Do you have any knights or dames in your family tree? Search this index of knights of the British Realm & Commonwealth to discover if any of your ancestors were awarded an order of chivalry.
This index spans several centuries, with entries dating back to pre-1500 and continuing on to present day. Each result will provide a transcript that includes the following information:
Biography, which often includes rank or position/occupation
Death year (as applicable)
Award – Type of knighthood / order of chivalry
Year of award(s)
Date(s) of award(s)
Remarks – often includes where an individual was dubbed
When searching by name, be sure to check multiple spellings, especially for foreign names.
For a comprehensive list of abbreviations used in this record set, please follow the link for Complete list of abbreviations used in Britain, Knights of the Realm index in the Useful Links & Resources section.
This collection will be updated every six months (January and June) in response to the New Year Honours list and Queen’s Birthday Honours list respectively.
By following the link in the Useful Links & Resources section to Britain, Knights of the Realm chronologies, you can discover lists of significant events from the 16th to 20th centuries.
Colin J Parry has been working on this collection for over 40 years. The work began from a desire to determine how many knights were made in each century and, furthermore, to discover who received such honours and orders of chivalry.
At the time that Parry started this work, there was no comprehensive list of knighthoods in existence. The two most instrumental publications for Parry were Shaw’s The Knights of England (1906) and Metcalfe’s Book of Knights (1885).
While indexing in the 1970s, Parry determined to find the following information about every individual who received such an accolade:
Surname and forenames
Type of knighthood / order of chivalry
Date of gazetting
Reason for receiving the accolade, rank, or position
Date of dubbing
Remarks (including sources or other additional information)
This work involved, in part, picking up where Shaw had left off in examining the London Gazettes, which meant studying the London Gazettes from 1905 onwards (hence the phrase ‘date of gazetting’). A list of the sources used by Parry in compiling this collection can be found in the Useful Links & Resources section, Britain, Knights of the Realm select bibliography.
Parry chose to start his database with knighthoods from the 16th century. Generally, anything prior to this is difficult to verify. However, Parry has been able to confirm some knighthoods predating the 16th century, which has led to the inclusion of several hundred pre-1500 knights in the database. Research continues and pre-1500 entries will continue to grow with future updates to this database. For example, included in the collection with the January 2017 update, there are now more than 1,400 knights listed with their first awards dated prior to 1500, of which 120 are even before 1300 and include a very few who took part in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
With the advent of the computer, Parry’s work was transferred over to a digital database. When the London Gazette came online, followed by Who’s Who together with Who was Who, Parry’s work was able to take a significant leap forward and allowed for the inclusion of biographical details for individuals in the database. It has allowed Parry to update his database within a day or two of the New Year and Queen’s Birthday Honours lists.
In 1999, Parry’s friend Don Elliot joined him in compiling information for his database, which allowed the work to move forward at a quicker pace. In 2011, Dr Bruce Durie of the Department of Genealogy at Stathclyde University joined the team. Dr Durie began the enormous task of converting their Microsoft Works database into an excel file.
Parry and his team continue to update the database week by week.
Some difficulties with the work should be noted, most pressing being the variations in the spelling of names, which has led to some confusion regarding potential duplicates. Some individuals, particularly Indian recipients, were listed by titles, such as Bahadur, as well as by names. In some cases, British knights changed their surnames. In such cases, those knights are listed under the name they held when they received their first award.
While it is generally understood that awards are limited to those countries that accepted Her Majesty The Queen as head of state, there are exceptions. However, those awards are then listed as “honorary.” For example, a recent well-known recipient is Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York. He was awarded honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for his concern for the British victims and their families of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. As the system for awarding such honorary appointments is less comprehensive than that for the substantive awards, this part of the index is not exhaustive.
Occasionally, an individual holding an official position but not actually a knight has been permitted to confer a knighthood on another person. Lists of people permitted to confer such honours on behalf of the sovereign have been included in the chronologies for 18th, 19th, and 20th century knights, which can be viewed by following the link Britain, Knights of the Realm chronologies in the Useful Links & Resources section.
Knight Bachelor (Kt Bach) is the lowest rank of knighthood for a male recipient and is not part of an order of chivalry. The lowest rank of knighthood for female recipients is the Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE).
Knight Banneret (Kt Bann) is a higher military ranking than Kt Bach and is conferred by the sovereign only on the battlefield (although proxies could suffice as long as the recipient’s standard was on the battlefield). Knight bannerets were medieval knights who led troops into battle under their own banner. The last confirmed bestowal of a Knigh Banneret was by Charles I in 1642.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight (KG) and Lady (LG) – This order was established on 23 April 1348 by King Edward III, which makes it the oldest Order of Chivalry. It is awarded for meritorious service regarding England and Wales and it consists of just the one level of Knight Companion (KG) or Lady Companion (LG). (No LGs were awarded between 1488 and 1901.) Its motto is Honi soit qui mal y pense, meaning ‘shame upon him who thinks evil of it’.
The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight (KT) and Lady (LT) – Established on 29 May 1687 by King James II and VII (the former referring to his kingship in England and Ireland and the latter to Scotland), this order pertains solely to Scotland and is awarded for merit. Like its English equivalent, the Most Noble Order of the Garter, it consists of just one level, Knight Companion (KT) or Lady Companion (LT). The thistle, the national flower of Scotland, is the main emblem of this order. Its motto is Nemo me impune lacessit, meaning ‘no one provokes me with impunity’.
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCB), Knight/Dame Commander (KCB/DCB), and, prior to 1815, Knight Companion (KB) – From the 12th century and up until 1661, a number of Knights were made ‘Knights of the Bath’ (KB), the earliest recorded award being made in 1127. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing (as a symbol of purification) as one of its elements. Despite the title, these knights should not be considered to be members of the present Order. After a gap of 64 years when no KBs were awarded, the Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established on 18 May 1725 by King George I and, up to 1815, consisted of one level, Knight of the Bath (KB). From 1815, the Order was re-organised and has since consisted of three levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCB), Knight/Dame Commander (KCB/DCB) and Companion (CB). Note that CB is not a knighthood. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, it was primarily a Military Order, but in the late 19th century, it became the Nation’s principal means of recognising general civil merit in addition to service in the Armed Forces. The Order is now a high ranking and prestigious honour for civil and military servants of the Crown for which ladies became eligible from 1971. The motto of the Order is Tria iuncta in uno, which means ‘three joined in one’.
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG) and Knight/Dame Commander (KCMG/DCMG) – Established on 28 April 1818 by King George IV, as Prince Regent, and is awarded to diplomats and for colonial service. It, too, consists of three levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight/Dame Commander (KCMG/DCMG), and Companion (CMG). Note that CMG is not a knighthood. Ladies were admitted to the Order in 1965. Its motto reads Auspicium melioris œvi, meaning ‘token of a better age’. The order was subsequently enlarged in 1832, 1850, 1864, and 1902.
The Royal Victorian Order, Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCVO) and Knight/Dame Commander (KCVO/DCVO) – Established on 21 April 1896 by Queen Victoria. Membership is conferred by the reigning monarch without ministerial advice and is for distinguished personal service to the Monarch. It consists of five levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCVO), Knight/Dame Commander (KCVO/DCVO), Commander (CVO), Lieutenant (LVO), and Member (MVO). Only the first two levels are knighted. In addition, there is a Medallist level. Until 31 December 1984, the current level of Lieutenant was called Member (4th class) and the current Member was Member (5th class). Ladies were admitted to the Order in 1936. Its motto is simply Victoria, meaning ‘victory’.
The Order of Merit, Member (OM) – Established 23 June 1902 by King Edward VII and awarded for services/contributions in one of the following fields: science, art, literature, culture, or military. Its motto is For merit. It is not a knighthood in itself, but, along with other exceptional awards such as the Victoria Cross, those Knights and Dames who are admitted to the Order are shown in this index.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE) and Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE) – Established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and awarded for miscellaneous military and civil service. On 27 December 1918, the Military Division of the Order was formally established with a slightly different ribbon. The Order consists of five levels in each of the two divisions: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE). There is also a Medallist level (BEM). It should be noted that the first two levels are the only ones who are knighted. Its motto is For God and the Empire.
The Order of Australia, Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia (AK/AD) – It is the only Australian order of chivalry. Before Elizabeth II introduced it on 14 February 1975, Australians received British honours. The AK and AD are awarded for ‘extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large’.
Order of Barbados, Knight/Dame of St Andrew (KA/DA) – This order was established on 25 July 1980 by Queen Elizabeth II and is bestowed on those who have displayed ‘extraordinary and outstanding achievement and merit in service of Barbados or to humanity at large’.
Order of New Zealand, Member (ONZ) – Created 6 February 1987 to ‘recognize outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity’.
New Zealand Order of Merit, Knight/Dame Grand Companion (GNZM) and Knight/Dame Companion (KNZM/DNZM) – On 30 May 1996, Queen Elizabeth II established this order of chivalry in the honours system of New Zealand. The honour is bestowed upon those who have ‘rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits’.
The Most Distinguished Order of the Nation, Knight/Dame Grand Collar (KGN/DGN), Knight/Dame Grand Cross (KGCN/DGCN), Knight/Dame Commander (KCN/DCN) – This is an Antiguan and Barbudan order of chivalry, which honours outstanding service to Antigua and Barbuda. This order was established in 1987, and its motto is True, Brave and Free.
The Most Exalted Order of the National Hero, Knight/Dame Companion (KNH/DNH) – This is an Antiguan and Barbudan order of chivalry established in 1998. It honours ‘pre-eminently distinguished service to Antigua and Barbuda or to humanity at large’. Its motto reads Answering the Call of Duty and can be awarded to citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Most Distinguished Order of Grenada, Knight/Dame Grand Collar (KN/DN), Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCNG/DGNG), Knight/Dame Commander (KCNG/DCNG) – This is an Order of Knighthood within the chivalry order of the Order of Grenada, which was established by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007. Awards in this order are granted for exceptional service, achievement, or gallantry.
The Order of Saint Lucia, Grand Cross (GCSL – not a Knight or Dame), Knight/Dame Commander (KCSL/DCSL) – This order of chivalry was established by Elizabeth II in 1980. Acting on behalf of the Sovereign, the Governor-General can bestow this order upon chosen recipients. Recipients are citizens of Saint Lucia (honorary awards can be given to non-citizens).
The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, Knight (KP) – Established on 17 March 1783 by King George III. Awarded for service relating to Ireland. Its motto is Quis Separabit?, which means ‘who will separate us?’
Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, Knight Grand Commander (GCSI) and Knight Commander (KCSI) – Established in 1861 by Queen Victoria with the motto ‘Heaven’s light our guide’ and is awarded to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian rulers, viceroys, governors, and senior administrators, as well as commanders-in-chief, senior military officers, and Indian civil servants.
Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, Knight Grand Commander (GCIE) and Knight Commander (KCIE) – Established in 1878 by Queen Victoria with the motto Imperatricis auspiciis (‘under the auspices of the Empress’) and is awarded to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian rulers, viceroys, governors, and senior administrators, as well as commanders-in-chief, senior military officers, and Indian civil servants.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was made Lady Companion of the Most Ancient Order of the Garter (LG) on 22 April 1995. It is further noted that she was awarded an Order of Merit (OM) and created a Baroness (life peer).
John Winston Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s paternal grandfather and the 7th Duke of Marlborough, was awarded Knight Companion of the Most Ancient Order of the Garter (KG) on 14 May 1868.
The renowned actress Judi Dench can be found within these records. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 31 December 1987. Under biography she is listed as “Actress (Theatre, Film and Television)” and is listed under remarks as Mrs Michael Williams.
The actress Maggie Smith, listed as Margaret Natalie (Dame Maggie) Smith, was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 30 December 1989.
Laurence Kerr Olivier we see was born in 1907 and died in 1989. He is listed as an actor/producer and was created a Baron in 1970. He was made Knight Bachelor (Kt Back) on 8 July 1947 on the King’s Birthday Honour List (KBL) and dubbed at Buckingham Palace. Also under remarks, we learn that he was awarded an Order of Merit (OM) in 1981.
Ian McKellen, actor and director, was made a Knight Bachelor (Kt Bach) on 26 March 1991 on the New Year’s Honour List and dubbed at Buckingham Palace.
Diana Rigg, actress and director of United British Artists in 1982, born in 1938, was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 11 June 1994.
Agatha Christie, the crime novelist famous for her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple detective stories, was made Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1971 for her contributions to the literary world. She is listed under her married name as Agatha Mary Clarissa Mallowan.
Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, was appointed a Knight Bachelor for services to music in the 2018 New Year Honours list. Ringo gained fame as the drummer of the Beatles.