British Army Guards

There’s no doubt that historic and cultural sightseeing attractions in London are plentiful, with options by the bucket load for even the most discerning and jaded of travellers. For history buffs, 2017 marks a significant milestone for the Order of the British Empire, giving those in London a chance to witness a unique ceremony, full of historical significance, tradition and pageantry. The honours system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in May with a special service at St Paul’s Cathedral to showcase the achievements of all of those appointed to the Order since it began in 1917.

What is the Order of the British Empire?

The Order of the British Empire was established by King George V to recognise and reward the contributions of non-military personnel in the arts, sciences and charitable sectors. A year later, civilian and military honours were split and over the last century, it’s expanded to recognise thousands of citizens for their inspiring work across a range of causes. Those awarded the merit come from a broad spectrum of society, with community volunteers sitting alongside well-known celebrities, including actors Charlie Chaplin, Christopher Lee, Roger Moore, Daniel Day-Lewis and Mark Rylance.

Most people will recognise the abbreviations of the Order of the British Empire, even if they don’t know what they stand for. There are five classes of appointment in the Order of the British Empire:

• Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
• Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
• Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
• Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
• Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

The annual honours list has become part of British tradition and the momentous 100-year anniversary will capture all the ceremony, excitement and custom that has developed around the order.

The 2017 Order of the British Empire celebrations

The awe-inspiring St Paul’s Cathedral will play host to the service to celebrate the achievements of all those recognised by King George V through to the current monarch Queen Elizabeth II on the 24th May 2017. From community workers to ground-breaking scientists, all those who have been appointed to the Order of the British Empire or have received the British Empire Medal may attend. This will create an electric mix of high achieving and inspirational people from all walks of life.

In order to sit under the famous dome of St Paul’s for the ceremony you must apply for a ticket but even those that aren’t appointed to the Order of the British Empire can enjoy the centenary celebrations outside. The cathedral is ideally situated for those travelling through London on the iconic underground, with St Paul’s, Mansion House, Blackfriars, and Bank stations all within a 10-minute walk. Want to get a glimpse inside once the anniversary event is over? It’s possible to enter the cathedral to gaze at the high alter, view London from the golden gallery or travel underground to the crypt.

The combination of ceremony and sightseeing attractions in London during May means that the capital can make for a thrilling destination, whether you have a weekend to spare or are in town for a week or two. The perfect blend of historic, traditional activities and vibrant, modern environments means that there’s something for everyone.