CS Lewis Declined CBE

C.S. Lewis is among the many who rejected royal honors named in a disclosure [PDF file] made under a freedom of information ruling.

Lewis declined a CBE he was to have been awarded in the New Year’s list of 1952.

The disclosure only lists names, it does not reveal the reasons for anyone’s refusal, reports the BBC. This has misled some commenters to assume the reason for Lewis’ refusal is unknown. Far from it.

By 1952 Lewis had enjoyed a substantial scholarly and literary career, and achieved fame as a speaker and Christian apologist. His most recent work at that time included the first two Narnia books, The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian (1951).

Mere Christianity would be published in 1952, subsequent to the New Year’s list.

Lewis was offered a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Winston Churchill in 1951, but Lewis refused to accept. His explanation, notes Tim Keller, is in one of his published letters:

In a letter to the Prime Minister’s secretary Lewis turned down the offer, which was very unusual. “I feel greatly obliged to the Prime Minister, and so far as my personal feelings are concerned this honour would be highly agreeable,” he wrote. However, he added that many people said or believed that Christianity is basically, “covert anti-Leftist propaganda, and my appearance in the Honours List would of course strengthen their hands. It is therefore better that I should not appear there.” (W. Hooper, ed. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, volume III, p. 147.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

1 thought on “CS Lewis Declined CBE

  1. Yes, this news shouldn’t surprise any Lewis scholars, and in fact the relevant excerpt from Lewis’s letter turning down the honor was in the original edition of Lewis’s published letters in 1966, so it’s been known for a long time.

    One other niggle: though, as you say, Mere Christianity was published in 1952, most of its various contents had been both broadcast as Lewis talks on the BBC and later published in book form in the 1940s. The 1952 book was basically an omnibus edition. So the work was already well-known, just not under that title.

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