Kate Winslet, Kenneth Branagh get royal honors

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LONDON (AP) - Kate Winslet has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for her titanic contribution to the arts.

The actress, who won a best actress Academy Award in 2009 for “The Reader” and made her breakthrough as the feisty Rose in 1997 blockbuster “Titanic,” has been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in the queen’s Birthday Honors List, published Saturday.

Winslet said the honor made her “very proud to be a Brit.”

“I am both surprised and honored to stand alongside so many men and woman who have achieved great things for our country,” the 36-year-old star said.

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh was made a knight and will be known as Sir Kenneth. A respected Shakespearean actor whose films as a director range from “Henry V” and “Hamlet” to the comic-book fantasy “Thor,” Branagh said he felt “humble, elated, and incredibly lucky” to get the honor. It puts him in a pantheon of theatrical knights alongside the late Sir Laurence Olivier, whom Branagh played in “My Life With Marilyn.”

“When I was a kid, I dreamed of pulling on a shirt for the Northern Ireland football team,” said the Belfast-born, 51-year-old actor. “I could only imagine how proud you might feel. Today it feels like they just gave me the shirt, and my heart’s fit to burst.”

The honors are bestowed by twice yearly by the queen _ at New Year’s and on her official birthday in June _ but recipients are selected by civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.

Most go to people who are not in the limelight, for services to their community or industry, but they also reward a sprinkling of famous faces.

Songwriter and philanthropist Richard Stilgoe, who wrote lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” “Starlight Express” and “The Phantom Of The Opera,” was awarded a knighthood.

Those becoming dames _ the female equivalent of a knight _ include Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, who designed the Aquatic Center for the 2012 London Olympics, and Labour Party politician Tessa Jowell, who was Olympics minister until 2010.

Musician Gary Barlow, who organized a Diamond Jubilee concert for the queen this month featuring Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, for his services to entertainment and to charity.

Sarah Burton, who designed Kate Middleton’s dress for her royal wedding to Prince William last year, received an OBE for services to fashion.

In descending order, the honors are knighthoods, CBE, OBE and MBE _ Member of the Order of the British Empire. Knights are addressed as “sir” or “dame.” Recipients of the other honors have no title but can put the letters after their names.

Choirmaster Gareth Malone, who inspired thousands to sing with TV shows such as “The Choir” and assembled the best-selling Military Wives singing group, was awarded an OBE, as was actress and 1970s heartthrob Jenny Agutter.

Actress and campaigner April Ashley, one of the first Britons to undergo sex-change surgery, was awarded an OBE “for services to transgender equality.”

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