In the United Kingdom, a Knight Bachelor is a man who is a knight, (has the title Sir) but who is neither a:
- senior member of one of the orders of chivalry, sometimes called orders of knighthood, nor
- a baronet.
In the 1920s, the Society of Knights Bachelor were allowed to wear a special badge on the days when other knights would wear their insignia.
The title is not hereditary, so it cannot be passed on to the knight's children, but a baronet's title can be inherited.
Men who get some jobs, such as senior judges, are made Knights Bachelor. Women cannot be knights bachelor, so if they get one of those jobs, they are made Dames of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)
Knights Bachelor have no post-nominal letters (letters after their name to show they are a knight), unlike knights of the orders of knighthood, who use letters like KBE, or GBE etc., or baronets who put Bt or Bart after their name.
The title "Sir" is always followed by the given name, so, Paul McCartney would be "Sir Paul McCartney" or "Sir Paul". They would never be Sir last name, so not "Sir McCartney". The same applies for women with the title "Dame".
Knighthood is usually saved for public service; amongst its recipients are all male judges of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice in England.
It is possible to be a Knight Bachelor and a junior member of an order of chivalry without being a knight of that order; this situation has become rather common, especially among those recognised for achievements in entertainment. For instance, Sir Ian Holm, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Elton John, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Barry Gibb and Sir Ian McKellen are Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBEs).
Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Tom Jones and Sir Van Morrison are Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBEs) (as were Sir Bruce Forsyth, Sir Alan Bates, Sir Robert Helpmann, Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Sir John Mills, Sir John Hurt, Sir Christopher Lee, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Richard Attenborough, Sir Michael Hordern and Sir Michael Redgrave during their lives).
While Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) are Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). None of them would be entitled to use the honorific "Sir" by virtue of their membership of the order alone, but as they are all also Knights Bachelor, they are entitled to preface their names with that title.
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