Actor Colin Firth leads British honours

LONDON: British actor Colin Firth was rewarded in Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honours list on Saturday after he played her father in Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech”.

England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, Nobel Prize-winning IVF pioneer Professor Bob Edwards and veteran rock star Bryan Ferry were among hundreds of others honoured by the monarch for their work.

The queen awarded Firth, 50, who portrayed her father King George VI in the low-key historical film, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting.

Just months after he won the best actor Oscar for his role as the stuttering monarch, Firth will enjoy the regal pomp and pageantry of Buckingham Palace for real when he heads to pick up his award.

The queen was reportedly moved by the tale of her father’s battle to overcome a speech impediment and deliver a rousing address to his subjects on the eve of World War II with the help of an Australian speech therapist.

While the government decides who receives the honours, the queen must give her formal approval before they are awarded.

Five months after their triumph at the Ashes in Australia, the England cricket team were also honoured in the latest list.

Captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower were made Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), while star batsman Alastair Cook was made a Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) for his 766 runs – the highest score for England in a Test series for 80 years.

“It is a great honour to receive this accolade,” Strauss said. “It’s one of the better items of post you get through the letterbox – certainly better than a gas bill.” He added: “I’m very proud to receive it and, more than anything, very proud of how the team performed out there in Australia. Our guys really stood up under the pressure.” Elsewhere, Ferry, 65, who revolutionised rock music as the frontman of the band Roxy Music in the 1970s and then went on to have a successful solo career, was honoured with a CBE. He said it was “a great honour”.

And in the field of science, Edwards received a knighthood for his ground-breaking research that led to the birth of the world’s first test-tube baby.

The honour, which means he will be given the title “sir”, comes eight months after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in recognition of how his work has given hope to countless childless couples.

The 85-year-old developed the first successful in-vitro fertilisation techniques despite funding difficulties and resistance from the medical establishment.

In other sporting honours, golfer Lee Westwood was recognised with an OBE after a year in which he ended Tiger Woods’ reign as the world number one.

Former basketball star John Amaechi, who became the first openly gay NBA player after coming out in 2007, gets the same honour.

In business, Bank of England governor Mervyn King won a knighthood. Media lawyer Mark Stephens, 54, known for his high-profile defence of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is awarded a CBE.

Meanwhile Britons were delighted that one of their national treasures, game show host Bruce Forsyth, 83, was given a knighthood after years as the face of some of the country’s most popular television programmes.

The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world and the awards are handed out twice a year, on the queen’s official birthday and at New Year.

Anyone can nominate another person for an award.

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