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Top 5 Celebrities That Turned Down a Knighthood

VO: Richard Bush
Written by Andrea Buccino A date at the Palace isn’t for everyone. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 5 Celebrities Who Turned Down a Knighthood. For this list, we’re focussing on famous people from the worlds of art, entertainment and science who, when offered the honour of a knighthood, declined for personal, political or other reasons. Special thanks to our users EmJay and MikeMJPMUNCH for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 5 Celebrities That Turned Down a Knighthood


A date at the Palace isn’t for everyone. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 5 Celebrities Who Turned Down a Knighthood.

For this list, we’re focussing on famous people from the worlds of art, entertainment and science who, when offered the honour of a knighthood, declined for personal, political or other reasons.

#5: Danny Boyle

He’s one of the most successful British filmmakers of the ‘90s and noughties, having first stormed cinemas with “Shallow Grave” before following up with the cult classic, “Trainspotting”. And while Boyle has continued to excel on stage and screen, he received particular acclaim for directing the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics, which celebrated all things British. Boyle was offered a knighthood for masterminding the Olympic event, but refused, saying that he was “proud to be an equal citizen”, explaining that that was what the ceremony was all about.

#4: Alan Bennett

A playwright, screenwriter, and author whose pen was behind the esteemed “Talking Heads” monologues and whose work inspired the award-winning film adaptation, “The Lady in the Van”, Alan Bennett sits within the upper echelons of English literary greatness. But becoming a Sir just isn’t for him. He first declined a CBE in 1988, before turning down a knighthood in 1996. As reason for his refusal, the writer likened the accolade to “wearing a suit every day of your life” - which he didn’t much fancy.

#3: Rudyard Kipling

The renowned writer and poet would at first glance seem an unlikely entry for today’s list. As one of the greatest literary voices of his era, few people could have seemed more likely to sport a knighthood than Kipling. Nonetheless, he declined the honour not once, but twice, in 1899 and again in 1903. The author of “The Jungle Book”, “Kim” and of the revered poem, “If”, who also declined the Order of Merit twice, reportedly felt he could “do his work better without it”.

#2: David Bowie

From “Space Oddity” to “Blackstar”, this chameleonic performer left an indelible presence in the world of music. So, it’s no surprise that he was offered a knighthood or, given his unique public character, that he turned it down. He was in line for the award in 2003, having previously declined a CBE in 2000. At the time, Bowie explained his bewilderment over the honours system, underlining that he “never had any intention” of accepting it, and that it wasn’t what he’d “spent his life working for”.

#1: Stephen Hawking

As one of the most recognisable figures in modern science, Professor Stephen Hawking is not only a famous theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular science writer, but also an unparalleled role model for many. Despite living with a rare form of Motor Neuron Disease since his early twenties, he has defied the odds throughout a lifetime of scientific breakthrough. Hawking did accept a CBE in 1982, and the Order of the Companions of Honour in ‘89, but reportedly drew the line at a Knighthood - because he didn’t like titles, and because he was frustrated by government science funding.
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