England fly-half Katy McLean delayed collecting the envelope containing her MBE letter fearing it was jury service.
The 28-year-old from South Shields has been capped 64 times by her country, and in November when they faced France at Twickenham.
She was included on released last month.
"My club said I had a letter labelled 'Her Majesty's Service' - I googled and saw it may be a court order, speeding fine or jury service," she said.
"I picked it up, opened it before training and was in absolute shock, and I needed reassurance from someone else."
The Darlington Mowden Park Sharks number 10 became the second England Women's player to receive the award, 18 months after flanker Maggie Alphonsi was honoured.
And the award marks the start of a busy nine months for McLean which includes both the Six Nations and Women's World Cup.
In 2010, England reached the World Cup final but were beaten 13-10 by New Zealand.
"We have a huge game in France to start the Six Nations next month and go back there for the World Cup in August," she BBC Look North.
"Getting women's rugby in the spotlight is key so in that respect, the award couldn't have come at a better time.
"Personally, it hasn't sunk in. I didn't think I'd ever be honoured like this in my career, I thought captaining my country would be the pinnacle."