The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Civilian Division, Knight/Dame Commander (1938-)
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The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was established by King George V in 1917 to recognize civilian war efforts in Great Britain and elsewhere in the British Empire. Military and civil divisions were established the following year. It has since grown into the most widely awarded order in the United Kingdom. The Sovereign is the head of the Order and makes the appointment of the Grand Master.
The Order is currently conferred upon citizens of the United Kingdom in recognition of excellence in a number of areas of British public life, including the arts and culture, science, philanthropy, and public service. Membership in the first, second and third classes is limited, while membership in the fourth and fifth classes is limited to an annual contingent. Women have been admitted since its creation in 1917. Foreigners may also be admitted, but only as Honorary Members, and are not counted in statutory membership limits.
Members of the first class are entitled to use the post-nominal letters GBE, members of the second class are entitled to use the post-nominal letters KBE or DBE, members of the third class are entitled to use the post-nominal letters CBE, members of the fourth class are entitled to use the post-nominal letters OBE, and members of the fifth class are entitled to use the post-nominal letters MBE. Members of the first and second classes are also entitled to use the formal title “Sir” or “Dame.”
The motto of the Order is “FOR GOD AND THE EMPIRE.”
There are 2 versions of the Knight Commander. The first version dates from 1917 to 1937 and depicts an effigy of Britannia in the obverse medallion. The first version is also worn from a purple neck ribbon. The second version was introduced following the restructuring of the Order in 1937, features the portraits of King George V and Queen Mary on the obverse medallion, and was is worn from a red neck ribbon. King George V's portrait is featured on the reverse of both versions.
The Knight Commander is worn by men on a neck ribbon, and the Dame Commander is worn by women on a bow.
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