Nabbing a knighthood or a damehood is no easy feat. Only a select group of high achievers in a variety of disciplines are chosen each year to receive the highest chivalric honors, the Knight Commander and Dame Commander, respectively. The honorees who received these titles have dedicated their lives to the arts, sciences, government work, humanitarian efforts and beyond. According to Awards Intelligence, “a knighthood or damehood can be presented for all types of different achievement, but usually the person nominated will have made a major contribution to the country at a national or international level; their work and achievements will be viewed as an inspiration to others; and they may have influenced their peers, industry or the nation through their sustained and outstanding commitment to their chosen area.” This kind of democratic nomination process, wherein the honor is open to everyone, has allowed some Americans to earn the honor of knight or dame (although there is the caveat that, because they are not British citizens, they can’t use “Sir” or “Dame” officially).
But regardless of your nationality, to be awarded a knighthood or a damehood is a great honor. As one might expect, there’s a certain level of notoriety and respect that comes with the title, as well as a kind of public reverence for your work. It’s a sign you’ve achieved a unique kind of greatness that honors your life’s work, and that’s not too shabby if you ask us.
While the people receiving the honors aren’t always celebrities, we’re more likely to hear about who is being honored in a particular year when a celebrity does accept this high honor. This was the case when, in March 2018, Variety reported that former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr was awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music. And the latest celebrity to receive the honor was the late Olivia Newton-John, who was appointed for her services to charity, cancer research, and entertainment.
A fair amount of famous (frequently British) faces have come before Newton-John when it comes to getting a knighthood or damehood, but who are they? Keep clicking and see.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2018.