Journalist Ray Connolly claims George Harrison rejected an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II because he was insulted by receiving a lower honor than his former bandmate, Paul McCartney. George did refuse an OBE from Her Majesty, but not because of jealousy.
The Beatle had some conflicting views on Queen Elizabeth II
In June 1965, The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, announced the queen was awarding them MBEs (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
The Beatles held a press conference after the announcement. Replying to whether or not they felt they deserved the MBEs, George said (per Beatles Bible), “It’s not up to us to say that. The queen must have thought so, or she wouldn’t have given them to us, would she?”
However, according to the Liverpool Echo, George was confused by Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to give the band the MBEs. He told the press he “didn’t think you got that sort of thing, just for playing rock ‘n’ roll music.”
By 1965, The Beatles had done much more than play rock ‘n’ roll. Even royalty couldn’t ignore the effect the band had on society. George said he’d hang his MBE on his wall.
Throughout the years, George didn’t speak much about the monarchy. However, during a 1968 interview on KPPC-FM (per Harrison Archive), George said he liked Queen Elizabeth II. However, her niceness “made it even worse somehow.”
George said, “The queen’s all right though, actually. The queen’s, you know, it’s not, it’s different like the Prez over here, the Prez seems to be the heavy guy. Whereas the Queen just, like, goes around waving all the time.
“And, you know, it’s really her karma, her, you know, the fickle finger of fate pointed at her and she happened to, you know, she didn’t split and she had to go around waving. But she is, she’s a nice lady and that makes it even worse somehow.”
By 1965, George had already become bored with meeting the world’s dignitaries, including the queen. Only spirituality impressed him. George was more concerned with pleasing God than someone who claimed to be the highest mortal under Him.
Ray Connolly claims George Harrison rejected an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II because of Paul McCartney
George distanced himself from the monarchy even further when he rejected an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2000, a year before he died (per Billboard).
Connolly told the Mail on Sunday, “Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive. George would have felt insulted – and with very good reason.”
George never revealed the real reason why he rejected the honor, but it’s pretty clear.
George could’ve rejected an OBE because he didn’t care too much about awards
George became uncomfortable with his fame early on in his career. In the early days of The Beatles, he liked the band’s late-night performances during their residency in Hamburg, Germany. Then, the band became successful, and it was great.
However, fame came with a price. Beatlemania started to take its toll on George. He was often paranoid about being killed. Soon, George became disenchanted with fame and adulation. It warped his nerves and bored him in equal measure. Thankfully, George found spirituality, and it cleansed his soul.
So, it was no surprise he disliked being awarded for his work. It was all fake to him. If he were going to get any appreciation from anyone, it would be from God. He only played music to be closer to his maker. George didn’t like when fans treated him like a deity, giving him offerings.
In Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, George’s widow, Olivia, explained that George gave awards and honors little thought.
“George had maximum amount of diversion in life,” she said. “Towards the end of his life, I’d say, ‘Oh, they want to give you this award thing.’ He said, ‘I don’t want it. Tell them to get another monkey.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but you know, it’s a really nice one. You should have this.’
“And he’d say, ‘Well, if you want it so bad, you go and get it. I’m not going. I’m not doing that anymore.’ Because it’s just a big diversion… He really did draw the line, and I really admired him for that.”
It’s doubtful that George would’ve felt insulted having not gotten the same honor as Paul. It’s more believable that George would’ve rejected an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II because he hated adulation. George didn’t live in the material world where awards were important anyway. What he wanted most in life was to descend to the next plane of existence.