Of all the honors bestowed upon the people by the British monarchy, knighthood is perhaps the most well-known. But just how does one become a knight? It’s a question many of us don’t know the answer to.
Do you have to ask to be knighted? Do you have to achieve certain goals in order to be considered for knighthood? And how does someone like Mick Jagger get to be knighted anyways?
Here, my inquisitive readers, is how people get knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth knights Sir Rodney Williams | Jonathan Brady – WPA Pool/Getty Images
How does the queen choose who gets knighted?
The Awards Intelligence Service summarizes what the high honor means. “A knighthood, and the female equivalent, a damehood, is an award given by the queen to an individual for a major, long-term, contribution in any activity, usually at a national or international level.” Men who are knighted become Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) and shall be called Sir, while women become Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) and get the title Dame.
While there is no set time of year that someone can be nominated for the knighthood, the queen usually bestows the honor as part of the New Years honors list.
People can be nominated for knighthood, although the government reportedly helps the queen decide who the best choice is to be knighted, depending on the level of knighthood.
A knight in armor | sibrikov/iStock/Getty Images
What are the levels of knighthood?
Under the British monarchy, there are six levels of knighthood that can be doled out by the queen. The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the highest rank and one of the oldest ranks of chivalry in the world. The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle is the highest rank of chivalry awarded in Scotland. The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is primarily given out for military service while the Order of St Michael and St George is primarily awarded for service regarding foreign relations. Queen Elizabeth gives the Royal Victorian Order on a personal basis, and the commonly known Order of the British Empire is handed out on a public basis.
The Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle are the only two instances where a female being knighted is given the title Lady instead of Dame.
Prince Harry | Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Do royal family members have a better chance of being knighted?
This is a question that popped up quite a bit in 2015 when Queen Elizabeth decided to knight her grandson, Prince Harry. In short, the queen decided to honor Harry for his service to the monarchy while he was in the military. However, instead of the Order of the Bath, Harry was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Mick Jagger | Don Emmert /AFP/Getty Images
Why do actors and musicians get knighted?
Public figures have been knighted in the past for their contributions to the U.K. whether that’s through bringing money to the nation or representing it favorably. This is why well-known musicians such as Paul McCartney and Elton John have received the OBE.
This practice of knighting celebrities has, of course, come under scrutiny in the past. When Prime Minister Tony Blair added Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger to the Honors List in the early 2000s, the queen actually refused to give him the honor because of his anti-establishment views. (Prince Charles was tasked with knighting Jagger instead.)
King penguin Nils Olav received Norwegian knighthood | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Has Queen Elizabeth ever knighted an animal?
She hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. There is only one animal to ever have been knighted anywhere in the world — a king penguin named Nils Olav who received Norweigan knighthood in 2008.
Being that the queen has become more relaxed with certain royal rules and regulations as she’s gotten older, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if she knighted an animal before the end of her reign — even if it’s just one of her corgis.
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