Entertainer Paul O'Grady has collected his MBE wearing top hat and tails and admitted: "It's a long way from Lily Savage."

O'Grady, who became a household name wearing drag as his alter ego, said he was not tempted to slip the blonde beehive, dress and high heels on for his visit to Buckingham Palace.

Prince Charles might not have been too shocked to see O'Grady dressed up though as the last time they met the flamboyant performer was dressed as the Child Catcher for a performance of the stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. "It was the night the car collapsed and the show was stopped so I went to see him in the Green Room in full costume and make-up and had a chat," O'Grady said. 

At Buckingham Palace he was on his best behaviour, he said, although he was tempted to tell the Prince how much he liked the ginger biscuits from his Duchy of Cornwall range. "They are so moreish you can't sleep if there's a packet in the kitchen downstairs," he joked afterwards. 

O'Grady, 53, said he was "delighted" to receive the MBE but had initially thought the letter was a joke from one of his friends. "Then they rang me up and said 'Are you coming or not?' They said I had been a hugely popular choice so that was nice."

O'Grady worked as a waiter and social worker before finding fame as Lily Savage. He even presented the BBC game show Blankety Blank in character. But in 2004 O'Grady dropped Lily Savage and he repeated his pledge never to bring her back, saying he did not miss the wig glue, make-up, heels or the pain of wearing a corset. "You can't go round in mini skirts all your life. It's undignified," he added.

He currently presents a tea-time chat show on Channel 4 and is happy that he is even sometimes described as a national treasure. "If you'd said 25 years ago I'd be getting an MBE I would have killed myself laughing," he said.

"Now I'm part of the establishment - The Archers, The Daily Mail. I'll have to start moaning and writing letters signed 'Disgusted of Kent'." 

O'Grady was accompanied by his partner Andre Portasio, daughter Sharyn Mousley and sister Sheila Rudd. After the ceremony, the group headed to The Ritz to celebrate.

The entertainer quit smoking after he suffered two heart attacks. But he still has the occasional cigarette at special occasions and said he might have a smoke to celebrate his gong.