Reagan Now a Knight but Not a Sir : Queen Bestows Title--No Dubbing, No Kneeling Required
Queen Elizabeth II made Ronald Reagan a knight today, but without the kneeling and dubbing because the knighthood is honorary for foreigners, who cannot be called “Sir.”
The Buckingham Palace announcement ended days of speculation about whether the former President, whose easy manner and conservative ardor made him a firm friend of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would receive the highest honor for non-Britons. Honors to foreigners are recommended by the government.
Reagan told reporters outside the palace: “I feel greatly honored.”
Reagan emerged from lunch with the queen with a box containing the insignia of an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath, one of the highest orders of chivalry.
Queen Elizabeth accompanied the Reagans to their car to say goodby, and jokingly warned Reagan: “Don’t drop them.”
With his wife, Nancy, beaming beside him, he responded: “I can’t say how proud I am to receive it.”
“Sir” is a title reserved for Britons, but at dinner parties Reagan can sit closer to the queen than unknighted former presidents. He also can use the initials “G. C. B.” after his name.
The Reagans arrived Sunday for a private visit and dined with Thatcher on Tuesday night. They will fly to Paris on Thursday.
“The queen has been pleased to approve a recommendation . . . that the honorable Ronald Reagan be appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath,” the palace announcement said.
Queen Elizabeth made the presentation after lunch in her private dining room, where she rarely entertains foreigners. The Reagans were the only guests of the monarch and her husband, Prince Philip.
Unlike Britons receiving knighthoods, Reagan did not have to kneel and be tapped on the shoulder by the royal sword. Instead, the queen handed him the order’s insignia: a star, badge and broad ribbon of crimson silk.
Reagan was the 57th American to receive an honorary knighthood, and the first since World War II to receive the Order of the Bath, which has its origins in knights appointed at the coronations of Saxon kings.
The name comes from the symbolic bath taken by medieval candidates for knighthood. Admission to the order recognizes “conspicuous service” to Britain.
Honorary GCBs include Dwight D. Eisenhower, as the Allied supreme commander in World War II; Gen. George C. Marshall, as author of the Marshall Plan; Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and Adm. Chester Nimitz.
Caspar W. Weinberger, defense secretary in the Reagan Administration, got the title in February, 1988, but in the lower Order of the British Empire.
Other American honorary knights include philanthropist John Paul Getty II, Henry Ford III, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk and actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Sidney Poitier.