The Old Indian Maharajas; heads of the states, when annoyed by any out of line Courtier, gifted an Elephant to him in recognition of some remotest conceivable services rendered by him to the state. The poor courtier was then constrained to feed and take care of the Maharajas Elephant more than his family with consequent decline in his own well being. The British version of s handling a similar situation translated into higher taxes and the liability to provide an armed man on horseback to the British Crown. Consequence in this case too might have resembled the former case.
1. Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday was born in Newington Butts, England on September 22, 1791 and died at Hampton Court, Middlesex, England on August 25, 1867. It was a great opportunity for Faraday to attend Chemical lectures in London on invitation of Sir Humphrey Devy with whom he worked as laboratory assistant afterwards. He discovered electromagnetic induction and invented the first electric motor which was big breakthrough and laid foundation of the modern generators and many other electric appliances. The unit of capacitance was named ‘Farad’ in his honor. Many streets all over the world have been named after him. Michael Faraday appeared on British Currency note of 20 pounds. He was offered knighthood and free residence in Hampton Court by Queen Victoria. He declined knighthood and accepted the residence where he lived merrily ever afterwards. Some people say that he declined knighthood on account of dementia and senility but there should be no doubt in that t he was , even if senile , not to the extent of having opted other way around.
2. George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland on July26, 1856 and died at Avot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England on November 2, 1950 at the age of 94. He was the only person, being simultaneously a Nobel Laureate (1925) and Oscar award (1938) winner. Both the awards were given in appreciation of his work ‘Pygmalion’. In Addition to Pygmalion, his most famous plays include Joan of Arc, Caesar and Cleopatra, Heartbreak house, Man and superman. In 1925, he was offered knighthood and Order of Merit but he declined both. In fact he wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize too but his wife urged him to accept it as it was an honor for Ireland. However he refused the monetary benefit and requested to be utilized for English translation of Swedish books.
3. Rabindranath Tagore
Popularly known as ‘Gurudev’, Rabindranath Tegore was born in a prosperous Brahmin family as 9th son of Debendernath and sarada Devi, in Calcutta, India on May 7, 1861. He died in Calcutta on August 7, 1941. He was awarded Noble Prize in 1913 making him the first Asian Nobel Laureate. This was in appreciation of his poetry’ Gitanjali’ translated in English by himself. His recorded conversations with contemporary scholars of fame like Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells indicate his caliber and the level of regard they had for him. On April 13, 1919, brigadier General Reginald E.H.Dyer ordered his fifty riflemen to shoot continuously for over ten minutes, about 15-20,000 unarmed people who gathered in a public park to protest against the British Government. The massacre killed more than 1000 persons. In consideration of this brutality, Rabiranath Tegore renounced the knighthood in 1919.
4. Harry Ferguson
Henry George Ferguson was born in Growell, County Down, UK on November 4, 1884 and died at Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, UK on October, 1960 at the age of 75. Throughout the world, Tractor is an Icon of agriculture and related prosperity and the man behind this icon is none other than the Iconic Harry Ferguson known for the Ferguson Tractor Company. The British Prime Minister; Sir Winston Churchill, proposed to him that he should be knighted. Harry Ferguson also received a formal invitation from 10-Downing Street; the residence of Prime Minister, asking him if he would accept the favor extended by Her Majesty. Harry Ferguson declined the knighthood saying that the honor should be reserved for the lesser privileged servicemen and states men rather than being conferred upon the wealthy industrialists and businessmen to whom the honor had done more harm than good.
5. Albert Finney
Albert Finney was born to Alice Hobson and Albert Finney, Sr. on May 9, 1936. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic art and he is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His awards include The Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award. He was nominated four times for the Academy Award. In 1980 he was offered a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) which is the middle class of the five classes of an order of chivalry, established in 1917 by King George to honor for non combatants. He was also offered Knighthood in the year 2000. Albert Finney declined both honors expressing that it was a perception and continuity of ‘snobbery’.
6. Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave was born in Greenwich, London, England on January 30, 1937. She was an Oscar winning actress and her many other awards include some of the following but do not exclude others; Tony Award 2011, Tony Award 2007, drama Desk Award 2007. Redgrave was offered knighthood but she declined the honor in 1999, considering
that its acceptance may make her tilt too much towards establishment and may harm the causes she was supporting. During an interview on Larry King Live, Vanessa Redgrave criticized the war on terror and expressed that democracy meant no torture, no camps, and no detention forever or without trial. She opined that no government of the world was observing human rights sincerely.
7. David Bowie
David Bowie was born in Brixton; London, England on January8, 1947.His birth name was David Robert Jones. He is a famous musician, pop and rock star, singer and song writer. David Browie declined knighthood in 2003 on the basis of being mismatch with his aim of life. He was not impressed by the snobbish feel of the nobility and its related titles.
8. Stephen William Hawking
Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, UK on January 8, 1942. Hawking most famous work is in the fields of Cosmology and Quantum gravity relating to exploration of Black holes and Big Bang Theory. Stephen Hawking had been criticizing the British Government and declined Knighthood public ally saying, ‘He dislikes the whole concept’. His book ‘A Brief History of Time’ was the best seller in 1988.
9 . Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah
Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born in Handsworth, Birmingham on April 1958. He is a pub poet and his Album ‘Rasta’ earned him international fame. In 1996 Nelson Mandela, the most famous political prisoner who later on became the South African President, requested Zephaniah in 1996 to host the president’s Two Nation Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Speaking of the cause of declining knighthood from the Queen, Zephaniah wrote in The Gaurdian,in November 2003,’ I get angry when I hear the word ‘Empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality’. Zephaniah is popular among children for his poetry and among adolescents for his novels.
10. Nick Anstee
Nick Anstee was born in Morton-in-Marsh, UK on May27, 1958. He was the 682nd Lord Mayor of London, preceded by Ian Luder CBE and Succeeded by Michael Bear. He remained in office from November 13, 2009 to November 12, 2010. The style of Lord Mayor The Right Honorable is applicable to the office and not to the person therefore expressing ‘The RT Hon the Lord Mayor of the City of London’ is correct, while ‘The Rt. Hon Oliver Twist’ would be incorrect. It was probably due to being used to this decorum that Nick Anstee declined the knighthood and any other national honor after the expiry of his term in office in 2009.
The medieval concept of knighthood entailing chivalry and skill, suffered after industrial developments. People had been declining knighthood, publicly or silently either on account of disagreement with the concept of nobility and distaste for snobbery or unde protest to project one or the other cause. What is unique with knighthood is something in which both, the system and individuals go hand in hand.