John Lennon’s MBE return letter valued at £60,000

The Beatles with their MBEs in 1965
The Beatles with their MBEs in 1965 (Image credit: Getty)

A draft of the letter John Lennon wrote to the Queen explaining why he was returning his MBE has been valued at £60,000.

It was originally found inside a record sleeve bought at a car boot sale for £10 around 20 years ago. The anonymous owner took the document to a valuation day at The Beatles Story in Liverpool this week, where the item received its hefty asking price.

Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were awarded the titles in Queen Elizabeth’s 1965 birthday honours list, but Lennon returned it on November 25, 1969, in protest against the Vietnam war.

The document reads: “I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.”

The original letter remains in the Royal archives.

Memorabilia expert Darren Julien tells the BBC: “My theory is that John Lennon never sent this draft because of the smeared ink. If you’re writing to the Queen, you want the letter to look pretty perfect, you don’t want the ink to be smudged.

“This suggests that he wrote a second version of the letter, which was the one that was actually sent.”

A programme signed by all of the Fab Four was valued at £10,000, while an autographed photo of the band was given a £5000 price tag. A pair of Beatles stockings were valued at £300 while a painting of drummer Ringo Starr – rescued from the Cavern Club in 1973 – was reckoned to be worth £5000.

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Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.