WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Edward Kennedy is being awarded an honorary knighthood, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday.
"Northern Ireland is today at peace, more Americans have health care, more children around the world are going to school, and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of Senator Edward Kennedy," Brown said in an address to a joint meeting of Congress.
Kennedy, who underwent surgery for brain cancer last year, was not present for the speech, but his colleagues gave him a standing ovation when the honor was announced.
Watch: We owe a great debt to Kennedy, British PM says
The long-serving Massachusetts Democrat and head of one of the most important families in American politics said in a written statement that he is "deeply grateful" for the honor.
"This honor is moving and personal," Kennedy said, "a reflection not only of my public life, but of things that profoundly matter to me as an individual. I accept this honor in the spirit in which it is given, with a continuing commitment to be a voice for the voiceless and for the shared ideals of freedom and fairness which are so fundamental to the character of our two countries."
As an American, Kennedy cannot receive an official knighthood, and cannot use the title "Sir Edward," but he will be allowed use the letters "K.B.E." after his name, for Knight of the British Empire.
Kennedy, 77, has been a senator since 1962. Known as Ted, he is the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy.
He played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, and was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
Kennedy suffered a seizure in May 2008 at his home on Cape Cod. Shortly afterward, doctors diagnosed a brain tumor.
Surgeons at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, removed as much of the tumor as possible the following month. Doctors considered the procedure a success, and Kennedy underwent follow-up radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
But he has rarely been seen in public since then.
Neither the British Foreign Office nor Buckingham Palace, the official home of Queen Elizabeth II, could say if Kennedy would come to London to receive his honor personally from the Queen. No date has been set for the ceremony, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. She declined to be named, in keeping with British custom.
With the honorary knighthood, Kennedy joins Americans including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, movie director Steven Spielberg, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, ex-Presidents Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, and British-born actor Bob Hope.
Updated: 11:19 a.m.
Congratulations Senator.....we are praying for you.
What's next? "Duke of Chappaquiddick"?
The Lion of the U.S. Senate. Congratulations!
What a waste of everyones time,I guess it's appropriate to have a Senator be called a knight, since this president thinks he's a king and the Dems in Congress are his Royal Court. What a bunch of morons
So who gave Mary Jo Kopechne a voice, Sir Edward?
I guess she was just one of the peasants.
Wow. How cool is that?
Anyone who tries to make fun/tries to diminish this honor is jealous and has a small mind.
Congrats Sen. Kennedy!
Childish bull. no wonder the country is in the mess it's in. really, Washington needs Obama to bring some maturity to the White House.
Great, give the big, fat, drunk, womanizing, voyeaur a Knighthood.
It surely demeans the people of England, The Crown, and all she
once stood for.
It is amazing that what was once a noble title has become little more
than a posthumous work of politics.
It use to mean something to be Knighted, but not anymore.
So who was the voice for Mary Jo Kopechne, Sir Edward?
Kind hearted man – may God bless you.
Bad Choice Queen Elizabeth.
This man is not deserving of once was a special title.
He belongs in jail.
I bet the reason he got this "award" is because of the huge amount of UK produced alcohol he has consumed in his career.... There is no other explanation!
Sure...why not? The man kills a girl and is in attendance while his nephew rapes a girl, but let's him a knight. Being from MA, I'll just stick with calling him a disgrace
Somehow, knighthood is no longer what it used to be. When such an honor is bestowed upon a slimeball like Kennedy, the title loses all credibility
I wonder how many Billions Obama promised Gordon Brown this week.
Well Teddy, soon you and Elton John have two things in common.
That is a wonderful honour...too bad he can't use the honourific but still a great reward for a lifetime of service.
Does this mean all of Obama's nominees pay their taxes ?
So do we call him "Sir Senator Teddy Kennedy," or "Senator Sir Teddy Kennedy?" Congratulations Ted!
Wow....doesn't take long for typical responses from april and Kevin in Ohio....
Nothing but hate from you two, eh? That's all you do....throw out hate and fear...no nice things to say....no solutions.......nada
YOU MUST BE REPUBLICANS!!! Am I right?
Ted Kennedy has done great things for this country...period.
What have YOU done???
Mr. Kennedy is America's Knight in Shining Armor. Congratulations on this wonderful honor, and God Bless You always. Sincerely,
This is just wrong.
What about Chappaquiddick?
At worse – criminal
At best – coward and idiot
TO KNIGHT TED KENNEDY MAKES ONE THINK THAT... THE QUEEN HAS TAKEN LEAVE OF HER SENCES
A knighthood for that murdering socialist? It cheapens the title to everyone else receiving it to near-worthlessness.