Beatles icon John Lennon MBE found gathering dust in a draw at Buckingham Palace

Posted on 1 February 2015
By Andy Johnson
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The MBE medal that Beatle legend John Lennon rejected has been unearthed in a royal vault.

And now, almost 50 years on from the protest, historians are calling for it to be dusted off and put on public display.

The Fab Four were invested as Members of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1965, after topping record charts around the world.

At the time hundreds of angry war veterans returned their own medals in disgust but later
Lennon decided that he had sold out to the Establishment.

He returned his MBE to The Queen on 25th November 1969 as an anti-war protest and a token of his anger at Britain’s failure to send aid to the Nigerian break-away state of Biafra.

In an accompanying letter Lennon said: “Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.”

With Love, John Lennon.”

Years later he was quoted as saying: “Lots of people who complained about us getting the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war.

“They got them for killing people. We deserved ours for not killing people.

“In a way it was hypocritical of me to accept it. But I’m glad I did really, because it meant that four years later I was able to use it to make a gesture.”

Now the Liverpool Beatles fans have established that the medal has been located in a vault at St James’ Palace and are calling on Yoko Ono to retrieve it.

The medal was found in a cabinet at the Chancery Department of the Royal Household where it has lain untouched for years.

It is still in the presentation case bearing the name John Winston Lennon, and has been stored along with his protest letter.

Beatles history experts regard it as one of the most important pieces of Beatles history and are calling for the medal to be put on permanent display at “Mendips”, the childhood home John shared with his Aunt Mimi in Woolton, now operated by The National Trust.

Lennon had originally sent the medal to his Auntie Mimi and she kept it in pride of place on her mantelpiece, until John collected it and returned it to The Queen.

One Beatles fan in Liverpool said: “Let’s hope Yoko will agree that John’s medal should be displayed in his home town.

“We completely respect John’s decision to return the MBE but we also believe that showing it to the public would be appropriate since it would raise awareness of John’s campaign for peace.

“We are urging Yoko to put in a request to Buckingham Palace for them to return the medal to her.

“What she then does is her decision, but we would be delighted to have iton display in Liverpool

“It would be fitting to return the medal to the mantelpiece at Mendips.

“The Royal Household is sitting on a unique piece of Beatles history and it should not
be left to gather dust in a draw.

“The medal is a vital piece of Beatles memorabilia and should be exhibited for John’s fans to see.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman confirmed that the MBE has been located and that it remains the property of John Lennon’s estate.

The spokeswoman said: “John Lennon’s MBE is in storage at the Central Chancery at St James’ Palace.

“It has been retained since the day Mr Lennon returned it but a decision over whether the medal could go on display in a museum is not up to us.

“It would be up to Yoko Ono as she is the custodian of John Lennon’s estate.”

Gene Grimes of the Liverpool Beatles Appreciation Society said: “We thought John’s MBE must have been melted down or put in a new box and re-cycled.

“It’s wonderful to know that it has been kept safe all these years.

“John’s memory will live on for ever in his music but this MBE is a very precious memento.

“It would a great reminder of John’s message of love of peace that he always believed in.”

* Lennon was murdered on 8th December by 1980 by Mark Chapman outside the Dakota Building in New York.