The Royal Family help highlight achievement across the UK and the Commonwealth in a number of different ways throughout the royal year: from awards ceremonies and special events, to Royal visits to charities, businesses and institutions. These events help shine a light on many achievements which might otherwise go unnoticed, as well as fostering pride in the work of a wealth of diverse industries and communities
One of the best-known systems for celebrating achievement is the awarding of UK honours such as MBEs and knighthoods, as well as military awards such as the Victoria Cross.
Honours are decided and announced by the Cabinet Office twice a year: at New Year and on The Queen's official birthday in June. They are then presented to recipients by members of the Royal Family throughout the year at ceremonies known as 'Investitures'.
The UK honours system rewards people for merit, service or bravery. Honours are given to deserving and high-achieving people from every section of life: from soldiers to community volunteers, performers and leaders of industry.
Anybody can make a recommendation for a British national to receive an honour. Recommendations for honours must be sent to the Cabinet Office, not Buckingham Palace.
Honorary decorations and awards are occasionally granted to people from other countries who have made a significant contribution to relations between the United Kingdom and their own country. These awards are granted on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Find out more about the honours system on the gov.uk website:
Prizes and awards
In addition to the honours system awards, The Queen presents a number of prizes and medals in her own name. These special honours focus on achievement in specific areas and, cumulatively, they celebrate and encourage many areas of UK and Commonwealth achievement which might otherwise go unrecognised. They include:
The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service
An annual award made to recognise and reward excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community.
The Queen's Awards for Enterprise
A prestigious UK business award. Winners receive a wide range of benefits including use of the prestigious Award Emblem.
The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education
View a film on the Royal Anniversary Prizes:
Presented every two year, the prizes reward important work in the vital sectors of higher and further education, and promote excellence in UK universities and colleges. The Queen presents the medal and prize certificate at an honours ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
Awarded for a book of verse published by someone from the UK or a Commonwealth realm. Recommendations for the award of the medal are made by a committee, under the chairmanship of the Poet Laureate.
The Queen's Medal for Music
Rewards an individual who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation. Winners of this annual award may be of any nationality but they must have had a major influence on the musical life of the UK.
The Queen's Young Leaders Programme
Awarded to exceptional people aged 18-29 who have proved themselves as leaders or trailblazers in their communities, the award was created to mark The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. Winners are supported in their life-changing work by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, The Royal Commonwealth Society and Comic Relief.
The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
An international prize which is presented every two years, The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering was created to celebrate breakthrough innovations in engineering which help progress the field of engineering as well as benefitting people worldwide. The £1 million cash prize is funded by corporate donors.
Find out more on the official Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering website
Receptions are held throughout the year at the Royal residences to mark achievement in specific industries or walks of life. They are often attended by several members of the Royal Family and are an opportunity for many people to celebrate their work and that of their peers in a very special environment.
Some receptions have a theme, such as ‘Women in Business’ or ‘Maritime Britain’. At other times, the guests may be sporting team members who have been particularly successful, or Commonwealth teams who are competing in the UK. Sometimes receptions are held ahead of a particular event, such as a State Visit overseas or the Olympics.
Receptions often receive media coverage which allows guests to talk about their successes and highlight stories which might otherwise go unnoticed.
Garden Parties are a very Royal way of thanking people for their dedication and service to many different organisations and causes.
Approximately 8,000 guests attend each garden party. They are invited on the recommendation of a large number of national organisations such as the Armed Services, the Diplomatic Corps and charities and societies.
Tea and cake is served, brass bands play and The Queen and other members of the Royal Family come out into the gardens to meet guests.
Occasionally, Garden Parties are held to mark particular anniversaries or events, such as the 100th anniversary of the Womens' Institute or the centenary of the British Red Cross's Royal Charter. In 1997 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh hosted a garden party for couples sharing their Golden Wedding anniversary (50 years of marriage) with them.
Members of the Royal Family spend much of their time visiting charities, military organisations and community groups to highlight and reward their achievement and service.
As with honours and awards, Royal visits can help bring attention to dedicated individuals and important causes. Often visits will coincide with a particular event or anniversary or with soldiers returning from active service or about to be deployed.