John Howard receives the Order of Merit from The Queen
Written by ACM   
Thursday, 31 May 2012

Former Australian prime minister John Howard has been presented with a rare and exclusive accolade from the Queen, but insists the greatest honour of his public life remains his time in Australia's top job. This report was broadcast by the Australian network,Channel 7 on 1 June 2012.

AAP reports that during a meeting with the monarch at Buckingham Palace  Mr Howard, received the insignia of a member of the Order of Merit, a credit for which recipients are hand-picked by the Sovereign for their distinguished service.

"It's a very nice honour and I feel particularly touched that I should have received it," Mr Howard told reporters, proudly clutching his medal.

"I am touched by the personal compliment but I also see it very much as a mark of the Queen's great affection and esteem for Australia.

"What I did, of course, I did as an Australian and as prime minister of the country. It was the greatest privilege anybody can have to be prime minister of Australia and I certainly see it very much as a mark of respect for our country."

The Order, of which there can be only 24 living recipients, is also held by Prince Philip, Prince Charles, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, broadcaster David Attenborough and playwright Tom Stoppard.

According to AAP, Mr Howard and ecologist Robert May are the only current Australian members of the Order, while opera singer Joan Sutherland and artist Sidney Nolan are among past recipients. Mr Howard was accompanied by his wife Janette and youngest son Richard for Thursday's palace visit.

"The greatest honour I've had in my life, in public life, is to have been prime minister of Australia. That's an honour that can never be surpassed. But as a particular personal honour of this kind, I treasure it," Mr Howard said of his latest award.

Having already been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, and receiving the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, protocol will see the latest honour take precedence on the chest of Australia's 25th prime minister.

"He's too humble to say too much about it, but it means a great deal and it means an enormous amount to us," his son Richard said.

A report on the earlier announcement of the award follows.