Former prime minister John Howard has received an honour as the personal choice of the Queen.MELBOURNE – Former prime minister John Howard has been appointed a member of the Order of Merit by the Queen.

The honour is bestowed upon individuals who achieve “exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service”, the royal family’s website says in the announcement.

The Queen also appointed British painter and photographer David Hockney to the Order of Merit yesterday.

Appointments to the Order are made by the monarch and do not require government input.

The Order is restricted to 24 members and occasional foreign recipients.

Other Australians to have been appointed to the Order of Merit are Samuel Alexander, Gilbert Murray, Sir Macfarlane Burnett, Sir Owen Dixon, Lord Florey, Sir Sidney Nolan, Dame Joan Sutherland and Lord May of Oxford.

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien are also members.

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