Knighthood used to be very different. The word “knight” itself conjures images of a man in full silver armor, with sword and shield, riding atop a gallant steed. Today, being knighthood doesn’t carry the same martial responsibility, but it is still a great honor. Here are 15 actors you may be surprised to learn have received this honor.
The British government isn’t the only one to bestow knighthoods, but it is perhaps the most well know for it. The following actors are either a Knight Bachelor or Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This open to any person deemed worthy of the honor, but only citizens of the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth realms may be substantive members, and enjoy the title of “Sir” or “Dame”.
15. Sir Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charlie Chaplin was knighted in 1975, at the age of 85, by Queen Elizabeth II. If this seems strangely late in the legendary actor’s career, that’s because it was; he was first to be knighted in 1956. Unfortunately, his knighthood was blocked out of fear that it would upset the American public. At the time, Britain was desperate to maintain friendly relations with the US, and knighting the openly communist actor could have hurt that cause.
14. Sir Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley is known for being particularly proud of his knighthood, which he received in 2002 at the age of 58. According to the actor, this honor made him feel wanted and accepted in a way his mother never could. He had this to say in an interview with the UK’s Mirror:
“My mother refused to acknowledge my knighthood, which I found bitterly hurtful,” says Sir Ben, 69. “The wonderful woman who is the Queen and who is almost like a mum had said, ‘We accept you and love what you do’. But my mother refused to acknowledge it had taken place. She was embarrassed and bitter and jealous.”
In the same interview, he talks about how a childhood filled with a “steady stream” of racism also contributed to his pride in receiving the honor.
13. Sir Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Lee had a long, illustrious career. His career and dramatic contributions were recognized in 2009 when, at the age of 87, he was knighted by Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales knighted him as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. Generally it is required that a person kneel to be knighted, but Lee was allowed to stand due to his age. We will never know what Prince Charles whispered to Sir Christopher after knighting him, but Lee has said that the Prince was “extremely complimentary,” and that “He couldn’t have been nicer and was very easy to talk to.”
12. Sir Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Stewart is likely the most well known knight on this list. He was first honored by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001, when he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Then in 2010 he was knighted, becoming a Knight Bachelor for his services to theater. It was the 2010 knighthood that granted him the prefix “Sir”.
11. Sir Anthony Hopkins
Hopkins was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993 for services to the arts. Interestingly, when he became a US citizen in 2000, he had to renounce the use of the prefix “Sir” while in the State. He’s still permited to the title when in the UK.