LONDON – Elton John has no doubt been a member of many exclusive clubs over the decades, but probably nothing quite as exclusive as the one he formally joined on Wednesday.
In an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Prince Charles anointed the musician and charity patron as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.
It is one of the highest awards that can be bestowed by Charles' mother, Queen Elizabeth II, to citizens in Britain and across the Commonwealth. The 95-year-old monarch is also a member of the order.
Introduced in 1917 by her grandfather King George V, the award recognizes people who have made “a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.”
Current members include British environmentalist David Attenborough, Canadian author Margaret Atwood and one of Britain’s greatest-ever athletes Sebastian Coe.
The group, which in the past has included British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill and scientist Stephen Hawking, can only number a maximum of 65, excluding the sovereign, at any one time.
“I was quite taken aback when I got the letter to say that I’d received it because I know it’s, very few people get it," John said after receiving the gold medallion with the inscription “In action faithful and in honour clear.”
John, who was knighted by the queen in 1998, a year after the death of his friend Diana, the Princess of Wales, joined the Companions of Honour in the queen's honors list in late 2019 for his services to music and charity.
The 74-year-old singer-songwriter, who walked with the aid of an ornate stick after recent hip surgery, reflected on a career that has seen him release a hit single in every decade since the 1970s, including “Your Song,” “Rocketman” and “Candle in the Wind.” He also took a leading role in a number of charities, notably the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“I’ve had an amazing life, music has been my life, and I got this for music and for work for charity," said John who was accompanied by his husband David Furnish. “So this is just a reminder that there’s more to do. More work to do for music, more work to do for charity and life is great — I’m so lucky.”
His farewell tour has been pushed back and will kick off next year, but it’s clear he’s more than just still standing despite the operation on his right hip.
“I’ve had a hip replacement but I’m full of beans and I’m full of zest, but this is just a prompter to say ‘come on you’ve got more to do now’,” he said.