Former Australian PM Howard joins prestigious order

1st January 2012, Comments 0 comments

Former Australian prime minister John Howard has been appointed a member of the prestigious Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace announced Sunday.

British artist David Hockney has also been appointed to the order, which is restricted to 24 living members.

The honour is a special award presented to individuals of great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature, science and other areas like public service.

Admission to the order remains in the personal gift of the sovereign. Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of 16 Commonwealth realms, including Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The order was created by king Edward VII in 1902. It is restricted to 24 members as well as rare additional foreign recipients.

Howard, 72, is Australia's second-longest serving prime minister. The former Liberal Party leader was in office from 1996 to 2007.

Hockney, 74, has been an internationally-renowned painter since he burst on to the scene in the early 1960s.

Often credited as an important figure in international Pop Art -- a label he refutes -- Hockney is known for his landscapes, portraits and representations of private spaces, such as living rooms, showers and swimming pools.

Other members of the order include former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher; Queen Elizabeth's son and heir Prince Charles, and her husband Prince Philip; playwright Tom Stoppard; architect Norman Foster; Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, and former Canadian premier Jean Chretien.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela is the only honorary member.

© 2012 AFP

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