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The Order of Merit
This award is still regarded as one of the most coveted decorations, despite carrying neither rank nor title. Its membership is limited to 24 (apart from Honorary), and is a personal award from the Sovereign.
The Order of Merit was instituted in 1902 by Edward VII, with two versions of the medal: Civil for very special and supreme services to art, literature or science; Military distinguished by the addition of two silver swords, for outstanding services in the armed forces.
In 1907, Florence Nightingale was the first woman admitted to the Order. Other well known members include: Sir Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Alexander, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, Robert Baden-Powell, Henry Moore, Basil Spence, Graham Sutherland and Lady Thatcher. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the only Honorary Member of the Order.