When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A rock star? An actor? A knight? Some of the lucky celebrities on this list have achieved all three! Each year, the royal family bestows honorific titles of the Order of the British Empire. This practice goes back centuries.
In recent years, many celebrities have been given these titles. Most commonly, the men are knighted, while the women become dames. These titles are rewarded because of service, loyalty, or gallantry (or sometimes all three!).
You may be surprised at some of the names on our list. From authors to inventors, directors to music legends, all of the celebrities on our list have done something to be considered knights and dames. So, let’s look at an eclectic mix of celebrities with at least one thing in common: they all have titles of honor. However, I am not sure any of them know how to joust.
10 Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is known for many things. She is the daughter of well-known actor Jon Voight. She is also known for her acting ability, her relationship with Brad Pitt, and her willingness to give to charity. As of 2014, she became officially known as a great actor and philanthropist and an Honorary Dame. She was given recognition at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth herself. The official emblem was of an Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George.
According to the royal family, Jolie was given this distinction because of her work to end war-zone sexual violence. Jolie was the co-chair of the End Sexual Violence in Conflict (ESVC) global summit in 2014. Throughout her career, Jolie has shown compassion, kindness, and generosity to important organizations such as these. While there is no telling where she ranks a damehood amongst her significant accomplishments, it is certainly no mean feat. And by all accounts, she earned her honorific title.
9 Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger is a rock and roll legend, the frontman of the Rolling Stones. Jagger is unique on this list because he received public backlash from his knighting. Some of that may relate to Jagger’s unique history. He was a typical rock and roll star for decades. This includes multiple arrests and eight children from five different mothers. His band, the Rolling Stones, is generally seen as rebellious and anti-establishment, two ideals that clash greatly with those of the royal family.
Still, Jagger was willing to take on the title. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, not by Prince Charles. Perhaps he thought that Jagger was not suitable to be a knight. The other person who took exception to Mick Jagger becoming “Sir Mick” was his longtime bandmate, Keith Richards. The legendary guitarist was also offered a knighthood but turned it down. When asked about Jagger’s knighthood, Richards reportedly said, “It’s not what the Stones is about, is it?” I guess you can’t always get what you want. Despite some opposition to Jagger’s knighthood, the ceremony continued, and he became a knight in 2003.
8 J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is best known for the Harry Potter series and related books. Obviously, she has received numerous accolades for her writing. She is one of the most famous authors on the planet and has inspired many. The Harry Potter movie franchise has also been a huge success, and two of the actors from those movies have received honorary titles themselves!
As far as Rowling goes, she has been awarded three titles. Two were awarded by the British royal family, an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a Companion of Honor. The other came from the French government when she was knighted in 2012 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The OBE was awarded to Rowling by the royal family for her work with charitable and welfare organizations. She established the charity Lumos, as well as the Volant Charitable trust.
Most of Rowling’s charitable efforts focus on the needs of at-risk women and children. Her French knighthood was awarded to her for her efforts in literature. In fact, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix) was the first English book to become a top bestseller in France. As if Rowling didn’t have enough connections with royalty, two Harry Potter cast members also have OBE titles: Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith.
7 Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter is a well-respected actress with many iconic roles and movies. She is known for Fight Club, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride, The Harry Potter movies, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and so many more.
In 2010, she starred in The King’s Speech, playing the role of Queen Elizabeth. While she did not win the Oscar for the best-supporting actress, she received a different (arguably more important award). She was awarded a Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, commonly abbreviated to CBE, in 2011. She dedicated the award to her late father. This award was given to her for her services to drama in the British Empire.
Following this award, Bohman Carter was appointed to Britain’s National Holocaust Commission, another significant honor. However, Helena Bonham Carter was not the only Harry Potter star with a title.
6 Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith is an English actress who has been active since the early 1950s. While she has a very impressive resume, she is well known worldwide as Professor Minerva McGonagall, the no-nonsense professor (and head of Gryffindor house) at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
However, before the Harry Potter series had even been written, Maggie Smith had a title of honor, an OBE. She became a dame back in 1990. She received a second royal title as well! In 2014, in the aftermath of the Harry Potter movie series, Smith was awarded another title, Companion of Honor (CH). These awards are given to individuals who contribute to arts, sciences, medicine, or government over a long period. Considering Dame Maggie Smith is still a working actress (and has been since 1952), she certainly fits the bill!
5 Steven Spielberg
If you like any movies, you probably like at least one Steven Spielberg movie. He is one of the most prolific directors of all time. Some of his most successful movies include Jurassic Park, E.T., Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, to name a few.
Because of his incredible contributions to the film industry, the royal family recognized him with an honorary knighthood. It is important to know that only British citizens can be official knights (or dames), so many of the titles on this list are unofficial honorary ones.
Still, as of 2000, Spielberg is a Knight of the British Empire or KBE for short. For a man with so many accomplishments, it is well-deserved for Spielberg to be officially an (honorary) knight. His knighthood may inspire his next great film.
4 Bill Gates
Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world. He was not recognized for his work with Microsoft, however. Instead, he was recognized for his work after retirement. Gates has made many charitable efforts worldwide, including in parts of the British Commonwealth. He has focused his efforts on employment, enterprise, education, and volunteer work.
Overall, he looks to reduce poverty in the developing world, often through technological advances. Bill Gates was awarded a knighthood in thanks for all his great work. He was awarded KBE (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). Since he is not a British citizen, he is not technically “Sir Bill Gates,” but he could call himself Bill Gates, KBE if he wanted to. He may prefer Bill Gates, Billionaire. All jokes aside, it is inspirational to see a person with so much money wanting to help others to live a better life.
3 Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis is a celebrity with quite a lot of connections. She has had a very impressive career of her own and is well-known for the Halloween films and Freaky Friday, among others. She was born as a part of “Hollywood royalty” as well. Her father, Tony Curtis, was a famous actor in the ’50s and ’60s. Her mom, Janet Leigh, was also famous. She starred in the iconic Hitchcock movie Psycho.
However, Jamie Lee Curtis also has an official title of nobility. That is because she is married to Christopher Guest. Or to give him his official title, Baron Christopher Guest. When Guest’s father passed away in 1996, his title passed on to his son. This made Jamie Lee Curtis both Hollywood royalty and an official baroness.
2 Elton John
Elton John is an iconic musician whose songs are well-known around the globe. He grew up in suburban London. John is not only known for his musical prowess but also for his open sexuality. He came out as bisexual back in 1975. In 1998, he was the first openly gay person to be awarded as a knight.
Elton John has contributed to many charities, including the Elton John AIDS foundation. He was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his work with this foundation for over 15 years. While John may seem somewhat aloof, the knighthood clearly meant a great deal to him, as he brought his parents and partner along for the ceremony. He has won six Grammys, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe, but none of these hold “a candle in the wind” to call himself “Sir Elton John.”
1 Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is the most recent knight on our list. He is a successful Formula One race car driver, one of the most successful of all time. In 2021, Hamilton just barely missed out on a historic eighth title. Just three days later, in December of the same year, Hamilton was invited to Windsor Castle to receive a knighthood from the Prince of Wales, making him the first Grand Prix driver to be knighted while still active.
At the time of the ceremony, Hamilton was only 36 years old, and his mother was in attendance. While Hamilton was surely upset to miss out on his record-breaking eighth title, a knighthood is definitely a worthy consolation prize!