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18 celebrities who were named knights or dames by the British royal family

Summary List PlacementJudi Dench has long been recognized by the British royal family for her work, but she officially became a dame in 1988. In 1970, Dench was awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), which is given to civilians whose work affected the nation. Almost two decades later, Dench was named a dame.  Long before she was Professor McGonagall in the "Harry Potter" franchise, Maggie Smith was named a dame in 1989. Queen Elizabeth gave Smith the title at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.  "It doesn't change anything at all, except people end up calling me Dame Maggie,...

Angelina jolie and queen elizabeth

Summary List Placement

Judi Dench has long been recognized by the British royal family for her work, but she officially became a dame in 1988.

In 1970, Dench was awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), which is given to civilians whose work affected the nation. Almost two decades later, Dench was named a dame

Long before she was Professor McGonagall in the “Harry Potter” franchise, Maggie Smith was named a dame in 1989.

Queen Elizabeth gave Smith the title at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. 

“It doesn’t change anything at all, except people end up calling me Dame Maggie, and I don’t suppose that’ll happen much,” the actress told The New York Times in 1990

In 2014, the Queen gave Smith another title: Companions of Honor, which is given to civilians who’ve contributed to arts, science, or medicine. 

Ian McKellen was knighted in 1991, three years after coming out as gay.

McKellen said he wouldn’t have accepted the knighthood if he hadn’t come out three years earlier. 

“I will always be glad that I didn’t accept the knighthood until I’d come out of the closet,” the actor told the Daily Mail in 2018. “If you’re lying about that central part of your nature, can you be trusted?”

In 1993, Anthony Hopkins was knighted, but he renounced the title seven years later.

After starring in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Hopkins received his knighthood.

“I am a little bit numb at the moment,” he said at the time, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I didn’t expect this and I hope I don’t sound falsely modest but I am very honored, I can’t quite take it in.”

However, in 2000, Hopkins became an American citizen and had to renounce his knighthood

Paul McCartney was knighted in 1997 for his service to music.

A few decades after Beatlemania, Queen Elizabeth knighted McCartney at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. After the ceremony, his said he would not officially call himself “Sir Paul.”

“Proud to be British, wonderful day and it’s a long way from a little terrace (street) in Liverpool,” McCartney told reporters at the time, Reuters reported.

Sir Elton John earned his knighthood title in 1998.

As a longtime friend of Princess Diana, musician Elton John was knighted at Buckingham Palace after his decade-spanning work in music and philanthropy. 

“I am extremely proud,” John told the AP in 1998. “I love my country and to be recognized in such a way … I can’t think of anything better.”

In 2000, Queen Elizabeth made Elizabeth Taylor a dame.

At the ceremony, Taylor earned the title for her work in acting and AIDS research. The actress said the honor was a highlight of her life

At the same ceremony as Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews was also named a dame.

Andrews was born in England but spent most of her life in America. That didn’t stop the British royal family from awarding her with the title of dame for her “services to acting and entertainment.”

“This is the greatest honor of my life. I didn’t think I was eligible as I’ve lived in America for such a long time, but I’ve always felt I’ve taken my Britishness with me,” Andrews told BBC News at the time

Michael Caine received the honor of knighthood under his real name in 2000.

Although Hollywood knows him as Michael Caine, he was knighted by the Queen under his real name, Maurice Micklewhite.

“I was named after my father and I was knighted in his name because I love my father,” Caine told the BBC in 2000. “I always kept my real name … I’m a very private and family-orientated person … When I go home, I leave Michael Caine, the film star, with the costumes, the wigs, and the props in the studio.”

Ben Kingsley accepted his knighthood in 2002 and said he finally felt embraced.

“When Her Majesty knighted me, the sword that she used was the one that her father wore ceremonially as Commander in Chief of the British Forces during World War II,” Kingsley told the Daily Mirror in 2014. “I was aware how much she loved her father so I found that had huge resonance.”

He went on to explain that his mother, who had also been an actor, refused to accept his knighthood.

“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,” he said.

In 2003, the Queen made Helen Mirren a dame, just three years before Mirren played the monarch in an Oscar-winning role.

When Mirren was offered the title, she initially had reservations about accepting because she didn’t want “to be part of the establishment. That’s not my role as an artist,” she told Metro in 2003

”Becoming a dame was a whole different thing,” Mirren said. “It was to do with my family, with my mum and dad, and the world I grew up in. And they were both dead by the time … but I accepted it for my parents.”

Three years later, Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” and won an Oscar. 

 

That same year, the Queen refused to give Mick Jagger his knighthood, so Prince Charles gave it to the musician instead.

Reportedly, Queen Elizabeth didn’t want to knight Mick Jagger because of his anti-establishment views, so she had Prince Charles do the honors at Buckingham Palace. 

“It was all rather wonderfully formal,” Jagger said after the ceremony, according to Rolling Stone.

Bill Gates became an honorary knight in 2005 thanks to his charity work.

After founding Microsoft and becoming a philanthropist, Gates was named an honorary knight, which means he is not allowed to use the title “Sir” because he is not a citizen of the British commonwealth. 

“This honor is particularly poignant given the deep connections Microsoft enjoys with the United Kingdom,” Gates said after the ceremony, according to NBC News. “The UK was the first country in which Microsoft set up a subsidiary outside the US, and our experience in the UK has been significant in shaping our international growth.”

In 2007, Bono became a knight, but people can’t call him “Sir.”

Since Bono is from Ireland, he was not given the title “Sir” because that title is reserved for citizens of the United Kingdom. 

“You have permission to call me anything you want — except sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that’ll do,” the musician told The Hollywood Reporter in 2007

Prince William knighted Daniel Day-Lewis in 2014.

Three-time Oscar winner Day-Lewis received his knighthood from Prince William at Buckingham Palace. 

“I’m entirely amazed and utterly delighted in equal measure,” he said at the time, according to the Daily Mail.

That same year, Angelina Jolie received honorary damehood.

Despite being a famous movie star, Jolie became an honorary dame because of her humanitarian work and her fight to end sexual violence.

“To receive an honor related to foreign policy means a great deal to me, as it is what I wish to dedicate my working life to,” Jolie told the BBC at the time. “Working on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and with survivors of rape is an honor in itself. I know that succeeding in our goals will take a lifetime, and I am dedicated to it for all of mine.”

In 2017, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was named a dame for her work in fashion and journalism.

When Queen Elizabeth presented Wintour with the brooch, the monarch struggled to put it on the editor’s outfit. Wintour also notably took off her signature glasses to accept the honor. 

“Obviously this is a city that I grew up in, a city that I have so much affection and love for,” Wintour told The Guardian at the time. “It’s always wonderful to get an award, but this one is extra special.”

Emma Thompson wore sneakers to her dame ceremony in 2018.

Prince William gave the donor to Thompson at Buckingham Palace.

“Yes. Dame Commander of the British Empire. I’ve become much more commanding since it happened,” the actress said on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in 2018. “I’ve also had every seat I sit on just made slightly taller. It’s subtle, so people are lifting their heads slightly more toward me than they did before, but they’re not quite sure why.”

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