The Beatles' Top 5 Queen Elizabeth Moments: From Protests to Paul Becoming Sir Paul

The Beatles 2016
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The Beatles outside of Buckingham Palace after receiving their MBE's on Oct. 26, 1965 in London. 

Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 on Thursday (April 21). It's a landmark occasion for the queen of the United Kingdom, though since her 1952 accession, she's seen her share of protesters -- often smart-mouthed British punks with bitter hot takes on constitutional monarchy.

The Smiths had The Queen Is Dead. The Sex Pistols had "God Save the Queen" ... and then tried to crash her Silver Jubilee while playing their venomous 1977 single sailing along the River Thames. It didn't pan out well, but still, it's the thought that counts.

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The Beatles, on the other hand, were much more diplomatic. Despite her detractors, Queen Elizabeth did do considerable work to honor musicians, and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr got their due over the years, even at the very beginning. She honored them, they honored her, and at times, the Beatles spoke their minds.

Here are the five most memorable times Queen Elizabeth II and the members of the Beatles crossed paths:

1. “Just Rattle Your Jewelry” 

The Beatles’ first big moment with the Queen came in Nov. 1963 -- three months prior to their legendary first trip to New York -- when they performed at one of Britain’s most prestigious entertainment events. The quartet was asked to play at the Queen’s Royal Variety Performance, an annual televised charity gala. Early standbys like “From Me To You” and “She Loves You” were warmly received, but the band yearned to test out its irreverent humor on the highbrow crowd. Lennon told the crowd he’d need some audience participation for their last song -- “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands… And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.”

His humor toed the line, but the joke was taken politely by the royals on hand: 

?2. The Beatles Get Their MBEs

The Beatles’ good impressions on the Queen carried over into 1965. Upon request of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, John, Paul, George and Ringo were named Members of the Order of the British Empire. There was some conservative backlash from people like military veterans and civic leaders, since the honor seldom went to entertainers at the time. 

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3. John Returns His MBE

Lennon held onto his award for only four years. In Nov. 1969, he informed the Queen in a brief letter that he was disowning his award over Great Britain’s involvement in the Nigerian Civil War and its support of American forces in Vietnam. He also joked it was due to the Plastic Ono Band’s “Cold Turkey” slipping on the charts. 

4. Paul Becomes Sir Paul 

A generation after receiving his MBE, McCartney received an even more exclusive honor. In 1997, Macca was knighted by Queen Elizabeth -- a further testament to her desire to honor royal-friendly musicians and to Paul’s living legend status. In the years that followed, Elton John, Bono and Mick Jagger. Sorry, Ringo.

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5. McCartney Closes the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert

Over the years, the Beatles have had their snark and differences with the Queen, but currently, relations between the monarch and the surviving members are quite amicable. In June 2012, McCartney performed outside Buckingham Palace, closing out the royal celebration for the 60th year of Elizabeth’s reign. 

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