Of the honor, de Havilland said in a statement to PEOPLE that she is “extremely proud that the Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
“To receive this honor as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents,” she said.
Promoted along with her in this damehood list were Harry Potter actress and two-time Oscar nominee Julie Walters (also known for Educating Rita and Billy Elliot) and June Whitfield, who played Edina Monsoon’s mother on Absolutely Fabulous.
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Though last year’s birthday list included wartime singing legend Vera Lynn at age 99, de Havilland is actually six months older at the time of awarding than the previous record holder: British actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies who, was made a Dame at 100 in 1991.
Others receiving honors this year included a pair of Connollys: operatic soprano Sarah Connolly, 53, and Scottish stand-up comedian and actor Billy Connolly. The 74-year-old star of Mrs Brown and Brave said he was “pleased and a little embarrassed” to receive a knighthood for services to entertainment.
“I feel like I should be called Lancelot or something,” he said. “Sir Lancelot, that would be nice. Sir Billy doesn’t have the same ring.”
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The extensive birthday list also included bumps for past honorees. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, 51, and Sir Paul McCartney (who announced the news “coming on my birthday weekend and Father’s Day… colossal”), 75 on Sunday, were among nine new inductees in the 65-member lifetime Order of the Companion of Honour ranks.
The Honors List issues twice annually and consists of knights and dames, appointments to several tiered Orders as well as a variety of gallantry awards to the military and civilians.
Recommendations are made by respective cabinet ministries as well as members of the public, and evaluated by committee before submission to the Queen, who personally reviews the list. Letters are then mailed, proposing the honor to the nominee.
Once an awardee accepts, he or she is sworn to secrecy while the list is formalized and until its publication in The London Gazette New Year list and in mid-June, the official date of the Queen’s Birthday celebration. (She was actually born in April.)
Recipients are later presented with their medals by the Queen or another royal family member. During these ceremonies, knights only are accorded the “accolade”: a brief touch on the shoulders with a sword by the sovereign.