Seven-time Formula One world title winner Lewis Hamilton leads a New Years honours list that also includes gongs for a 106-year-old fundraiser, a noughties R&B star, and health workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The racing driver has been given a knighthood following pressure on the Prime Minister to approve the accolade.
Despite being one of the UK’s most successful sportsmen, Hamilton had previously been overlooked, reportedly due to his tax affairs.
The honour completes a good year for Hamilton which saw him equal Michael Schumacher’s record seventh Formula One title and being voted Sports Personality of the Year a second time.
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Elsewhere there are gongs for those dealing with problems posed by coronavirus as the pandemic drags on.
Veteran footballers Jimmy Greaves and Ron Flowers are made MBEs after a long-running campaign to ensure every surviving member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad is honoured.
There is a damehood for actress Sheila Hancock, who made her name in the West End before becoming a perennial figure on British TV screens.
Commenting on the award, Hancock joked she felt “slightly miscast”.
“I’ve never felt myself this sort of person. It just doesn’t happen to people like me. I feel I may be lowering the tone. I feel slightly miscast, let’s put it that way,” she said.
( Sheila Hancock who has been made a Dame in the New Years Honours / PA )
People dealing with social issues including homelessness, domestic abuse and social isolation also receive awards, including Kim Leadbeater – sister of murdered MP Jo Cox – who becomes an MBE.
Hamilton’s knighthood – awarded in the overseas list – may raise eyebrows, both because of his decision to relocate to Monaco in 2010 and also because he credited his success in 2020 to a new determination inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
In November, Motorsport UK launched a campaign with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Formula One to ensure he was handed a knighthood, with chairman David Richards saying the driver’s tax status had been “totally misunderstood” and he was among the top 5,000 highest taxpayers in the UK.
The 35-year-old took the knee on the grid and wore anti-racism slogans during the season.
( Lewis Hamilton / Getty )
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Boxing Day, he said: “It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past, to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform (for Black Lives Matter) and shine the light as bright as possible.”
The honours system, in which most recipients receive titles linked to the Order of the British Empire, has faced renewed criticism for allegedly glorifying Britain’s colonial past.
Earlier this month shadow education secretary Kate Green, herself an OBE, branded the wording of the honour “offensive and divisive”.
Welsh actor Michael Sheen revealed on Tuesday he handed back his OBE so he could air his views about the monarchy and its role in Wales without being a “hypocrite”.
Many people looking out for the wellbeing of NHS staff during the pandemic received recognition including Greta Westwood, chief executive of nursing charity the Florence Nightingale Foundation, who is given a CBE.
In music, star of the ’90s UK garage scene turned music producer and DJ Craig David is recognised with an MBE.
Other film and TV stars to make the cut include former EastEnders actress Nina Wadia and Coronation Street stalwart Sally Dynevor.
Wadia, who rose to fame in sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, is made an OBE, while Dynevor, who has played Sally Webster on the soap since 1986, becomes an MBE.
( Coronation Street actress Sally Dynevor / ITV )
Academy Award nominee Lesley Manville is made a CBE and actor Toby Jones, who counts the Harry Potter franchise among his many film credits, becomes an OBE.
Screenwriter and producer Jed Mercurio, who held the nation spellbound with TV hits including Line Of Duty, gets an OBE.
From the world of fashion, make-up artist Pat McGrath – dubbed the “most influential make-up artist in the world” by Vogue – becomes a dame for services to the fashion and beauty industry and to diversity.
In politics, Angela Eagle, long-time MP for Wallasey in Merseyside and known for her work promoting women’s and minority rights, is made a dame for parliamentary and political service.
Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox QC receives a knighthood.
The MP for Torridge and West Devon caused controversy after advising the Government it was legal to prorogue Parliament for five weeks in autumn 2019 – a move later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.
( PA )
The oldest person on the list is Anne Baker, 106, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, who receives an MBE for fundraising for the NSPCC.
She is closely followed by 104-year-old Ruth Saunders, from Newbury in Berkshire, who gets an MBE for walking a marathon to raise money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.
Among the more unusual efforts being honoured are those of Veronica Main from Hazlemere in Buckinghamshire, who receives an MBE for services to Straw Hat Plaiting and Endangered Crafts Skills.