Order of Merit

History of the Order of Merit

Founded by King Edward VII on 23 June 1902, the Order of Merit is a very special distinction, 'given to such persons, subject of Our Crown, as may have rendered exceptionally meritorius service in Our Crown Services or towards the advancement of the Arts, Learning, Literature, and Science or such other exceptional service as we are fit to recognise.'

Among the first to receive this award was Field Marshal Lord Roberts (1902). Since then, holders of this distinction have included Florence Nightingale, Augustus John, Bertrand Russell, Graham Greene, Dr Albert Schweitzer (Honorary), Sir Edward Elgar, E.M. Forster, Sir Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower (Honorary), Professor Dororthy Hodgkin, Dame Veronica Wedgewood, Mother Theresa (Honorary) and Dame Cecily Saunders.

About the Order of Merit

The Order is restricted to 24 members as well as additional foreign recipients. As with the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of Merit is in the sole gift of the Sovereign but carries no rank apart from the initials 'OM' after the name. The Order has only one class: members of divided into military and civil divisions.

The badge is an 8-pointed cross of red and blue enamel surmounted by the Imperial Crown. In the centre, upon blue enamel and surrounded by a laurel wreath, are the words 'FOR MERIT' in letters of gold. On the reverse, also surrounded by a laurel wreath, is the 'Royal Cypher'. The badge given for distinguished military service has two silver swords with gold hilts placed saltire-wise between the angles of the cross. The badge is suspended by a ring attached to the top of the crown, fitted with a gold laurel chased loop through which the ribbon, half garter-blue and half crimson, passes.

The Order is worn round the neck by men and on a bow by women. It is not worn miniature, but it is correct for the ribbon to be worn when ribbons of other Orders, decorations and medals are worn with various uniforms.

Current members

In November 2022, His Majesty The King made six new appointments to the Order of Merit. The individuals were chosen by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in early September.

These appointments were the first since His Majesty became Sovereign of the Order.

Members of the Order of Merit

  • Norman Robert, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, OM, RA
  • Professor Sir Roger Penrose, OM, FRS
  • Sir Thomas Stoppard, OM, CBE
  • Nathaniel Charles Jacob, Lord Rothschild, OM, GBE CVO
  • The Right Honourable Betty, Baroness Boothroyd, OM
  • Sir David Frederick Attenborough, OM, GCMG, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS
  • The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Robert Henry Alexander, Lord Eames, OM
  • The Right Honourable Martin John, Lord Rees of Ludlow, OM, PRS
  • Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, OM, KBE
  • The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, PC, OM, CC, KC
  • Neil MacGregor, OM AO FSA
  • The Honourable John Howard OM, AC, SSI
  • David Hockney OM, CH, RA
  • Sir Simon Rattle, OM, CBE
  • Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, OM 
  • Sir James Dyson, OM, CBE
  • Professor Dame Ann Dowling, OM, DBE
  • The Lord Darzi of Denham, OM, KBE
  • Sir David Adjaye, OM, OBE, RA
  • Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, OM, DBE, FRCN
  • Baroness Benjamin OM, DBE, DL
  • Professor Margaret Olwen MacMillan, OM, CH, CC
  • Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, OM, CH
  • Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, OM 


Related content

The King's speech at the State Banquet for the Republic of Korea

As our nations strive towards a harmony between progress and preservation, between the past and the present, we can look to the future with great confidence as our peoples...

21 November 2023

The Queen's speech at the Foreign Press Association Awards 2023

Yours is an awe-inspiring responsibility: you question, debate and analyse and thus protect what is so easy for us to take for granted – true freedom of expression.

20 November 2023

The Queen's speech at The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2023

Well done to each and every one of you – you are quite brilliant and I have, as ever, enormously enjoyed reading your entries.

16 November 2023

The King turns 75

14 November 2023
The King

Remembrance 2023

09 November 2023
The King salutes The Cenotaph

Remarks by His Majesty The King at the United Nations Office Nairobi, Kenya

As we look ahead to COP twenty-eight in another months time, we must remember what President Ruto said at the Africa Climate Summit – “we go far when we go together”.

01 November 2023
Press release November 2023

The King will attend COP28 UAE

Read more

A Speech by His Majesty The King at the State Banquet, Kenya

We both take considerable pride in renewing the ties between the United Kingdom and Kenya, a country that has long held such special meaning for my family.

31 October 2023
Press release 30 October 2023

The Duchess of Edinburgh visits Canada

Read more

State Visit to Kenya

03 November 2023
The King and Queen at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage
Press release 11 October 2023

The King and Queen will undertake a State Visit to Kenya

Read more
Press release 09 October 2023

The Duchess of Edinburgh visits Ethiopia

Read more
Press release 26 September 2023

State Visit by the President of the Republic of Korea

Read more