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British Empire, Order of the

British Empire, Order of the. This was the first democratic or meritocratic order and, significantly, was established in June 1917 in the darkest days of the First World War. Though far less aristocratic than previous orders, it was nevertheless divided into five sections—the Knights Grand Cross, the Knights Commander, Commanders, Officers, and Members. Associated with the order was the British Empire Medal. Of equal significance was that a large number of women were, for the first time, admitted to honours. The prelate of the Order is the bishop of London, the dean is the dean of St Paul's, and the chapel of the order is in the crypt of St Paul's. Punch complained that decorations were given in handfuls and that to remain undecorated was a distinction in its own right.

J. A. Cannon

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British Empire, Order of the

British Empire, Order of the (OBE) Military and civil order or knighthood, bestowed as a reward for public service to the Commonwealth of Nations. Created in 1917, it has five different classes for men and women: Knights (or Dames) Grand Cross, Knights (or Dames) Commander, Commanders, Officers and Members.

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