How To Become A Modern-Day Knight: The History Of The Order Of The British Empire

By Roger Goode | May 29, 2024

Knights Are Still A Thing

Ever dreamed of becoming a knight in shining armor? While the days of jousting and castle sieges are long gone, the prestigious title of knight still exists today, thanks to the Order of the British Empire. Established in 1917 by King George V, this order honors individuals for their exceptional contributions to the arts, sciences, charity, and public service. Whether you're fascinated by history or simply curious about how modern-day knighthood works, this article will take you on a delightful journey through the history of the Order of the British Empire. From its origins to the intriguing process of how one earns the title, discover what it takes to be a contemporary knight or dame in the 21st century. So, polish your metaphorical armor and get ready to explore the fascinating world of modern chivalry!

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Knight from the late 12th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

We may think of knights as those medieval guys with the suits of armor who rode around looking for the Holy Grail or whatever, but that style of knighthood went out with the Plague. However, did you know that knights still exist? And that several well-known celebrities—such as Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Ringo Starr—have been knighted by the Queen? Wanna join their ranks? Read on, friend.

For Men Only

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Prince William knighting Sir Kenneth Gibson, honored for his work in education. (today.com)

Sorry, ladies: Only men can become knights. Don't give up hope just yet, though! How would you like to be a dame? According to classic Hollywood noir films, you already are one, but it's actually the other-gendered equivalent to a knight. Just as some famous men have been granted the honor of adding "Sir" to their names, many famous women—Angela Lansbury, Julie Andrews, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Elizabeth Taylor, just to name a few—have earned the title of "Dame" by receiving the Order of the British Empire.