Celebrities Who Turned Down a Knighthood Award

Celebrities Who Turned Down a Knighthood Award

An honour of this caliber from Queen Elizabeth is often bestowed on citizens – but some notable individuals have declined this title for very interesting reasons.

Skepta from Tottenham turned down an MBE from 2017 New Year’s Honours List so as to not appear hypocritical after airing his views about monarchy at Raymond Williams lecture, however there can be other valid reasons for declining an honorary title.

Stephen Hawking

Knighthoods are considered one of the highest honors one can be bestowed with, yet some celebrities have chosen not to accept the accolade. According to The Mirror, although NHS heroes and sports stars frequently receive honors from Queen Elizabeth, some well-known figures have declined them instead.

One such figure was famed scientist Stephen Hawking, who famously rejected a knighthood offer from the government during the 1990s due to anger at how funding cuts affected science. Additionally, he did not wish to become known as “Sir” Hawking.

Unfortunately, our beloved physicist passed away this March.

Hawking was an extraordinary mind who made tremendous discoveries about the universe and beyond. Among his many achievements are discovering black holes and foreseeing the Big Bang.

He has written several books on the topic and is widely revered in public life. Beyond his scientific achievements, he is an active campaigner for LGBT rights, being recently appointed an Ambassador by Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Folk singer Roy Bailey returned his MBE as an expression of opposition against UK foreign policy; Carla Lane refused her CBE due to possible links between it and Huntingdon Life Sciences; actor Peter O’Toole turned down a knighthood in the 1980s on grounds that it was used by Margaret Thatcher to reward friends and party backers.

David Bowie

David Bowie was one of the greatest icons in music and was known for his independence and rebellious streak. Rather than accepting two honours from Queen Elizabeth II – an MBE in 2000 and knighthood three years later – they both declined. A CBE is given to those who have made significant contributions to British life.

Benjamin Zephaniah, who passed away earlier this month, was widely known for his writing on political topics such as institutional racism, veganism and refugees. Reportedly he turned down an MBE honor a number of times.

Every year, Buckingham Palace announces a list of people who have received MBE, CBE or OBE awards for their contributions to society. While some major stars may decline the honour for various reasons ranging from politics to personal beliefs – it may come as a shock when some decline the award but this can happen for various reasons.

Roald Dahl, famous for writing Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG among many other works for children, reportedly declined an OBE in 1986 without offering an official reason. Some speculated he may not approve of how government used the honour system to award awards.

Nigella Lawson was another celebrity who declined a knighthood. According to an interview she gave on BBC in 2001, Lawson stated she didn’t feel it was important or warranted from receiving one from Queen Elizabeth. Reasons could range from anti-Americanism or feeling that an honour wasn’t due her way – though that could also have been related to personal preferences. Queen Elizabeth knighted roughly 300 people during her reign including politicians, business leaders and celebrities alike.

John Cleese

Celebrities and community champions who make significant contributions are often honored with royal accolades such as knighthoods, MBEs, or OBEs in the biannual honours list, but not every recipient accepts these prestigious titles with open arms. Some notable figures from music, literature, film and TV have declined their honours in the past.

British comedian and actor best known for playing Basil Fawlty on classic sitcom was offered a life peerage and seat in the House of Lords in 1999 but declined. He claimed it would be too much pomp and ceremony, not justifying such recognition of his contributions to society.

At that point, this was his second rejection of an honor, as he had earlier declined a CBE in 2000 and an offer of knighthood three years later. Fellow Python Roy Connolly described this decision as being insensitive because Paul McCartney had recently been knighted.

Cleese is among a host of celebrities who declined a knighthood as they felt it wasn’t appropriate for them, such as musician Rudyard Kipling who returned his MBE in protest over UK involvement in conflicts abroad and author John Lennon who did not wish to be associated with fellow peace activist George Harrison in classifying himself with another knighthood award.

Recently, Trainspotting director Danny Boyle has taken to Twitter to lash out against “wokeness”, climate-change deniers and members of the establishment he considers disreputable – including Donald Trump administration critics and climate-change deniers. Michael Sheen from Underworld as well as Tottenham native rapper Skepta declined knighthood.

The Beatles

From eating roast dinners on Sundays and Morris dancing to chasing cheese wheels down hillsides, Britain is famous for its many traditions. But one often overlooked tradition is rock stars turning down honours from The Queen; whether denying knighthoods, MBEs or CBEs. There can be numerous reasons for such actions being taken against royal honours from time to time.

In 1965, when all four members of The Beatles were awarded MBEs on the New Year’s Honours list for 1965, controversy ensued as this honour had traditionally been reserved for military veterans. John Lennon and George Harrison accepted their MBEs while Ringo Starr decided against accepting his, while Paul McCartney returned his.

But why did they make their decision? According to Martin Scorsese’s documentary on George Harrison titled ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World’, Harrison did not view MBEs or CBEs as essential, nor wanted to give up musical independence for an honorary title.

Other notable figures who have refused knighthood or peerage include JB Priestley, author of An Inspector Calls (who rejected his own knighthood in 1918) and Evelyn Waugh (refusing her CBE outraged at David Cameron bestowing peerages and knighthoods upon friends and party backers), among others. Roald Dahl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame reportedly declined an OBE as well; reasons could include political beliefs or an belief that such honor wasn’t fitting him.

Nigella Lawson

Every December, The Queen unveils her New Year Honours list, honoring those for their achievements and services to their country. Although many opt to accept their awards, some notable faces from television have turned down this honor despite receiving it.

Nigella Lawson, known for her cookery books and TV show How to Eat, has chosen not to accept her knighthood for various reasons, such as remembering both of her mother and sister who passed away through her work; as well as feeling it wasn’t right for her.

Lawson began her career as a journalist, writing book reviews for The Spectator before becoming a columnist for The Times and eventually landing the position of deputy literary editor at The Sunday Times – although later left it in order to focus more on creative projects and writing cookbooks and television shows. Additionally, Lawson founded Lavender Trust which supports women with breast cancer.

The New Year Honours list features both well-known figures and community champions who have been recognized for their efforts, though many ordinary people choose not to accept the royal accolade – including celebrities like David Bowie, Skepta and Stephen Hawking; Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders both opted not to accept their OBEs – over 400 people are believed to have declined their awards over the last decade alone!