George Harrison, lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the Beatles, reportedly refused to accept an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II in 2000, deeming the offer “insensitive.”
Those in the know say that Harrison felt the OBE offer was insulting, considering his former bandmate Paul McCartney was Knighted by the British queen in 1997, which was a much higher royal honor, according to The Daily Mail.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by King George V.
All of the Fab Four (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) were honored with MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) medals in 1965 for their contributions to England.
John Lennon later returned his MBE medal in an anti-war protest.
The OBE which Harrison refused is the second lowest level of royal honors, with the MBE being the lowest and Knighthood at the very top.
Regarding the queen’s offer of the OBE to George:
… the citation for Harrison did not highlight his creative contribution to The Beatles’ success, stating simply: ‘He was a member of a band that many people would say is the best thing that Britain has ever produced, and possibly the best in the world, The Beatles.’
One writer who knew the Beatles well, journalist Ray Connolly, said that George probably felt the OBE offer to be a personal “snub”.
‘Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive,’ he said. ‘George would have felt insulted – and with very good reason.’
England’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport was the group that suggested Harrison for the OBE, in recognition of his “four decade-long career in show business.”
Although the power duo of Lennon and McCartney were the Beatles’ principle songwriters, most Beatle albums included at least one or two songs written by Harrison including "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something", which became the Beatles' second most-covered song.
After the Beatles disbanded, George went on to a have a successful career, and got back together with Paul and Ringo and Apple Records to release a trilogy of “Anthology” albums which included the new and original Beatle song “Free as a Bird.” Harrison also recorded two albums with The Traveling Wilburys (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty) in 1988 and 1990.
George was hospitalized with a punctured lung, more than 40 stab wounds and multiple head injuries following a Dec. 30, 1999 home invasion. George and his wife Olivia managed to disarm and incapacitate the lone assailant.
George Harrison passed away on Nov. 29, 2001 from complications resulting from metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.
See the video accompanying this article for “The Beatles' top 10 musical moments.”
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