Celebs You Didn't Know Were Knighted

There's no shortage of famous faces that have received a knighthood or a damehood from the royal family. Still, you shouldn't worry if you don't exactly know what those terms mean. According to the British government's official website, knighthoods and damehoods are awards presented to individuals who have provided a notable contribution to any type of activity, usually at the national level. So those involved in the performing arts, as well as charity work, are equally eligible to receive this type of honor. Likewise, acquiring this type of recognition is meant to be seen as inspirational for the recipient's peers.

However, knighthoods and damehoods aren't the only ways that the royal family recognizes achievements. In addition to being knighted or made a dame, some of these celebs have also received other honors, like becoming a CBE or OBE. So what exactly do those distinctions mean? Well, the former stands for Commander of the Order of the British Empire. CBEs are typically given to those with a prominent, though perhaps not national, level of recognition. It's also presented to those who have active roles at a regional level. On the other hand, an OBE, or Officer of the Order of the British Empire, is an award given to those with a prominent local role in an activity. With that in mind, you'll definitely want to know which of your favorite celebs have been knighted or made a dame.

Former Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry received a damehood

In late October of 2021, a post from the royal family's official Instagram account announced that the former "Great British Bake Off” judge Mary Berry had received her damehood. "Arise Dame Mary Berry!" the caption stated, before going on to congratulate the food writer and TV presenter for receiving the honor for her services to the culinary arts. According to the post, Berry was made a dame by King Charles III, then Prince of Wales. The BBC also noted that Berry attended the ceremony (which took place at Windsor Castle) alongside her husband, retired antiquarian bookseller Paul Hunnings.

Similarly, after receiving her damehood, the news source reported that Berry was thrilled to be a Dame Commander for her cooking, writing, and baking services. "I'm extremely proud and honoured. I just wish my parents were here — they're looking down and my children are quite excited," the food writer declared. Additionally, the BBC noted that Berry voiced that she would be celebrating her damehood in a fairly nonchalant way: "Going home for a sandwich and the children are coming tonight," she shared of her plans for the day. 

It's also worth noting that Berry's recognition isn't the first time she's interacted with the royal family. Previously, in 2019, Us Weekly reported that Prince William and Princess Catherine, then Duchess Catherine, joined Berry for "The Great British Bake Off's" holiday special, "A Berry Royal Christmas."

The queen reportedly didn't want Mick Jagger to be knighted

In June of 2002, ABC News reported that rock legend and Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger was set to be knighted during Queen Elizabeth II's then-upcoming birthday celebration at Buckingham Palace. The knighthood would honor Jagger's 40 years of service to popular music. But, according to ABC, there were some individuals who were displeased by the announcement. "Jagger does not deserve a knighthood," stated Jagger biographer Philip Norman. Similarly, Charles Mosley of Burke's Peerage and Baronetage pointed out Jagger's lack of charity work and suggested that he should focus more on giving back. Still, despite the adverse reactions, the ceremony went on as planned.

In recapping the event, Rolling Stone noted that King Charles III, then Prince Charles, knighted Jagger during the Buckingham Palace ceremony. "It was all rather wonderfully formal," Jagger stated in regards to the event which he attended with his then-92-year-old father and two of his daughters. Jagger also dismissed criticism that he'd received from his bandmate Keith Richards for accepting the knighthood. 

Still, it would appear that the backlash surrounding Jagger's honor would continue throughout the years. In 2012, the Daily Mail reported that the reason that Jagger received his knighthood from the then-prince was because the queen didn't believe Jagger deserved the honor and didn't want to give him the title herself. These claims came via the biography "Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger," by author Christopher Andersen.

Emma Thompson made a special request when she received her damehood

As noted by Metro, in 2018, Emma Thompson was made a dame during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Thompson received the honor for her services to drama, which includes winning Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe awards over the course of her decades-long career. For the ceremony, Thompson wore a teal blue suit and showed off a badge repping the Fawcett Society (a charity that raises awareness for equal pay). The actor was joined by her husband, Greg Wise, the couple's son Tindyebwa Agaba, and their daughter Gaia Romilly.

In regards to receiving her damehood, the actor said, "It's a huge honour to be sharing this massive pat on the back with other women in so many other professions and walks of life." 

Thompson received her award from Prince William, and according to Us Weekly, the "Cruella" actor gave the royal family member a special request when he presented her with the honor. Thompson told reporters, "I love Prince William, I've known him since he was little, and we just sniggered at each other." She added, "I said, 'I can't kiss you, can I?' And he said, 'No, don't!'" Still, regardless of her request, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were clearly pleased by Thompson's award. Their official Twitter account even made a statement congratulating the star on receiving her damehood.

Deborah James received her damehood at her home

In May 2022, BBC News announced that podcaster Deborah James had received her damehood from Prince William at her home. At the time, the host of the BBC's "You, Me, and the Big C" was receiving end-of-life care for her bowel cancer and spending her remaining time at her parents' home in order to be close to family. On Instagram, James shared the news about receiving her damehood and wrote, "Prince William actually came to our family house today!!" She added, "I am utterly honoured that he joined us for afternoon tea and champagne, where he not only spent a generous amount of time talking to my whole family but also honoured me with my Damehood."

The BBC similarly noted that while damehood and knighthoods are typically announced during New Year's events or the queen's birthday celebration, exceptions are occasionally made for unusual circumstances. In addition to launching the Bowelbabe fund (which aids in research for cancer patients), James also received plenty of praise for publicly speaking about her experience with cancer. Prior to receiving her damehood, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge praised James' efforts to raise awareness and give those living with cancer a sense of hope. Sadly, in late June 2022, James' family reported via Instagram that the podcaster had passed away at the age of 40: "​​We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy."

Maggie Smith has been honored twice by the queen

In October 2014, the Daily Mail reported that Maggie Smith was honored by Queen Elizabeth II and was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, joining a specialized bunch of recipients that include individuals like Stephen Hawking and David Hockney. The actor received the award during a ceremony at the queen's Berkshire home. However, Smith declined to give a public statement afterward. Outside of her work on "Downton Abbey," Smith is also known for her role as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the "Harry Potter" series. Her extensive entertainment career actually goes back all the way to the '50s, when she began working at the Oxford Playhouse.

Additionally, Smith has also received multiple Oscar nominations and has won awards for both Best Actress as well as Supporting Actress. Previously, Smith has also received a fellowship and a special award from BAFTA. 

MTV noted that the Order of the Companions of Honour award isn't given out to just anyone; only 65 other living people share the actor's title. But, of course, with plenty of experience to back up her lengthy resume, it's no surprise that this award wasn't the first time that Smith has been honored by the queen. According to MTV, Smith previously received her damehood from the queen in 1989, when she was made a dame commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Julie Andrews called the recognition 'the most personal, lovely honor'

In May of 2000, Playbill noted that legendary film star Julie Andrews was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Andrews, who's best known for her work in classics like "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins," received the honor alongside another iconic entertainer, Elizabeth Taylor. Additionally, Playbill noted that around the time Andrews received her damehood, she had been struggling with a throat-related health issue that arose after vocal-cord surgery. As a result, the "Princess Diaries" star (who's well known for her singing voice) filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, claiming that the operation had ruined her musical career.

On a happier note, Andrews appeared to be all smiles during a 2019 interview on "LIVE with Kelly and Ryan," where she discussed being honored by the queen. Explaining the process of damehood and knighthood to the audience, Andrews stated that while a man receiving the honors will be knighted with a sword, the process is different for a woman: "A lady gets just a pin and a commendment." She added, "It is the most personal, lovely honor. And it made me so thrilled that I was honored by my own country." While recollecting the experience, Andrews stated that though she couldn't recall exactly what HRM had told her, she remembered that the queen expressed delight that Andrews was finally receiving her damehood.

Elton John was extremely proud to be knighted

On February 24, 1998, AP News announced that the iconic star Elton John had been honored by Queen Elizabeth II and received a knighthood. The artist arrived in a green turbo-charged Bentley for the ceremony and was accompanied by his parents and partner (now-husband) David Furnish. After the private ceremony, the singer left for a celebratory lunch. "I am extremely proud," John stated while showing off his award. "I love my country and to be recognized in such a way — I can't think of anything better," he stated. Additionally, it was noted that thanks to his charity work, like the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the star had previously received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (aka a CBE) in 1996.

According to Billboard, John was the first openly gay musician to receive a knighthood. But, of course, with plenty of contributions over the years, as well as an awe-inspiring career that includes multiple Grammy Awards, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe Award, it's no surprise that in 2021 the singer was again presented with an honor from the royal family. According to the Evening Standard, Sir Elton John was officially made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour by King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, during a ceremony at Windsor Castle. This noteworthy achievement was first established in 1917 by King George V, and recognizes service of national importance.

Paul McCartney's knighthood status was elevated in 2017

As noted by History, on March 11, 1997, former Beatle Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II thanks to his services to music. During the ceremony, which took place at Buckingham Palace, fans of the artist waited outside and cheered for McCartney, who responded by giving a thumbs-up. Unfortunately, at the time of McCartney's ceremony, his wife Linda was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and didn't accompany him. However, three of his four children were in attendance. "I would have loved the whole family to be here, but when we heard there were only three tickets, we had to draw straws," McCartney said.

CNN reported that the iconic artist had been fairly nervous before the ceremony but was very happy with the experience afterward. "Proud to be British, wonderful day, and it's a long way from a little terrace (street) in Liverpool," he told reporters. 

Later in 2017, 25 years after his knighthood, Rolling Stone reported that McCartney's knighthood status had been elevated with a Companion of Honour Award. "I'm very happy about this huge honor and with the news coming in on my birthday weekend and Father's Day it makes it colossal!" McCartney said. In March 2022, the Daily Mail reported that McCartney was being considered for a peerage, which would give Sir Paul McCartney the official title of "lord."

Daniel Day-Lewis was 'utterly delighted' to receive the honor

In 2008, when actor Daniel Day-Lewis accepted the Oscar for his performance in "There Will Be Blood," he made a joke about knighthood when accepting the award. The Oscar was presented to the star by Helen Mirren, who jokingly pretended to tap him on the shoulders with the statuette. "That is the closest I will ever get to a knighthood, so thank you," he said. But, of course, his statement would later prove false, as the Daily Mail reported in 2014 that Day-Lewis had been officially knighted. The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace, where Prince William honored the actor in recognition of his services to acting.

During his lengthy career, Day-Lewis has starred in more than 25 films and various television shows and has won multiple awards for his stellar performances. "I am entirely amazed and utterly delighted in equal measure," Day-Lewis said regarding receiving the honor. As noted by BBC News, the British actor is also notably choosy about what roles he takes, in addition to putting a lengthy amount of preparation into his characters. Also, during filming, he often chooses to stay in character for the entirety of a film's shoot. In 2013, Day-Lewis made Oscar history when he became the first man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor three times. With a clear dedication to his craft, it's no surprise that Day-Lewis received his knighthood for his efforts in the entertainment industry.

Judi Dench received multiple honors from the queen

With an extensive acting resume that includes numerous award nominations and a "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love," it's no surprise that the fabulous Judi Dench is a literal dame. Still, receiving her damehood isn't the only time that this star has been honored by the royal family. According to Britannica, Dench was initially made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970 and later became a Dame Commander (DBE) in 1988. But, of course, that still doesn't include all of her recognitions. 

In 2005, Deseret News reported that the actor had been given another honor. Dame Judi Dench was made a Companion of Honor by Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a special status that is highly selective in its choices. 

So what exactly does this iconic star think of her royal honors? Well, according to Roger Moore's book "Bond on Bond" via Metro, Dench isn't shy about sharing her special title with others. In his book, the "James Bond" actor recalled an incident when Dench snapped at a taxi driver. Moore stated that the taxi almost knocked Dench over, and the driver shouted at her, "Mind where you're going, you stupid b****." Moore said that Dench responded by saying, "It's Dame b**** to you."

Angelina Jolie is an honorary dame

As noted by BBC News in 2014, Angelina Jolie was made an honorary dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to U.K. foreign policy as well as her campaign to end war zone sexual violence. Jolie is also a special envoy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and co-founded the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in 2012. The announcement that Jolie would receive the honor from the royal family happened during the week when the "Girl, Interrupted" actor was co-chairing the End Sexual Violence in Conflict (ESVC) global summit in London alongside former foreign secretary William Hague.

The ceremony took place with a private audience at Buckingham Palace. The star was given the symbol of an Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George by the queen. According to Marie Claire UK, the Oscar winner is the first American woman ever to receive a damehood, officially putting the initials DCMG after her name. In response to receiving the honorary recognition from Queen Elizabeth II, Jolie stated, "To receive an honour related to foreign policy means a great deal to me, as it is what I wish to dedicate my working life to." She added, "Working on PVSI and with survivors of rape is an honour in itself. I know that succeeding in our goals will take a lifetime, and I am dedicated to it for all of mine."

Helen Mirren was made a dame by King Charles

As noted by the Royal Collection Trust, in 2003, the iconic Helen Mirren was officially made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by King Charles III, then Prince Charles, at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. But, according to Hello! Magazine, Mirren had some concerns about taking on the title of Dame. Reportedly, the actor (who's an Oscar winner in addition to her other numerous award nominations and wins) was worried that receiving the honor from the queen would make others see her differently. Likewise, the magazine noted that Mirren had been open about voicing her fears. Still, the star says that the best advice she was ever given was to learn how to address the things that scared her.

The affirmation was provided by her elementary school headmistress, who told her, "The worst thing about fear is fear itself, the thing to fear is fear itself." Similarly, an article from azcentral reported that the "Woman in Gold" actor ultimately chose to accept her damehood because she knew that doing so would have made her parents (who were deceased by the time) proud. In an interview with the Metro newspaper, Mirren said, ”Becoming a dame was a whole different thing. It was to do with my family, with my mum and dad, and the world I grew up in." The star added, "And they were both dead by the time ... but I accepted it for my parents" (via azcentral). 

Michael Caine called his knighthood 'the greatest moment of my life'

There's no question that Maurice Micklewhite Jr. (better known by his stage name, Michael Caine) has lived quite a remarkable life. The London native was born in 1933, and his childhood was affected by the hardships of living through World War II. Caine's family experienced poverty, and his father was called away for military service. After the war ended, the family was reunited and relocated to South London. During this period, Caine discovered his passion for acting and theater. Caine would go on to appear in various films and receive numerous award nominations and two Oscars. With plenty of accomplishments under his belt, it's no surprise that the royal family wanted to honor the actor.

As noted by The Irish Times, "The Dark Knight" star was knighted in November 2000 at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to drama. Caine was knighted under his birth name, officially becoming Sir Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. However, a royal official said he could go by Sir Michael if he wished. "It's the greatest moment of my life," Caine stated (via The New York Times). 

In 2015, USA Today reported that the star remained highly grateful for the honor. "I would never turn anything down from the queen," he stated. "Certainly not, she gave me a knighthood." Still, Caine remains modest about the achievement. "I don't insist on anyone calling me Sir Michael," he said.

Anthony Hopkins possibly renounced his title after moving to the U.S.

On February 23, 1993, the Chicago Tribune reported that Queen Elizabeth II had knighted Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins. According to the star, he was pretty overwhelmed by the process. "I am a bit numb at the moment," he stated after the ceremony. "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," Hopkins said. According to Brittanica, the star had previously been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1987.

Still, despite receiving the honor, in 2000, The Guardian reported that Hopkins had renounced his British passport and officially became an American citizen. Those who know the actor stated that his decision made sense. "He has been here a long time and it seemed like the right thing to do," said spokeswoman Catherine Olim. Still, some questioned whether or not Hopkins would still be recognized by his royal title. That is because part of the U.S. pledge of allegiance that Hopkins recited stated, "I further renounce the title of nobility to which I have heretofore belonged." However, some experts say that Hopkins' title will still be acknowledged when he visits the U.K.

Ian McKellen wouldn't have accepted knighthood if he hadn't come out

As noted by the Daily Mail, actor Ian McKellen received his knighthood at the 1991 New Year's Honours for his services to the performing arts. Later, in 2008, McKellen received a Companion of Honour medal for his services to drama and equality from Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Still, according to the star, he would have never accepted these recognitions if he hadn't publicly stated that he was gay three years prior to his knighthood. McKellen officially came out in 1988 after a ten-year relationship with theater and film director Sean Mathias.

While chatting with Attitude magazine (via the Daily Mail), McKellen stated, "I will always be glad that I didn't accept the knighthood until I'd come out of the closet." He added, "If you're lying about that central part of your nature, can you be trusted?" 

McKellen reflected on coming out and being knighted during an interview with CNN. He recalled that he was asked if he would accept a knighthood from the queen by the office of Margaret Thatcher (the former prime minister who backed anti-gay legislation). "The world actually was changing, and she could not control it," he said. "The very, very last thing she did [before resigning] was to give me a knighthood," the "X-Men" actor stated with a chuckle.