Sir Ian McKellen, the actor and founding member of the gay rights charity, Stonewall has been made a Companion of Honour.

Sir Ian joins the exclusive order of the 65 leading figures in the arts, science and industry, founded by George V.

He was recognised for services to drama and to equality.

The Lord of the Rings star said: “I am honoured to join an Order which includes such distinguished practitioners in the arts.

“It is particularly pleasing that ‘equality’ is included in my citation.”

Angela Mason, the former director of Stonewall who this year retired from heading the government’s Women and Equality Unit, has been raised from an OBE to a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

There is also a CBE for Evelyn Collins, the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland.

The gay designer Jasper Conran has been made an OBE for services to the retail industry.

Speaking from Australia Kylie Minogue, who received an OBE, said:

“I am almost as surprised as I am honoured. I feel deeply touched to be acknowledged by Britain, my adopted home in this way.”