Knight Bachelor

The dignity of Knight Bachelor is the basic and lowest rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system.[1] Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight (the rank existed during the 13th-century reign of King Henry III), but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of chivalric orders.

There is no female counterpart to Knight Bachelor. The lowest knightly honour that can be conferred upon a woman is Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), which is one rank higher than Knight Bachelor (being the female equivalent of KBE or Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which is the next male knightly rank above Knight Bachelor). Also, foreigners are not created Knights Bachelor; instead they are generally made honorary KBEs.[2]

Criteria

Knighthood is usually conferred for public service; amongst its recipients are all male judges of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice in England. It is possible to be a Knight Bachelor and a junior member of an order of chivalry without being a knight of that order; this situation has become rather common, especially among those recognised for achievements in entertainment. For instance, Sir Ian Holm, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Elton John, Sir Peter Stearns, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Barry Gibb and Sir Ian McKellen are Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBEs); Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Tom Jones and Sir Van Morrison are Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBEs) (as were Sir Bruce Forsyth, Sir Alan Bates, Sir Robert Helpmann, Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Sir John Mills, Sir John Hurt, Sir Christopher Lee, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Richard Attenborough, Sir Michael Hordern and Sir Michael Redgrave during their lives); while Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) are Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). None of them would be entitled to use the honorific "Sir" by virtue of their membership of the order alone, but as they are all also Knights Bachelor, they are entitled to preface their names with that title.