Why John Lennon and George Harrison Won’t Ever Be Knighted
Ringo Starr's selection for knighthood in late 2017 made him the most recent Beatle to earn the honor — but fans who don't pay close attention to the ins and outs of the British monarchy may be surprised to learn two of Starr's former bandmates still haven't been knighted.
Starr was the second former Beatle to become a Sir, following Paul McCartney in 1997. George Harrison and John Lennon, meanwhile, remain among the un-knighted — and they're likely to stay that way, thanks to the current rules for knighthood, which state that a recipient must be alive to accept the honor.
Both Harrison and Lennon were more than qualified to be knighted alongside their bandmates during their lifetimes, but the crown didn't start knighting pop stars until 1995, when Cliff Richard was selected for the honor. Bob Geldof was granted an honorary knighthood nearly a decade before, but it was for his charity work, not his musical accomplishments — and both men were acknowledged years after Lennon's death. Since knighthoods aren't granted posthumously, it's always been out of the question for Lennon to be selected — and as fans are well aware, his playfully contentious relationship with the crown might have led to him rejecting the offer anyway, as he did when the Beatles were bestowed with an MBE in 1965.
Rejecting honors from the monarchy was something Lennon and Harrison later had in common. According to correspondence unearthed after Harrison's passing, he also declined to accept an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) — allegedly because he was insulted by the offer of a station lower than McCartney's knighthood.
If knighthood was truly important to Harrison, he might have been cheered by efforts to secure him one after his death, but they've been ultimately unsuccessful. And while that's unlikely to change, it puts Harrison among some fairly esteemed company; a number of artists have been held up for posthumous knighthood in recent years, including George Michael. At this point, the list of British cultural figures who've inspired petitions urging the crown to consider the rules might be nearly as impressive as the below list of rockers who've actually been knighted.