Since feudal times, the sovereign has conferred honours on his/her subjects. Today, honours may be awarded for gallantry, courage, outstanding achievement, or service to the community or the Crown.
Every year the New Year's Honours List and the Birthday Honours List are announced in the London Gazette, and summonses are sent to the recipients requesting them to attend an investiture at Buckingham Palace. On average 14 investitures a year are held at Buckingham Palace, and once every five years an investiture is held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland; around 2,600 people a year receive their award in person.
The Queen or a senior member of the royal family - the Prince of Wales or Princess Royal - officiates. The Queen held her first investiture on 6 February 1952, shortly after her accession.
The Queen herself pins the decoration on the recipients; as each recipient steps up to receive the honour her equerry gives her a brief summary of his/her achievements. Those who are receiving a knighthood kneel on an investiture stool before the Queen and she uses the sword that belonged to her father, King George VI, to dub the knight - a ritual dating back to the Middle Ages.
The most high profile Investiture of all was the investiture of the 20-year-old Prince of Wales on 1 July 1969 at Caernarfon Castle (pictured). The Queen invested The Prince with the Insignia of his Principality and Earldom of Chester: a sword, coronet, mantle, gold ring and gold rod.