What does it take to be knighted by the queen of England? Helping an old lady cross the street or returning a lost wallet won’t be enough.

In order to achieve an honorary knighthood, one has to make an important contribution to British interests and be recommended by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to the British Monarchy Web site (

Although the origins of knighthood are unclear, a knightly class by the name of Ordo Equestris (an order of mounted nobles) in ancient Rome is believed to be the first.

Many European countries used knighthoods as an established military guild. Knights had to endure strict military training at boyhood and spend time as an assistant to a knight before becoming one.

Since countries don’t use knights to roam their lands and fight battles anymore, the term has taken a different spin. Nowadays, it is used as a form of recognition, not just for military use. Recipients range from actors and scientists to school head teachers and industrialists.

Foreign citizens can receive honorary knighthoods but cannot be dubbed, a ceremony in which the one being knighted kneels in front of the queen as she lays a sword blade on each shoulder. They also don’t use the “sir” title.

Notable Americans who have been knighted are former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Bill Gates, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and entertainer Bob Hope.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at:

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now