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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 14:37 GMT


Celebrating the best of British

Sporting stars among those honoured by the Queen

Former prime ministers, football World Cup greats and stars of stage and screen have been among more than 300 people judged to be the "best of British" at a millennium lunch.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the banquet at the Mansion House in London, hosted by the Lord Mayor of London, Lord Levene.

[ image: Best: Singer Shirley Bassey]
Best: Singer Shirley Bassey
Assisted by a committee the Lord Mayor judged 1,766 nominations from across the country from county councils, Lord Lieutenants, and official bodies for the "best of British" soubriquet.

"It is the efforts of individuals which make a country great," said a Mansion House spokesman.

"Lord Levene wanted to celebrate the people who have done something to make Britain what it is."

The BBC's Emma Simpson: "Nearly 2,000 people were nominated"
Three former prime ministers - Baroness Thatcher, Sir Edward Heath and John Major - rubbed shoulders with England World Cup soccer stars Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Among those seated at the top table with the Queen and Duke were veteran broadcaster Sir Robin Day, comedian Ronnie Barker, former England rugby captain Bill Beaumont and actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne.

[ image: Hundreds to lunch]
Hundreds to lunch
So were boxer Henry Cooper, wartime favourite Dame Vera Lynn, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, first sub-four-minute-mile runner Sir Roger Bannister, round-the-world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and actress Dame Diana Rigg.

Other guests included designer Sir Terence Conran, athlete Fatima Whitbread, writer Harold Pinter, lyricist Sir Tim Rice, ice skater Jayne Torvill, jockey Lester Piggott, Olympic champion runner Sebastian Coe and Beatles producer Sir George Martin.

Athlete Tessa Sanderson, broadcaster Sir David Frost, food critic Egon Ronay and pop art fashion designer Mary Quant were also among the list of celebrities, although people not in the public eye such as Chelsea pensioner Alan Young also received an invitation.

Mr Young received the accolade because he had cycled across the UK for charity.

"To be singled out from so many people like that, it's beyond me really," he said. "I feel I am just a normal sort of person."

And the menu? Scottish beef and French beans.

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