Veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen has been made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and equality.

The award was presented to the 69-year-old national treasure by the Queen at an investiture ceremony held in Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

The Hollywood A-lister  was awarded a knighthood in 1990.

Companions of Honour include the Queen and only 65 other members, all outstanding talents in their fields from painters Lucian Freud and Sir David Hockney to acclaimed actress Dame Judi Dench.

Sir Ian, an Oscar-nominated actor, is also a founder member of the gay rights organisation Stonewall, established in 1989.

Sir Ian came out as gay in 1988, long before it was fashionable, or even professionally safe, for a public figure and internationally recognised actor to do so.

His decision to risk his career came on the back of the House of Commons’s approval of Section 28 (later repealed in 2003), which made it illegal for local authorities to “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.”

The act also banned “teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Since leaving his closeted days behind, Sir Ian has campaigned openly and vociferously for gay rights, particularly among the Hollywood film community.

He is perhaps best known around the globe for his role as Wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2002.

His other nomination was in 1999 for Gods and Monsters.

He confesses to an unrequited passion for Derek Jacobi while a student at Cambridge, something he attributes to Jacobi’s tight trousers, orange hair and straight back.

In 2003, during a famous appearance on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You, Sir Ian claimed that when he visited the then local government minister Michael Howard in 1988 to lobby against Section 28, Howard refused to change his position but did ask him to leave an autograph for his children.

He agreed, but wrote “Fuck off, I’m gay.”

He will be a guest of honour at Pride London on July 5th.