Every year, the Queen of England has the Prime Minister draw up a list of people who she’ll use her sword on. No, she isn’t challenging them to a battle royale: she’s actually giving these uncommon commoners the title of knight or dame of the Realm!
But being an upstanding citizen isn’t enough to earn you knighthood. You’ve got to be a difference maker with that special something — like A-list talent! When you see which celebrities were dubbed extraordinary and received this honor, you’ll want to doff your cap every time you go to the cinema…
1. Maggie Smith: The actress better known as Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter films was damed by the Queen in 2014. Now, when she attends an event with royal family members present, she can sit among them. Non-dames and knights cannot.
2. Mick Jagger: It’s a shock that Mick Jagger was even invited to be honored because he and the Queen have a long, negative history (he once called her “Chief Witch”). The Queen did not attend his ceremony, as she did not have “the stomach” to partake.
3. Angelina Jolie: She’s more than Brad Pitt’s ex-wife and an award-winning actress. She is heavily involved in humanitarian work and is the co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, which caught the Queen’s eye and earned her a place in damehood.
4. Alfred Hitchcock: He was offered knighthood in 1962 under the title Commander of the British Empire, but declined because it wouldn’t grant him use of the prefix “Sir.” Finally, in 1979, he got his wish and was granted the title of Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
5. Joan Collins: The actress and author played a member of the royal family in the Netflix series The Royals. This was an easy role for her because she had met Queen Elizabeth II several times throughout her life. Her 2015 damehood was the icing on the cake!
6. Charlie Chaplin: Most people know that Chaplin grew up in a poor neighborhood just outside of London. His success story — how he turned nothing into everything — is why the Queen wanted to recognize Chaplin with a knighthood.
7. Helen Mirren: She made a name for herself and mark on the royal family by playing Queen Elizabeth herself more than once. Some conservatives thought the decision to honor Mirren was controversial because she made her name in the industry with her edgy attitude and comfort with nudity.
8. Sidney Poitier: He was the first black actor to win an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor, so the Queen only saw it fit to knight him. Additionally, former U.S. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
9. Bill Gates: The founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest men in the world was recognized in a knighting ceremony by Queen Elizabeth II for his entrepreneurial business skills and for his work on poverty reduction.
10. Former President Ronald Reagan: He was the first peacetime president of the United States the Queen invited to be recognized and knighted in 1989. At the time, he and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were good friends and shared similar conservative beliefs. Reagan said, “I feel greatly honored.”
11. Steven Spielberg: The British Embassy located in Washington D.C. stated, “The award of an honorary knighthood recognizes Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary contribution to the entertainment industry and the British film industry over the last 25 years.”
12. Elizabeth Taylor: The late Miss Taylor broke into Hollywood in the early 1940s. Although she came from a wealthy American family, Taylor was born in London, so she gets to use her “Dame” title. Later in her life, she became a successful businesswoman and humanitarian for AIDs research.
13. Bono: The Irish U2 rockstar was selected by the establishment to be inducted into knighthood shortly after New Year’s Day. He was not only recognized for his band’s long-running success, but for the humanitarian work he so proudly leads.
14. Daniel Day-Lewis: He’s an award-winning actor known for his roles in Lincoln, There Will be Blood, and My Left Foot. He’s also known for going to extreme measures to prepare for a role. He was honored for his artistic work and knighted by Prince William in 2014.
15. Seretse Khama: He was the first president of the newly independent (from British colonial rule) country of Botswana. In 1966, the first year of independence, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Khama with the title Knight Commander of the Order of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
16. Victoria Beckham: Most people know her as Posh Spice, but that’s not why she received her title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. She was recognized for her fashion career. Beckham said she is “proud to be British” after receiving her honor.
17. President George H.W. Bush: The former president was recognized by the royal family after ending his term in 1993. He’s the most recent U.S. president to be knighted and to have received the highest possible honor for a foreigner — Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. He still couldn’t be called Sir, though!
18. Julie Andrews: Queen Elizabeth wanted to honor Andrews for her 65 years of art services, on projects like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. She was given the title of Dame of the British Empire, which must have been a sweet moment since Andrews grew up in a poor neighborhood outside of the London city center.
19. Roger Moore: The late James Bond star was knighted at the age of 75. He joked that he wouldn’t be able to stand up once he kneeled for the ceremony. Afterward, Moore requested to have his passport name changed to Sir Roger Moore. When given a hard time he replied, “What would you like? A letter from the Queen?”
20. Mohamed Mukhtar Jama “Mo” Farah: He is the most decorated athlete in British history, winner of nine world titles and the first British athlete to win two gold medals at an Olympics. He was named a Knight Bachelor in the 2017 athletic New Year Honours ceremony.
21. Henry Winkler: Although he is best known as the actor who played the Fonz on Happy Days, Winkler spent the latter half of his career using his platform to speak out about the difficulties dyslexic students face in classrooms. This is what earned him the title of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.