C.S. Lewis turned down an honour from the Queen

C.S. LewisAs reported by the BBC, the British government has today published a list of people who have declined honours from the Queen, from 1951 to 1999 and including only those who have now died.

It is interesting to see that one of those named is “CS Lewis, who turned down a CBE in 1952”. This well known Christian author certainly deserved this honour – not so much for his well known Narnia series as for his more serious works, for example of apologetics. I am somewhat surprised to see that he turned down the honour, but perhaps he felt that the glory should go to God.

0 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis turned down an honour from the Queen

  1. There is actually a letter surviving from him to the Prime Minister’s secretary explaining his reasons. He felt that some left-winge folks would construe the fact that he had received the honour on the recommendation of the then Conservative government as proof that his Christian writings were only thinly veiled Conservative propaganda. He did not want to give them that opportunity. I don’t have the letter in front of me right now but will try to remember to look it up for you, Peter.

  2. “Thinly veiled Conservative propaganda”? Pathetic mak’dar! If C.S. Lewis’s ponderous and trite middle-class sentimental prose had been any more “thinly” veiled, it would have been mistaken for an edition of the Daily Telegraph.

  3. Thank you, Deane. I can’t say I agree with you. His prose was I think typical of his time and social position. Note that Lewis denied actually writing Conservative propaganda, suggesting that he distanced himself from their policies, while probably also rejecting the strongly socialist policies of the 1945 to 1951 Labour government.

  4. Here’s the letter:

    To: The Prime Minister’s Secretary
    Date: 4 December 1951

    ‘I feel greatly obliged to the Prime Minister, and so far as my personal feelings are concerned this honour would be highly agreeable. There are always however knaves who say, and fools who believe, that my religious writings are all covert anti-Leftist propaganda, and my appearance in the Honours List would of course strengthen their hands.It is therefore better that I should not appear there. I am sure the Prime Minister will understand my reason, and that my gratitude is and will be none the less cordial.’

    Note that the PM in question was Churchill.

    Source: The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963; Walter Hooper, ed.

  5. Thank you, Tim. That’s interesting. And the monarch in question, on that date, was not our Queen but her predecessor George VI. Also the date was not 1952 as stated by the BBC, but 1951, although most likely the intention was for Lewis to be honoured in the 1952 New Year’s Honours. But in practice he would have received the honour from our Queen, perhaps at Investitures”>her first Investiture on 27th February 1952, not from the already ailing King. So my post title is not completely wrong.

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