Created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour has three grades - chevalier, officer and commander. It carries social status but no money, and recipients have to buy their own medal from a licensed jeweller, with prices ranging from 169 to 700 euros ($210 to $880) for the highest rank.
McCartney, 70, one of the most influential songwriters in the history of popular music, follows in the footsteps of U.S. actors Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro, and singers Liza Minnelli and Lenny Kravtiz, who have also been decorated with the Legion of Honour.
The musician has already been awarded a knighthood by Britain's Queen Elizabeth. He recently performed in front of the queen and tens of thousands of spectators at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He first rose to international fame with The Beatles, co-authoring songs such as "Yesterday", "A Hard Day's Night", "Hey Jude", "Let it be" alongside bandmate John Lennon.
He then went on to forge a solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife Linda. He and Ringo Starr are the only surviving members of the Beatles following the deaths of Lennon and George Harrison.