Sir Simon William English, but you can call him 'Bill'

Mary and Sir Bill English.
Mary and Sir Bill English. Photo credit: Getty

Former Prime Minister Bill English has been made a Sir in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

He says it is great to be acknowledged.

"I was a bit surprised actually, but pleased because it's an honour that acknowledges not just myself, but other people as well - particularly my wife Mary. My public life would not have been possible without her."

Sir Bill says he hopes it encourages the next generation to be involved in public service.

"You can change things for the better - give people better lives, create a better country - and I'm pleased I was part of a team that helped make New Zealand a more successful and more confident country."

He first entered Parliament in 1990, representing the electorate of Wallace. By 2001 he was leading the National Party, but lost the 2002 election in a landslide.

In 2008 he became Finance Minister under Sir John Key's leadership, before taking the reins again in 2016 when Sir John retired.

While leading National to 44 percent in the 2017 election, rivals Labour, NZ First and the Greens were able to cobble together enough support to end his brief stint as Prime Minister.

Sir Bill said he intended to stick around for the 2020 election, but in February announced his retirement from politics.

His wife Mary says it is a different life for the family after nearly three decades in politics.

"It's quite weird, but it has been good - it's been lovely to know he can cook tea for me if I'm working late, and he's developing in that area. It's a whole new scene."

Though his full name and title is now Sir Simon William English, he told Stuff he hopes people call him plain old 'Bill'.