On this day in 2005, the MBE medal that John Lennon returned to the Queen was found in a royal vault at St James' Palace. Lennon returned his medal in November, 1969 with an accompanying letter, stating, "Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon." Historians were calling for the medal to be put on public display. And I hope it was.
When it was announced in June, 1965 that the Fab Four were included in the Queen's birthday honours list to each receive the MBE, protests poured into Buckingham Palace. MP Hector Dupuis said, “British Royalty has put me on the same level as a bunch of vulgar numbskulls.” Which I think was a bit harsh.
Many urban myths surround the day The Beatles went to Buckingham Palace to collect their ‘awards’.
According to an account by John Lennon, the group smoked marijuana in one of the palace bathrooms to calm their nerves. Now we know the boys liked a smoke, but did they? I hope so! Let’s face it, in 1965 Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr were the most famous people on the planet, and the image of these four naughty young men having a spliff in the Queen’s loos is hysterical.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. Many former recipients gave their MBEs back in protest, to which John Lennon responded, "Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war, for killing people." He continued, "We received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more." When asked how he enjoyed meeting Queen Elizabeth II, John said, "She's much nicer than she is in the photos."
In 1967, when members of The Rolling Stones were being ‘hounded’ by Scotland Yard, 15 police officers raided Redlands the West Sussex home of Rolling Stone Keith Richards during a weekend party. The police who were armed with a warrant issued under the dangerous drugs act took away various substances for forensic tests. George and Pattie Harrison had been at the house, but it was said that the police waited for them to leave before they raided the house in order not to bust the holder of an MBE.
Time marches on and The Rolling Stones gathered much money. You can’t always get what you want? Mick Jagger did, when he was eventually knighted in 2003 for Services to Music, by The Prince of Wales.
Sir Mick’s drummer Charlie Watts was quoted as saying, "Anybody else would be lynched; 18 wives and 20 children and he's knighted, fantastic!" Jagger's knighthood also caused some friction between him and band mate Keith Richards, who was irritated when Jagger accepted the "paltry honour." Richards said that he did not want to take the stage with someone wearing a "coronet and sporting the old ermine. It's not what the Stones is about, is it?" Jagger retorted, "I think he would probably like to get the same honour himself. It's like being given an ice cream—one gets one and they all want one."