The British Honours system was mired in scandal last night when it emerged the Queen bases her recommendation for titles on frivolous credentials and "personal whimsy".
A leaked memo from Buckingham Palace revealed the shortlist for the 2009 New Year's Honours includes some stealthily-placed royal pin-ups among the traditional glut of Olympic heroes and charity workers.
A disproportionate number of candidates from the world of entertainment are associated with the hit BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing, with presenter Tess Daly and dancer Anton du Beke in the frame for MBEs and Italian-born judge and choreographer Bruno Tonioli slated to receive an honorary knighthood.
Significantly, the list contains several handwritten notes in the margin - allegedly penned by the Queen herself - detailing some of the reasons behind each nomination. Next to Tonioli's name is written: "Lovely! Cheeky smile and very cute for his age! :-)".
Despite so many gongs for the show's stars, there is one notable absentee, fuelling speculation that Bruce Forsyth - the ageing entertainer and host of Strictly Come Dancing - is being deliberately overlooked after making a glib remark about Roger Black's foxtrot in series two.
A Palace spokesman today tried to play down the furore. "Her Majesty is aware of the television series Strictly Come Dancing, and recognises the considerable contribution it has made to popular culture in this country. In our view there is no more deserving Knight of the Garter than Len Goodman and it is only right that Dame Alesha Dixon is given her just desserts for that sizzling paso doble."
When pressed for comment during a hunting session on Balmoral Estate, Prince Philip revealed himself to be "more of an X-Factor man". "Strictly? Load of hogwash," he told assembled journalists. "Full of frightful old nudgers. Louis Walsh, on the other hand, is a man's man and Holly Willoughby has bangers you could hang your duffel coat on."