Who Has Turned Down A Knighthood? Celebrities That Refused The Title
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Who Has Turned Down A Knighthood? Celebrities That Refused The Title

Jasmyne Jeffery December 31, 2022

With the release of the New Year’s Honours list comes lots of accolades and achievements. However, some have decided to turn down the recognition, for one reason or another. But here are the celebrities that refused a knighthood.

Today, (December 31) saw the release of King Charles III’s first New Year’s Honours List since ascending to the thrown. Whilst many people, celebrities and other important people alike, have been recognised for their work, some celebrities have refused a knighthood. Their reasons are all different, but they are joined together by rejecting the title.

Celebrities That Refused A Knighthood Or Damehood

People have turned down a knighthood or damehood for various reasons. Some don’t like the title that comes with it, having to be known as Sir or Lady from then on. Others refuse due to political reasons connected to the British state or Royal Family. There is also tension surrounding those from Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland accepting the honour.

Whatever their reason, the following celebrities chose to reject their honour.

David Bowie

The legendary singer declines a knighthood in 2003 after rejecting a CBE in 2000. Bowie told The Sun:

“I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that.

“I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for. It’s not my place to make a judgement on Jagger, it’s his decision. But it’s just not for me.”

Danny Boyle

The theatre and film director is famous for his works Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and 127 Hours. He also directed the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics.

Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Boyle turned down a knighthood in 2013, telling Esquire a number of years later “I thought it was very insensitive of them to ask me, to be honest.”

Stephen Hawking

Metro reported that Stephen Hawking rejected a knighthood in the late 1990s due to the lack of funding surrounding science.

The theoretical physicist was made a CBE in 1982 and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Paul Scofield

The actor rejected a knighthood in 1968, 1974 and 1987. On all three occasions, he denied the honour.

Scofield told the LA Times: “It is just not an aspect of life that I would want. If you want a title, what’s wrong with Mr?”

Vanessa Redgrave

Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage

Although the legendary actress accepted the honour in 2022, she had originally denied it when it was first offered in 1999. She had accepted a CBE in 1967 which was upgraded finally this year.

Other Celebrities That Refused British Honours

It isn’t just damehoods or knighthood that can be denied. Other celebrities have rejected British honours too.

  • John Cleese denied a life peerage after rejecting a CBE in 1996.
  • Helen Mirren rejected a CBE in 1996 before becoming a Dame in 2003.
  • Alan Rickman also refused a CBE in 2008.
  • Jim Broadbent declines an OBE in 2002.
  • Peter Capaldi also denied an OBE, but it is not certain when.
  • Both Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders rejected an OBE in 2001.

The following celebrities originally accepted a British Honour, before renouncing it:

  • Michael Sheen – MBE
  • John Lennon – MBE
  • Roy Bailey – MBE

Whilst lots of people are happy to accept the recognition, it’s clear that many others would rather carry on their work as usual.

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Jasmyne Jeffery is a full-time Entertainment and News Writer on university-themed website Freshered and HITC, and joined the company having previously worked in a freelance role. She attended the University of South Wales where she was also a student blogger and graduated in 2022 with a first-class honours degree in English and Creative Writing. Now, she puts her creativity to use reviewing university bars, Love Island episodes and the latest apps any 18-25-year-old is using.