The Day Paul McCartney Was Knighted
On March 11, 1997, at the age of 54, former Beatles and Wings member Paul McCartney received one of Britain’s highest honors when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. The centuries-old ceremony, officially bestows the title of “Sir” upon all fortunate enough to receive the designation.
It was not the first time that McCartney had received high recognition from his homeland. In October 1965, McCartney, along with fellow band members John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were given Member of the British Empire medals, much to the shock of the British establishment at the time. Lennon returned his MBE medal in 1969 as a war protest.
Despite having been a part of one of the biggest bands in the history of music and being one-quarter responsible for having created Beatlemania all over the world, McCartney admitted to some nervousness heading into the ceremony.
“Proud to be British, wonderful day and it’s a long way from a little terrace in Liverpool,” McCartney told reporters.
The ceremony was attended by three of McCartney’s four children with his wife Linda, who was absent from the ceremony as she was in the midst of her battle with breast cancer. Thirteen months later, on April 17, 1998, Linda sadly lost her fight and succumbed to the disease.
Musicians receiving the British knighthood was a still somewhat of a rarity when McCartney received his designation in 1997. Cliff Richard was actually the first musician to have been given a knighthood in 1995 but since then, many of music’s royalty have received the title including Bono (U2, 2007), Elton John (1998) and the Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger (2003).
In an interesting twist, David Bowie allegedly declined the knighthood in 2003, reportedly stating that it was not what he had spent his life working for.