Paul McCartney became Sir Paul McCartney on 11 March, 1997. In an interview this week with Wired he explained the process.
“First you get is a letter through the post saying you are going you be knighted but don’t tell anyone,” he answered. “It’s a bit of a buzzy letter to get. You have to be a bit of a royalist. You have to think that the Queen is cool. Some people actually turn it down”.
After you agree to accept the honour, “You get to visit Buckingham Palace,” he said. “You go into a room with people who are getting honoured. The guy comes in, kind of military guy. He explains how you have to approach the Queen. You have to walk in and look at her and then walk straight ahead and then bow your head a little bit. The Queen takes a sword. At this point you have to be very trusting. She can do anything with that sword. One shoulder, the other shoulder and then she says “arise Sir Paul McCartney’.”
Not everyone accepts the Royal Honour. David Bowie is the most famous musician to knock back a Knighthood. The Palace contacted Bowie in 2003 with the offer of a Knighthood. He had previously declined a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000. At the time he said he didn’t know why they were giving it to him. In 2003 he declined the knighthood because ““I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”
Musicians with Knighthoods include Ray Davies (The Kinks), Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar and Cliff Richard.