Knights and dames during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II

We look through The Gazette archives at some of the most prominent knights and dames honoured during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Knighthood Elizabeth II

What is a knight or dame?

A knighthood is a title given to a male by the Queen for achievements or service to the country, while a damehood is awarded to females. These ranks entitle recipients to use the title of Sir or Dame before their forename. Traditionally, knights and dames are conferred with a touch of a sword by the reigning monarch.

There are various orders of chivalry in the British honours system which have Knight and Dame ranks, including the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. However, most men receive the dignity of knight bachelor (and the badge with the sword and spurs), while most women become dames commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Who were the first people to be knighted by Elizabeth II?

The first mention in The Gazette of people being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II came in an issue published on 29 February 1952 (Gazette issue 39480), just over three weeks after she was proclaimed sovereign throughout her realms on 6 February 1952 (Gazette issue 39458).

Though the honours were approved by her father, George VI, before his demise, according to The Gazette, the new Queen conferred the knighthoods of the following at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 27 February 1952:

  • Walter Fergusson Leisrinck Hannay, Esq., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.
  • Professor Leonard Bairstow, C.B.E., D.Sc., D.Eng., F.R.S.
  • George Percy Barnett, Esq.
  • John Lucian Blake, Esq., M.Sc.
  • John Poland Bowen, Esq., C.B.E., M.I.C.E.
  • Ivor Llewellyn Brace, Esq., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei
  • Walter Russell Brain, Esq., D.M., B.Ch., F.R.C.P.
  • Colin Campbell, Esq., O.B.E.
  • Hugh Maxwell Casson, Esq.,
  • Robert Catterall, Esq., M.B.E.
  • Charles Gibson Connell, Esq.
  • John Harold Corah, Esq.
  • Arthur Jules Dash, Esq., C.I.E., lately Chairman, Public Service Commission, East Bengal
  • Robert Furness Fryars, Esq.
  • Reginald Playfair Hills, Esq., O.B.E., M.C.
  • Geoffrey Clegg Hutchinson, Esq., M.C., T.D., Q.C., M.P.
  • Major Herbert Leslie Joseph
  • Edward Herbert Keeling, Esq., M.C., M.P.
  • Colonel William John Kent, C.B.E., T.D.
  • George Palmer Laidlaw, Esq., O.B.E.
  • Allen Lane Williams Lane, Esq.
  • The Honourable John Herman Lienhop, Agent General in London for the State of Victoria
  • Hans Eric Miller, Esq.
  • Eric de Vere Moss, Esq., C.I.E., lately Secretary, Ministry of Health and Works, Pakistan
  • Professor Rudolph Albert Peters, M.C., M.D., F.R.S.
  • Eboo Pirbhai, Esq., O.B.E. For public services in Kenya
  • Arthur Hampden Ronald Wastell Poyser, Esq., C.B.E.
  • John Prichard, Esq., C.B.E.
  • David Randall Pye, Esq., C.B., Sc.D., M.I.Mech.E., F.R.S.
  • John Knewstub Maurice Rothenstein, Esq., C.B.E., Ph.D.
  • Professor Douglas Lloyd Savory, M.P.
  • Alfred Ernest Shennan, Esq., F.R.I.B.A.
  • Reginald Sparshatt Thatcher, Esq., O.B.E., M.C., MUS.DOC., F.R.C.M., F.R.C.O.
  • Watford Hollier Turner, Esq.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel George James Cullum Welch, O.B.E., M.C.
  • Alexander Williamson, Esq., C.B.E., M.I.C.E.
  • Bertram Wilson, Esq.

However, the first knighthoods to be approved by Elizabeth II herself came in the 1952 Birthday Honours lists. Five lists were published in The Gazette on 30 May 1952:

Who received a knighthood or damehood during the reign of Elizabeth II?

Prime ministers

Queen Elizabeth II saw 15 different prime ministers of the United Kingdom, starting with Winston Churchill who was the incumbent Prime Minister when she became Queen. Though as Head of State she has always remained strictly neutral on all political matters, the Queen has bestowed numerous honours upon prime ministers from the various British orders of chivalry during her reign, all of which have been recorded in issues of The Gazette.Winston Churchill Order of the Garter

One of the orders most frequently used by the Queen to bestow knighthoods on former prime ministers is the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Knights and Ladies of the Garter are chosen personally by the Sovereign to honour those who have held public office and have contributed in a particular way to national life. Membership of the Order of the Garter is limited to just 24 persons at one time.

Prime ministers who accepted the Order of the Garter during the reign of Elizabeth II are:


Some of Britain’s most celebrated actors and directors were honoured with knighthoods and damehoods by Elizabeth II. In the early years of her reign, the likes Sir John Gielgud and Sir Alec Guinness were knighted, while acting royalty such as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Julie Walters were also recognised for their services to Drama.


Though some of Britain’s most iconic sportspersons, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Roger Bannister, were knighted in the early years of the Queen’s reign, it’s only since the turn of the millennium that athletes, predominantly Olympic athletes, began to receive knighthoods and damehoods in significant numbers.

In the 2017 New Year honours, following successes at London 2012 and Rio 2016, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Sir Andy Murray were recognised for their contribution to sport, while in 2022 Sir Jason Kenny and Dame Laura Kenny became the first husband and wife to receive a knighthood and damehood on the same honours list. Olympic and Paralympic legends such as Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson also became knights and dames during the Queen’s reign.

Mick Jagger Knighthood

Music, art and literature

The arts have always been well represented in the Birthday and New Year honours lists. Artists such as Dame Barbara Hepworth received a damehood as far back as 1965, while authors Dame Agatha Christie and Dame Catherine Cookson were similarly recognised. Singer Dame Vera Lynn also received a damehood for her charitable services, while more recently the likes of Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney were knighted for their contribution to music.


Elsewhere, the Queen awarded knighthoods and a damehoods to some of the UK’s most beloved and influential personalities, including Dame Mary Berry, Sir David Attenborough and Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised over £30 million for charity in the run-up to his 100th birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

See also

Prime ministers and honours during the reign of Elizabeth II

This month in history: The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

What is the difference between a CBE, OBE, MBE and a knighthood?

Birthday and New Year honours lists (1940 to 2022)


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Publication updated

19 October 2023

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.