FEI President Princess Haya today received France’s highest honour in recognition of her humanitarian work and efforts in equestrian sport.
She was made an Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.
Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, presented her with the Legion of Honour insignia in the Prefecture of Caen, the main host city of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014.
“You are a remarkable person,” Fabius said. “Due to the inspiration you have given to many people over the years, through your sporting and humanitarian efforts, France is extremely happy to pronounce you Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.”
Fabius, addressing international media and more 100 guests at the special ceremony in the Gold Salon (Salon doré), he cited the princess’s career as an Olympic athlete, her contribution to equestrian sport as FEI President, and her success in bringing the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 to Normandy.
He also charted HRH Princess Haya’s extensive and well-documented humanitarian efforts in some of the harshest parts of the world.
“I accept this honour on behalf of all of my colleagues at the Fédération Equestre Internationale and everyone who contributed to the success of the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, including the 3000 French volunteers and the wonderful people of this region, who welcomed the equestrian world to their home,” Princess Haya said in her acceptance speech.
“I accept this honour on behalf of the dedicated humanitarian aid workers that I encounter in my travels as a UN Messenger of Peace – the selfless healthcare workers from Médecins Sans Frontières, the humanitarians from the World Food Programme, and so many other committed people who serve those in need long after I have returned to the comforts of my home.
“I accept this honour knowing that I have done so little to earn it, but inspired to do more in my limited capacity to advocate for a more equitable, more compassionate and a more peaceful future. I am deeply grateful,” she said.
Princess Haya follows in the footsteps of her late father, King Hussein I, who accepted the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1967.
Since its creation in 1802 by then-First Consul and later Emperor of the French Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honour has been awarded to historic personalities such as the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey; Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States and Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War 2; Queen Elizabeth II; former Polish President Lech Wałęsa; and Akihito, the reigning Emperor of Japan.
The list of prestigious recipients also includes American animator, producer, director, screenwriter, and philanthropist Walt Disney; one of the greatest writers of the 20th century Graham Greene; Belgian Eddy Merckx, one of the best cyclists of all time; Italian philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco; Canadian singer Céline Dion; French mountaineer and Minister of Sport Maurice Herzog, an IOC member until his death in 2012; and American musician, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer Bob Dylan.
Former FEI Presidents Prince Philip and Prince Bernhard both held the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.
Princess Haya will step down in December after eight years as FEI president. She has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2007.
At 13, she became the first female to represent Jordan internationally, in showjumping. She won an individual bronze medal in the Pan-Arab Equestrian Games in 1992, and is the only female ever to have won a Pan-Arab medal in equestrian sport.
In 2000, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by competing at the Sydney Olympic Games in showjumping and, two years later, competed for Jordan in the FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, becoming the first Arab woman to qualify for and compete in equestrian sport at Olympic, world and continental championship level.