It has always been my dream to be a knight. What little boy doesn't dream of fighting dragons and saving the damsel in distress? As I got older, the dream morphed and changed, but the root of it has remained the same: being a knight would be pretty darned cool. As it turns out, quite a few actors have had the privilege of being knighted, some of whom are extremely well known as knights (Sir Patrick Stewart for example) while others might surprise you! Overall, there are two main governments that bestow the title of knight upon actors, the British and French. So let's take a look at 15 extraordinary actors that have been knighted!
Perhaps the best known knights come from Great Britain and are awarded by the Queen of England. The following actors are either a Knight Bachelor or Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Unfortunately, if you ever wanted to become a Knight, the Queen will only bestow knighthood on people from the United Kingdoms.
1. Charlie Chaplin
Believe it or not, Charlie Chaplin was originally blocked from knighthood in 1956 for fear of upsetting the American public. Chaplin had become iconic in America, and the American government convinced the British officials not to grant Chaplin the award because of his support of communism. He was, however, knighted in 1975 by Queen Elizabeth II when he was 85 years old.
2. Ben Kingsley
Sir Kingsley was knighted in 2002 at the age of 58. However, for the actor the knighthood meant so much more than honour and a title; it made him feel wanted in a way that his own mother never made him feel. A couple years ago, Sir Ben spoke in an interview with the UK's Mirror:
"My mother refused to acknowledge my knighthood, which I found bitterly hurtful,” says Sir Ben, 69. “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.”
In the same interview, Kingsley disclosed that despite his peers believing him to be isolated and prideful, he's actually extremely fragile. His hugely successful career, and his knighthood, are testaments to his achievement in spite of his difficult upbringing.
3. Christopher Lee
The late actor was knighted in 2009 at the age of 87 by the Prince of Wales. The actor, who starred in more than 250 films, never divulged what the heir to the throne said to him after being knighted but did allow "He couldn't have been nicer and was very easy to talk to."
4. Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Stewart is easily one of the most recognizable kinghts on this least. Pretty much everybody knows that the actor has this honour. Back in 2001, Sir Stewart was named an Officer of the Order of the Most Excellent of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. The Star Trek star also joined the ranks of the Knight Bachelors in 2010 for his services to theater (at which point he was able to go by "Sir").
5. Anthony Hopkins
Hopkins was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993. The Silence of the Lambs actor became a United States citizen in 2000 and had to renounce the use of the title Sir while inside the States (though he's still allowed to be called that when visiting the United Kingdom).
The "Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" is a French Order of Knights established in 1956. Its purpose is the recognition of significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these fields. Unlike many other countries, people do not need to be French citizens in order to be eligible for Knighthood.
6. Tim Burton
Alright, so Tim Burton isn't an actor, but his filmmaking career definitely makes him worthy of appearing on this list. Currently, he holds the first rank of Chevalier (or 'Knight' in English). He received the honor in 2010 by France's Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand alongside French Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard.
7. Micheal Keaton
The Dark Knight is an actual knight himself. Currently, Keaton holds the second rank, Officier, in the French Order. Keaton is one of the newest knights, as he was knighted at the beginning of this year on January 18th.
The following actors have all made it to the highest level in the Order of Knights.
8. Clint Eastwood
Maintaining the highest rank of Commandeur in the French Order, Clint Eastwood has been a knight since 1994. Clint Eastwood is also one of the only foreigners to be named Commander in another of France's Orders called the "Legion of Honor."
9. Meryl Streep
The Order of Arts and of Letters is one of few knighthoods to include women in their ranks (instead of Sir, women receive the title Dame). Dame Meryl Streep was was raised to the rank of Commandeur in 2003. In addition to the French honour, Meryl Streep was also honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
10. Leonardo DiCaprio
The young actor, who finally won an Oscar, was raised to the rank of Commandeur in 2005. During the same ceremony that the Titanic star was given France's highest cultural honour, director Martin Scorsese was named a knight of the Legion of Honor.
11. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis joined the ranks of his fellow actors in 2013. While promoting his film A Good Day to Die Hard, Willis received the honor in an evening ceremony. During his acceptance speech he stated “It is an honor, a real honor, to be here. To get this very high honor for the commanders, I couldn’t be more pleased.”
More than one Knighthood
Many of us will never be lucky enough to even be named a Knight, and yet, there are some overachieving actors out there who have managed not only to be knighted, but have done so more than once!
12. Sean Connery
Sir Thomas Sean Connery received his first knighthood in 1987. Since then he has been raised to the highest rank in the French Order. Then in 1999, he recieved an American award for his contributions to the performing arts known as a Kennedy Center Honor. The following year, the James Bond star earned his second knighthood at the hands of Queen Elizabeth II. Being very proud of his Scottish heritage, Sean Connery wore a kilt to his knighting ceremony.
13. Michael Caine
The 83-year-old actor was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for his contributions to cinema. Michael Caine is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from 1960 to 2000, the other being Jack Nicholson. In 2011, Sir Caine was inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres to further recognize his impressive career.
14. Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen actually belongs to two different orders of knights within the British Orders. He was appointed as Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (which grants him the suffix of CBE and the use of the title "Sir") in 1969 and then in 1991 he was knighted for his contributions to the performing arts and became a part of the Order of the Companions (which enables him to use the suffix CH). He is also one of very few openly gay men to ever be knighted, and thus has the nickname of "Serena" among the gay community after his knighthood was conferred. The nickname comes from a speech he gave at the 1994 Gay Games when he said "I'm Sir Ian McKellen, but you can call me Serena."
15. Mads Mikkelsen
That's right, every actor who has portrayed Hannibal Lector on screen has been knighted (the others being Anthony Hopkins, Sir Brian Cox, and Sir Gaspard Ulliel). Mads Mikkelsen is the latest actor to be knighted to the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, as he was just inducted a few days ago. Prior to joining the French Knighthood, Mads was honoured by the Queen of Denmark (his home country) alongside his brother Lars in 2010. Her Majesty Margrethe the 2nd knighted Mads to the Order of the Dannebrog.
There you have it, 15 actors that have been knighted. This is in no way a comprehensive list, there are many many more famous people that have been knighted. So if you have the dream of knighthood, all you have to do is become a super successful actor and make impressive contributions to the world of theater. Easy, right?