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Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56, nicknamed “The Lion of the Senate” during his near half-century in office, has been awarded an honorary knighthood, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday.
Kennedy will become a Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an award Boston’s British Vice Consul for Political, Press, and Public Affairs Joseph P. W. Pickerill said is “primarily designed for people who have contributed significantly in the realm of public service.”
According to Pickerill, Kennedy was selected for the honor on the basis of his efforts to build peace in Northern Ireland, provide better healthcare for Americans, and enhance education opportunities for children.
“For me this honor is moving and personal—a reflection not only of my public life, but of things that profoundly matter to me as an individual,” Kennedy said in a statement released by his office.
Despite receiving the knighthood, Kennedy will not be granted the title of “Sir,” as he is not a British citizen.
Kennedy will also likely receive his award from the British ambassador to the United States, rather than Queen Elizabeth II, who knights only British subjects. A date for the ceremony has not yet been set, Pickerill said.
Brown, who is currently visiting the U.S., announced Kennedy’s award during a speech before a Joint Meeting of Congress.
“I hope that you will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most distinguished Senators, known in every continent and a great friend,” Brown said.
Nominations for knighthood are submitted to the British Foreign Office in London, where the British Foreign Secretary reviews the suggestions and makes recommendations to the queen, Pickerill said. Ultimately the queen has the final say as to who will be honored.
Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last May, received an honorary degree from Harvard in a special convocation ceremony in December.
“On a local level, we’re delighted that the senator from the state we represent is being honored,” Pickerill said.
Other notable Americans who have been named honorary knights include former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, author Elie Wiesel, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
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