In November 1983, Queen Elizabeth II presented an honourary Order of Merit to Mother Teresa in recognition of her outstanding service to humanity. The Nobel Peace Prize winner became the fifth non-British citizen to win the Order.
During the simple ceremony on the lawn of the Presidential Lodge in New Delhi, India, The Queen handed Mother Teresa a scarlet metal insignia. There were no citations or speeches at the ceremony which was only attended by a dozen people. Some of those in attendance included Mother Teresa’s co-workers.
Upon acceptance, Mother Teresa said: “I accept it for the glory by God and also our work.”
Founded by Edward VII in 1902, the award recognises people for their distinguished service in the armed forces, art, science, literature, or for their promotion of culture. The four other non-British subjects (at the time) to be honoured with the award were U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, and John Winant, the U.S. ambassador to London during World War II, as well as former Indian president Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, and physician, philosopher, and missionary Albert Schweitzer.
Her Majesty’s visit to India coincided with a summit by members of the Commonwealth to discuss global issues. This included the nuclear arms race and the invasion of Grenada.
Mother Teresa passed away on 5 September 1997 at the age of 87 after suffering a cardiac arrest. Her death came just days after that of Diana, Princess of Wales. The two were known to have bonded over their shared commitment of helping the poor. It is also reported a rosary Mother Teresa had given Diana was taken to the hospital shortly after Diana’s death.