Author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has said receiving a rare honour at Buckingham Palace was “the last thing I expected in my life”.
The writer and presenter, more formally known as Lord Bragg of Wigton, was made a Companion of Honour on Friday for services to broadcasting and the arts.
Established in 1917 by George V, it is a special award recognising services of national importance.
The members, of which there are 65 at any one time, currently include actress Dame Maggie Smith and Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
Lord Bragg, 78, said of the honour: “It’s a bit of a surprise, wholly unexpected and I’m absolutely delighted.
“It feels very strange. The last thing I expected in my life was to be in Buckingham Palace holding a medal called the Companion of Honour. It doesn’t feel like the real world at all.
“There’s 65 at any one time yes, you only get in if somebody dies.”
He said he did not know who had made space for him to join the elite club, saying it was not something you wanted to discover.
Regarding plans for the royal wedding on Saturday, he said: “We haven’t got a street party organised yet – but there’s still time.”
The Labour peer is best known for his work presenting The South Bank show on ITV over four decades and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time discussion series.
He went on: “The highlight of my career? Getting started. That was the big highlight. When I got a job at the BBC when I was 21 years old I thought ‘that’s it’.
“Retiring. That’s the next big highlight I’m looking forward to in about 10 years’ time! I’ll be doing much of what I’m doing now – writing books.”
The former chancellor of Leeds University said he was currently making a programme about the “vital” teaching of the arts in schools, adding he had a “great concern about the cutting back of arts in universities”.
The Labour peer of 20 years and Arsenal fan also touched on the legacy of Arsene Wenger, who managed the club longer than he has sat in the House of Lords.
Lord Bragg said: “My son and I went regularly for 20 years and under Wenger’s aegis I saw some of the best club football I’ve seen in my life. So, that’s something to remember.
“I’m sad. I think he was very good for Arsenal for maybe 12 to 15 years but he couldn’t bring himself to organise our defence properly. If only he’d organised the defence he’d still be there.”