King Charles is set to continue the Queen’s legacy by adding six more people to the Order of Merit. The Order of Merit was founded 120 years ago in 1902 by Edward VII and is the personal gift of the monarch for those that have greatly contributed to the arts, sciences culture or military. It is extremely prestigious as there can only be 24 living members at one time.
It will be the first time during his reign that King Charles carries out his duty as Sovereign of the Order and will appoint those chosen by Queen Elizabeth.
Those chosen include broadcaster Baroness Floella Benjamin and nursing expert Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who have both become the first black women to be given the honour.
Four out of the six new members are from ethnic minorities and the number of women appointed has also increased from two to five members.
Others chosen by Queen Elizabeth are Sir David Adjaye, an architect, Sir Paul Nurse, a cell biologist, Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, a molecular biologist, and Margaret MacMillan, a Canadian historian.
Dame Elizabeth is an Irish and Nigerian nurse who became one of Britain’s first sickle-cell and thalassaemia nursing specialists.
She founded the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at the University of West London, which aims to “enable the integration of a multi-ethnic philosophy” into nursing and midwifery recruitment.
In response to the honour, Dame Elizabeth wrote: “Many thanks! It looks like I am the 3rd nurse to have received this honour. After Florence Nightingale, it was awarded to Dame Cicely Saunders in 1989.”
Other former members of the order include Winston Churchill, Margret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.
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Other people selected by Queen Elizabeth are Baroness Benjamin, who is a writer, politician and presenter who began her career on the BBC’s children’s programme Play School.
She has gone on to write more than 30 books, and her memoir ‘Coming to England’ is now studied in British schools.
Sir David Adjaye is also a recipient and has designed buildings all over the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, USA.
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan is a molecular biologist who is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Sir Paul Nurse won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Also recognised is Professor Margaret MacMillan, a lecturer at the University of Oxford who is known for her historic books, including ‘The War that Ended Peace’ which won the International Affairs Book of the Year at the Political Book Awards in 2014.
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King Charles will also be taking over another royal duty from the late Queen as he is set to lead Remembrance Day.
His Majesty first laid a wreath at the Cenotaph fifty years ago alongside his mother Queen Elizabeth, who considered Remembrance Sunday one of the most important royal duties.
The new monarch will lay a poppy wreath incorporating a ribbon with his racing colours, and the wreath will also pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth.
A veteran of the Falkland Islands who will be attending the Remembrance, Andrew Lawless, has said King Charles’s presence today will be just as appreciated as Queen Elizabeth’s has been over the years.
He said: “He said himself he wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps so his sense of duty and service is definitely there and we know it.”