Henry Becton, Honorary CBE

Anglophiles may now swoon (again)

By Dru Sefton and Steve Behrens

Becton (left) receives medal from Prince Charles, with closeup of the medal (right)Henry Becton, whose employer co-produced a lot of television programs with British broadcasters, is now an Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

The CBE, issued by order of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was presented by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony May 5 at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., in recognition of Becton’s “extraordinary service to the arts and entertainment industry,” the embassy said in a statement.

Under Becton’s leadership, from 1984 until his retirement in 2007, “WGBH was the American co-producer of some of the most prestigious British dramas and documentaries made during that time,” the embassy said.

Becton and colleagues in Boston oversaw co-production of many TV dramas presented as part of Masterpiece Theatre or Mystery! on PBS, including The Jewel in the Crown, Upstairs Downstairs, Rumpole of the Bailey, the Inspector Morse, Sherlock Holmes and  Poirot mysteries, and numerous science and nature documentaries. Under Becton’s leadership, WGBH also partnered with the BBC and Public Radio International to produce the international news program PRI’s The World.

Phil Budden, British consul general to New England, said: “I am delighted that Her Majesty the Queen is honoring Mr. Becton’s tremendous contribution in Boston to the special relationship between Britain and America.”

Enthusiastic viewers of recent royal wedding reality programs may be interested in more detail: “Today the Order of the British Empire is the order of chivalry of British democracy,” according to the Monarchy’s website. It’s awarded on merit, not inherited. When recipients such as Becton are not British nationals, the titles are deemed honorary. He may now use “Honorary CBE” after his name. And he came away with a handsome blue CBE medal.

More than 100,000 people now living hold one of the five ranks in the order. He shares the commander rank with BBC naturalist David Attenborough, Alec Guinness, Jonathan Pryce, Michael Palin, Penelope Keith, Dudley and Roger Moore, Rod Stewart, Harvey Weinstein, Petula Clark and all three BeeGees.

John Cleese turned down the CBE but his Fawlty Towers costar Prunella Scales did not.

Becton’s rank is in the middle, below the Knight/Dame Grand Cross (Tim Berners-Lee) and the Knight/Dame Commander (Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews, Diana Rigg, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith) but above the Officer (J.K. Rowling, David Beckham and David Frost) and Member ranks.

“It’s a privilege to accept this honor, which belongs to the many people at WGBH who over the years worked with their colleagues in British broadcasting to create great television and radio,” Becton said.

Also honored at the ceremony were Gail Kern Paster, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and former U.S. Rep. Martin Lancaster, in recognition of his services to the people of Northern Ireland.

Comments, questions, tips? sefton@current.org
Copyright 2011 American University

RELATED LINKS

British royalty’s website explains the Order of the British Empire officially.

Wikipedia explains it all unofficially.

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