1.The history of the Order
The National Order of Légion d’Honneur was formed in 1802, by Napoleon Bonaparte himself, in his role as First Consul – 2 years before he became emperor – to reward citizens for their contributions to the state.
Over time, the Legion has evolved from a political tool to a way to decorate people who have rendered services to France.
Membership to the Legion of Honour is the highest form of state recognition given out by the country and although only French nationals are technically admitted into the order as members, foreign nationals can be given distinctions and promotions that bear little difference to French nationals.
2. The ranks
There are five ranks in the Legion of Honour: Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer and Grand Cross.
Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh was admitted into the order as a Knight in 2007 by then President Jacques Chirac, before being promoted to an Officer in 2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Her current promotion to the rank of Commandeur was overseen by Francois Hollande, who as President of France serves as the Grand Master of the Order.
3. Other notable honourees
Tan Sri Michelle has found herself in good company with five other Malaysians in the order: Admiral (Ret.) Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor, the former Chief of Defense Force of Malaysia; HRH Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, the Sultan of Terengganu; Ambiga Sreenevasan, former president of the Bar Council; Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia Berhad; and Mervin Nambiar, the sales & marketing director for the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Other foreign honourees from the entertainment industry include veteran actors, Clint Eastwood, Max Von Sydow and Amitabh Bachchan; film directors, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Wong Kar-wai. Sir Paul McCartney and author JK Rowling are also recognised honourees of the Legion of Honour.
4. The other Order
The National Order of the Legion of Honour isn’t the only French order Tan Sri Michelle is apart of – she is the first Malaysian actress to be conferred the title of Officier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres or the Order of Arts and Letters, signifying her contribution to the arts and culture scene in France.
Apart from her work with French filmmakers, Tan Sri Michelle also served on the jury for the Cannes Film Festival in 2002.
Other famous members of this order include novelist TS Eliot; actors Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery and Meryl Streep, as well as musician, actor and art collector, David Bowie.
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5. She is still Hollywood draw
While her sucessful career has seen her lend her talents to blockbuster film franchises like Police Story, James Bond, The Mummy and Kung Fu Panda, Tan Sri Michelle will be joining another iconic franchise on television, Star Trek Discovery as a captain of a Federation ship.
She will also play a lead role in the film adaptation of the best selling Kevin Kwan novel Crazy Rich Asians alongside Henry Golding and Constance Wu.
(image copyright: Elysée)