Actress Lesley Manville said it felt like "the ultimate pat on the back" as her lengthy stage and screen career was recognised with an OBE.

Manville, 59, who has been on our screens this autumn in the chilling detective drama River and a TV version of The Go-Between, called her latest gong "the big one", and said she was very proud of her achievements.

The actress - an Olivier award-winner and Bafta nominee - has worked since she was 16 and said she will continue "as long as somebody will have me".

She said: "It is nice to be formally honoured in this kind of way. There is less of a judgement on a single performance, like a Bafta is, or an Olivier.

"This is a statement about the body of my career, which is very, very nice."

Manville received her honour at Buckingham Palace from the Duke of Cambridge, with whom she discussed the merits of English drama.

She said: "I talked to him about how well we do it here in this country, and even when I work in the States I think there's small wonder that English actors are so revered in America.

"I think we do do it better than anyone else. Our theatre especially is rightfully the world leader."

Since starting out at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Manville has seen her career weave between a stint on Emmerdale, 10 years at the Royal Court Theatre and shows like Silent Witness.

But she will forever be linked to director Mike Leigh, working with him on 11 projects.

These days she picks and chooses what she does on TV very carefully, "because I don't like a lot of it", but is currently shooting a series called Mum, in which she takes a departure from her usual drama roles to dip her toe into a more comic persona.

And now she has found herself in the wonderful position of being able to take up TV projects without auditioning - although she joked that "sometimes Americans get a bit above themselves and I have to remind them - 'excuse me, you want me to what?'"

But Manville still believes the soul of acting lies in the theatre.

She said: "I have quite a few young friends who are in the industry and I am always saying to them, 'I know there aren't the number of repertory theatres any more, but whenever you get the chance to go on stage, do it, because that's where you'll learn'.

"But they are very pressured to get on the front cover of Vogue or get into a pilot season in America.

"It's all the wrong stresses put upon them. They should be thinking, 'I'll go to Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, wherever, and go and do a play', because it's that rehearsal process, that investigation, that collaboration, that teaches you your job."

She added: "There is too much pressure for them to be famous."