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Athletes knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

The top athletes knighted by the late Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II has just passed away. She was the longest reigning British monarch, having ruled for nearly 71 years. And through all those years, she honored many people with a knighthood.

In the United Kingdom, knighthoods are awarded to recognize those who showcase achievement and service. And the Queen must have been a pretty big sports fan, as she has bestowed the honor of being knighted to multiple athletes.

From the long list, here are some of the most notable sports stars that Queen Elizabeth knighted.

Sir Andy Murray

Queen Elizabeth II included tennis star Andy Murray in her New Year’s Honors list in December 2016 for his services to tennis and charity. With the recognition, he became the UK’s youngest knight at the age of 29.

Andy Murray was arguably at his best in 2016. That year, he won his second Wimbledon title, won the Olympic gold medal, and ended it as world number one.

Although his knighthood was announced in 2016, he only received the honor in 2019. In a statement about the awarding, he said, “I’m very proud to receive it. It’s a nice day to spend with my family; my wife and parents are here.”

His mother was so proud, that she just had to share this post on Twitter.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Quite possibly one of the most revered names in English football is Alex Ferguson. Queen Elizabeth II included the former Manchester United manager in her 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honors list to celebrate his services to the sport.

Ferguson is widely viewed as one of the greatest football managers of all time. He was Manchester United’s manager for 26 years and during that time, he won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two Champions League titles.

The two years before his knighthood, he won the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champion’s League title. This was the first ‘treble’, a term for victories in the domestic top-division league, a domestic cup, and a continental championship.

He was certainly a legend to the Red Devils, and to the sport of football.

Sir Frank Williams

In the same year as Alex Ferguson, Queen Elizabeth II also included Frank Williams in her 1999 new Year Honors for his “services to the motorsport industry”.

Frank Williams was a former Formula 1 driver and founded Williams Formula 1 in 1977. He was the team’s principal up until 2020, and in those years, he won nine constructor’s championships and seven drivers’ championships.

But apart from just being knighted by the Queen, he also holds honors in another country. In France, he was appointed as a Knight of the Legion of Honor for the work that he contributed to the French F1 team, Renault.

As one of the historic figures in Formula 1, the title of ‘Sir’ is well earned.

“Sir” Pelé

Perhaps one of the most surprising knighthoods is Brazilian football legend Pelé’s.

In the 1990s, Pelé started campaigns for children in need and was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Because of his activism, in 1977, Queen Elizabeth II granted him the honorary title of Knight Commander of the British Empire for his humanitarian work.

But, the recognition was only given as an honorary knighthood. Technically speaking, the Brazilian footballer can’t use the title of ‘Sir’ unless he becomes a British citizen.

Lewis Hamilton

And finally, the last knighthood Queen Elizabeth II awarded to an athlete was Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. In December 2020, the Queen included him in her New Years Honors list, after he won his seventh World Championship for his services to the motorsport industry.

Having matched the record for most drivers’ championships, previously only held by Michael Schumacher, Hamilton’s honor was well-deserved.

Although he was granted the honor in 2020, he only received the knighthood from Prince Charles (or should we say King?) in 2021, right after he suffered a heartbreaking championship loss to Max Verstappen.

If getting knighted isn’t a good consolation prize, I don’t what is.

These are just some of the many names who have received the Queen’s honors in her 70-year rule. And now, as King Charles III succeeds her, which athlete do you think he’ll be bestowing a knighthood upon first?