Queen's list lauds Idris Elba, Ebola doctors among 2015 honourees

LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II's New Year honours list makes knights and dames out of some of Britain's best loved stage and screen stars even as it recognizes the sacrifices of doctors who treated Ebola victims and the everyday heroism of those who spent time helping others.

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Veteran actress Barbara Windsor -- familiar for decades since her work on the Carry On films -- Wednesday was given a damehood for her services, and celebrated "Swan Lake" choreographer Matthew Bourne was made a knight in recognition of his string of innovative successes.

Other honours were given to revered actress Imelda Staunton, made a Commander of the British Empire for her stellar stage work, and Luther star Idris Elba -- touted as a possible future James Bond -- who was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or OBE.

Britain's honours are bestowed twice a year by the monarch at New Year's and on her official birthday in June. Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.

The honours last a lifetime and convey serious prestige: knights are addressed as "sir" and dames are called "dame." Recipients of the lesser honours have no title but can put the letters after their names.

Veteran Welsh stage actress Sian Philips was also made a dame, and actors David Oyelowo -- who recently played Martin Luther King Jr. in the film "Selma" -- and James Nesbitt got OBEs.

The honour's list goes far beyond entertainment. This year the queen's list has recognized the work of injured Falklands war veteran Simon Weston, who has founded a charity to help others suffering grave disfigurement cope with the massive changes to their lives.

Weston has refused to let his severe injuries and resulting disfigurement keep him in the shadows, and his charity has done the same for others. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in recognition.

"When I was injured, I feared that I would never be relevant again -- not just in a military sense but also as a human being. Maybe it was my bullishness or my military background, but I was not going to let that happen," he said. "The charity Changing Faces recently published figures saying that 70% of people with a disfigurement don't go outside. I hope that with me being in the public eye it can inspire others -- that you can live your life and can enjoy it despite what has happened."

Honours also go to Dr. Michael Jacobs, who received a knighthood for helping three British health care workers who contracted the Ebola virus while trying to prevent its spread in west Africa. Dr. Timothy Brooks received a CBE for leading the British laboratory response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and many other awards were made to Britons involved with the crisis response.

On the political front, there was some controversy over the knighthood awarded to Lynton Crosby, a prominent architect of Prime Minister David Cameron's general election strategy.

On a lighter note, the queen recognized the man who designs many of her own one-of-a-kind outfits. Designer Stewart Parvin was made a member of the Royal Victorian Order.



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