes us look like a laughing stock.”
(Reporting by Peter Griffiths, editing by Paul Casciato)
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