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
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Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.