Dame Judi Dench added yet another honour to her list of accolades this past weekend. As part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours list - the annual gift of HM The Queen for notable achievements in all areas of public life, including the arts – announced this past weekend, Dench was the only person to be designated a Companion of Honour.

Dench was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970 and was ordained a Dame of the British Empire in 1988. The Order of the Companions of Honour was set up by King George V in 1817 as a reward for outstanding achievement in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry and/or religion. A maximum of 65 people in the country can boast the title at any one time.

Dench is widely recognised as one of the UK's greatest living actresses. Her prodigious accolades to date for her distinguished film, television and stage work have included numerous honorary degrees and doctorates as well as BAFTA, Golden Globe, Evening Standard, Critics Circle, Tony and Laurence Olivier Awards. Last December, as part of the Evening Standard’s 50th anniversary Theatre Awards, Dench was given a special award for her services to theatre.

In 1996, she became the first person to win two Oliviers in a single year - a Best Actress for Absolute Hell and a Best Actress in a Musical for Sondheim's A Little Night Music, both at the National Theatre. In recent years, she’s become best known internationally for her many film roles in the likes of Ladies in Lavender, The Shipping News, Iris, Tea with Mussolini, Mrs Brown, Chocolat, Shakespeare in Love (for which she won an Oscar) and James Bond films Die Another Day, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.

Dench has been seen most recently in the West End in All’s Well That Ends Well (for which she won a Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress), The Breath of Life (in which she appeared with fellow Dame, Maggie Smith) and The Royal Family.

Amongst the other theatre names singled out in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours was actress Stephanie Cole, who was made an OBE for her services to elderly people and mental health charities as well as drama. Best known for her TV roles in the likes of Tenko, Waiting for God and Doc Martin, Cole’s stage credits includes A Passionate Woman, Equally Divided, Quartet, So Long Life and most recently Blithe Spirit, which finished its run at the West End’s Savoy Theatre last month.

Queen guitarist Brian May, a major force behind the success of hit West End musical We Will Rock You, based around the songs of Queen, was appointed CBE.

- by Terri Paddock