Monthly Archives: October 2014

Addressing knights and dames: why it’s not “Dame Angelina Jolie”

The Queen greets Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie was granted an audience with HM The Queen

Last week, HM The Queen made Ms Angelina Jolie an honorary dame for her services to UK foreign policy and the campaign to end sexual violence in war zones. But as a US citizen, she cannot be addressed as Dame Angelina.
The title of Sir or Dame may only be used by citizens of the UK and Commonwealth nations with The Queen as their head of state. In the past, honorary knighthoods have been conferred to U2 singer Bono, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

A knighthood is awarded to recognise merit in terms of achievement and service to the sovereign. It is an honour under the crown and therefore can be withdrawn. Knights prefix Sir to their forenames while wives of knights may add the title Lady to their surnames.
Thus, the celebrated actor and director Kenneth Branagh and his wife are officially addressed as Sir Kenneth and Lady Branagh.

“The Prince of Denmark” receives a knighthood. Sir Kenneth Branagh in 2012. Photo from The Observer.

A dame is the female equivalent of a knight, and the title Dame is prefixed to their foremanes. Generally, an individual cannot derive privileges from their wives or mothers. Therefore, no equivalent titles are granted to the husband of a dame.

Double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes photo from

Knights and Ladies of the Garter and the Thistle
The Order of the Garter and The Order of the Thistle are the two highest orders of chivalry in the United Kingdom. Knights and Ladies of the Garter and Thistle rank higher than a baronet.

There are no dames in the Orders; instead, female members of the Order are addressed as Lady. For example, if a Mrs Lorna Willis is created a Lady of the Thistle, she is addressed as Lady Lorna Willis, not Lady Willis, which would imply that she is the wife of a knight, instead of a Lady in her own right.

HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duke of Cambridge in the robes of The Order of the Garter. Photo from

Best wishes,

For Homer.