George HarrisonBeatles guitarist George Harrison refused an OBE on the New Year’s Honours list for 2000, paperwork has now suggested.

OBE means Order of the British Empire and is a high award from U.K government and the U.K. monarchy. But it didn’t match the knighthood given to “Sir” Paul McCartney three years previously.

The U.K. Government’s Departure for Culture, Media and Sport recommended Harrison be given the Order of the British Empire, saying: “He was a member of a band that many people would say is the best thing that Britain has ever produced, and possibly the best in the world, The Beatles.”

But the Daily Mail newspaper quotes journalist Ray Connolly saying: “Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive. George would have felt insulted – and with very good reason.”

All four Beatles were awarded MBEs (Members of the British Empire) in 1965. John Lennon returned his medal to Queen Elizabeth II four years later, in protest against the war in Vietnam.

George Harrison died a year after the possible award, in 2001.