In older times, knighthood used to be awarded exclusively for military merit, today the honour is given to people from all sorts of professions for their services in various fields. It carries no military obligations. It is one of the highest honours an individual in the United Kingdom can be honoured with. Non-British are occasionally given the honour but the title ‘Sir’ is reserved only for British citizens.
It is indeed an occasion of great importance and interest when someone is knighted, especially someone famous.
Here are 10 famous people who were knighted by the Queen of England:
10. Sean Connery
Thomas Sean Connery is an Academy Award-winning actor, film producer and voice actor. Born on 25 August 1930 in Fountainbridge, United Kingdom, he is best known for portraying the character of James Bond in seven of the Bond films between 1962 and 1983.
Connery was nominated for a knighthood in 1997 and 1998 but was reportedly denied of the honour because of his passionate Scottish nationalism. He was finally knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2000 in Scotland.
“It’s one of the proudest days of my life. It means a great deal for it to happen in Scotland,” said Connery on the occasion.
9. Bill Gates
William Henry ‘Bill’ Gates, III was born on October 28, 1995 in Seattle, Washington, USA. The Microsoft founder is one of the wealthiest people in the world and consistently topped the Forbes List of the world’s wealthiest people.
In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed an honorary knighthood on Bill Gates. Gates said that he was “humbled and delighted” by the honour. Gates is now entitled to add KBE or Knight Commander of the British Empire to his name.
8. Ben Kingsley
Born Krishna Pandit Bhanji on 31 December 1943 in Snainton, England, Ben Kingsley is an Academy Award winning actor well known for his role as Gandhi in the film Gandhi. Kingsley was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000, and was made a knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 for his services to acting. Kingsley said that he felt healed of the scars of his childhood when he became a knight. On the occasion, he said that it made him feel that he had received approval and affection for the first time.
7. Ian McKellen
Ian Murray McKellen was born on 25 May 1939 in Burnley, England. This famous English actor was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 for his services to the performing arts. He is the first to receive this honour after making a public acknowledgement of his homosexuality and his knighthood was a source of considerable controversy within the British gay cultural community.
6. Charlie Chaplin
Charles Spencer ‘Charlie’ Chaplin (16 April 1889- 25 December 1977) was an English actor, comedian, and filmmaker who is considered one of the most important figures in the history of film industry. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. Chaplin received his knighthood from a wheelchair and the ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace, just miles from where he spent much of his childhood. He said that he was ‘dumbfounded’ by the occasion.
5. George H.W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush, former president of the United States was given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993. Born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts, he served as the 41st president of the United States. Bush was made a knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath or GCB- the highest honorary rank that can be given to a foreigner. Being a non-Briton though, he is not entitled to the title “Sir”.
4. Salman Rushdie
Ahmed Salman Rushdie, born 19 June 1947 is a British novelist, Essayist and screenwriter. His novel The Satanic Verses was the centre of a major controversy, provoking protests from Muslims in several countries. Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2007 for his services to literature. His knighthood brought much controversy around the world in many Muslim countries, governments in both Pakistan and Iran summoned their British ambassadors to officially protest against the award.
3. Elton John
Elton Hercules John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight (25 March 1947, Pinner, England) is an English singer, songwriter, composer, pianist and occasional actor. The highly acclaimed solo artist, who has performed at a number of royal events including the funeral of Princess Diana, received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his services to music and charitable services. Before the knighthood, he had been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996.
2. Paul McCartney
James Paul McCartney ( born 18 June 1942, Liverpool, England) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer who is considered one of the most successful composers and performers of all time. His band The Beatles, is widely regarded as one of the most popular and influential in the history of rock music. McCartney was given the honor of MBE- Member of the British Empire in 1965 with his fellow Beatles bandmates, before being knighted. In 1997, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music. McCartney dedicated the honor to his Beatles bandmates.
1. Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart (born 13 July 1940, Mirfield, England) is an English film, television, and stage actor who is most widely known for his roles as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek films. Stewart was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire or OBE in 2001. He was made a Knight Bachelor by the Queen in 2010 for his services to drama. Sir Patrick called his knighthood ‘an unlooked-for honour’.