"The Order of Merit: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour" is a comprehensive history of the first hundred years of this senior Order from 1902 to 2002. In the personal gift of the Queen and limited to 24 Ordinary Members at any time, the Order of Merit recognises leaders and exceptional personalities in a wide range of fields, including architecture, literature, academia, science, politics and (formerly) the armed services. The Order includes an extraordinary range of members, from Winston Churchill to Florence Nightingale, Laurence Olivier to the Prince of Wales and Lucian Freud to Tom Stoppard. The biographical sketch of each member focuses on the achievements for which he or she received the honour. In the process, this work functions as a highly original insight into 20th-century British political and cultural history and an unusual reference book on Britain's elite. Also fascinating is the section detailing those who have refused the Order, notably Rudyard Kipling, and those who might have been considered. "The Order of Merit: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour" is a key addition to an understanding of how power and patronage work in Britain at the highest level.
Stanley Martin CVO, a diplomat for 35 years, was First Assistant Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps and Associate Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is now an Extra Gentleman Usher to the Queen and Protocol Consultant to the FCO. He writes and lectures extensively on the history of diplomacy and honours matters and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. Since 2005, he has been Chairman of the Royal Over-Seas League. He lives in London and is married, with two children and four grandchildren.