© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Who Else Has Been 'De-Knighted'?


Fred Goodwin, formerly Sir Fred, but still Fred the Shred, does join a veritable rogue's gallery of the de-knighted.


That's right. It's a club that includes spies and other traitors, a misbegotten royal matchmaker and a few dictators.

CORNISH: Let's go over the list. Italy's Benito Mussolini, Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. All of them received honorary knighthoods as gestures of good will between their countries and the United Kingdom.

BLOCK: Mussolini's award was revoked after Italy joined Germany and declared war on the U.K. in 1940.

CORNISH: Ceausescu's award was taken away after his communist regime was overthrown in 1989. He lost his knighthood and then his life.

BLOCK: And Robert Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood in 2008 after Zimbabwe's violent and disputed elections.

CORNISH: Now, some former British knights, the ones who were officially dubbed and went by the title Sir, until they were disgraced. That includes Anthony Blunt.

BLOCK: He was an art historian. He oversaw the care of the royal family's paintings and received his knighthood in 1956, but during World War II, he worked for the British secret service, MI5, and it turns out, he passed information to the Soviets. Blunt confessed secretly in 1964 and then went about his life until 1979, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher revealed his role to parliament - knighthood gone.

CORNISH: Finally, going way back in time to Thomas Cromwell. He lost his knighthood during the reign of Henry VIII.

BLOCK: Cromwell was the king's main advisor, but he was undone by the fickle love life of a bad tempered king. When Henry's third wife died, Cromwell convinced the king to marry the German Anne of Cleves for political reasons.

CORNISH: Mistake. Henry hated Anne. Marriage number four was finished, as was Cromwell's influence.

BLOCK: Another knighthood gone. So, too, Cromwell's head. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.