Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was granted Britain's highest honor, the Order of Merit, Friday by Queen Elizabeth II.

Membership of the order, which precedes all other honors, is restricted to the queen and 24 others at any given time. Thatcher fills the vacancy left by the death last year of actor Lord (Lawrence) Olivier.Other current members include Mother Teresa, violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin, novelist Graham Greene and World War II Royal Air Force hero Group Capt. Leonard Cheshire.

Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, said that Thatcher's honor rebutted reports of her poor relationship with the queen.

"This exposes the talk that Mrs. Thatcher and the queen did not get on as rubbish," he said.

"I don't know anyone who is more deserving of it," said former President Reagan, who met with her this week on a private visit here.

Thatcher's husband was given a baronetcy, on her recommendation. A spokesman said that she was "delighted and thrilled with the honor conferred on her husband who has given such tremendous support to her and been very active in the life of the country, especially over the last 11 years (of her leadership)."

It was the first baronetcy to be created since 1964. He becomes Sir Denis Thatcher, and she has the right to be known as Lady Thatcher, although she said that she would continue to be plain Mrs. Thatcher.

"That is how I have been known throughout my 31 years as (a member of Parliament), and that is how I would like to continue to be known. I have done pretty well out of being Mrs. Thatcher," she told the British Press Association.