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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. 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.
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.
Honorifics and post-nominal letters
Knights Bachelor may prefix "Sir" to their forenames and wives of Knights may prefix "Lady" to their surnames. Since recipients are not knights of an order of chivalry there are no post-nominal letters associated with the honour, however when the style "Sir" is awkward or incomplete due to a subsequent appointment, recipients may use the letters "Kt" after their name (note the lowercase "t" which distinguishes it from "KT"). This style is often adopted by Knights Bachelor who are also peers, baronets, or knights of the various chivalric orders. In legal and official documents "Knight" should be added after the name instead of "Kt".
Until 1926 Knights Bachelor had no insignia which they could wear, but in that year King George V issued a warrant authorising the wearing of a badge on all appropriate occasions by Knights Bachelor; this badge is worn on the left side of the coat or outer garment. Measuring 2 3⁄8 inches (60 mm) in length and 1 3⁄8 inches (35 mm) in width, it is described in heraldic terms as follows:
Upon an oval medallion of vermilion, enclosed by a scroll a cross-hilted sword belted and sheathed, pommel upwards, between two spurs, rowels upwards, the whole set about with the sword belt, all gilt.
In 1974, Queen Elizabeth II issued a further warrant authorising the wearing on appropriate occasions of a neck badge, slightly smaller in size, and in miniature. In 1988 a new certificate of authentication, a knight's only personal documentation, was designed by the College of Arms.
Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor
The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor was founded for the maintenance and consolidation of the Dignity of Knights Bachelor in 1908, and obtained official recognition from the Sovereign in 1912. The Society keeps records of all Knights Bachelor, in their interest.
- "The British Honours System". www.churchill-society-london.org.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
- "Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor". www.iskb.co.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
- "Form of address". Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- "Knight Bachelor". Forms of address. Debrett's. Archived from the original on 5 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- "Orders of Chivalry". British Government. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
- Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage 2019. https://www.debretts.com/product/debretts-peerage/: Debrett's. 2019. ISBN 9781999767006.
- Insignia of knights bachelor—Website of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor
- The UK Honours System—Website UK Government
- Media related to Knights Bachelor at Wikimedia Commons