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.
Honorary or not our Constitution precludes Kennedy from accepting this knighthood while he is a US Senator? Does anyone care? Does no one else feel any outrage at Mr. Kennedy accepting this? I am concerned everyone in government has lost their way and no longer have any respect for their country, citizenship or future! By graciously declining it he would be sending the best message, but our politicians are too self indulgent to ever consider that avenue.
It is amazing that some of you are so vicious and hateful.
Congratulations Senator. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
ted should also get recognition from guinness book of world record recognition for fastest escape from a sinking oldsmobile.
Thank You Ted and may God bless you because you have been a blessing to million in this country and around the world.
Duke of Chappaquiddick LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
It is a disgrace and a dishonour (especially for an Irish person) to be knighted by the queen of England. Shame on you Ted Kennedy!
CMG March 4th, 2009 10:44 am ET
Congratulations Senator…..we are praying for you.
SOMEONE NEEDS TO PRAY FOR THIS DISGRACE OF A MAN....OR SHOULD I SAY DRUNKEN MURDER AND ACCOMPLIS TO RAPE.
HE MAKES ME PUKE........AND I'M A DEMOCRAT
The only "voiceless individual" that deserves to have some say about this creep is Mary Jo Kopechne. But then he can't speak for her, he just wishes the memory of her would go away. Too bad Teddy. People are long remembered for crimes in which they do not pay. When someone mentions his name, to this day, I picture him in that stupid UN-NEEDED neck brace talking with his relatives and wondering how big of a lie he can tell to get out of Mary Jo's death. Guess it was a WHOPPER!! And he's still telling whoppers.
Hey April –
This isn't about separating fact from fiction – this is about recognizing a person who actually has made a DIFFERENCE in this country. NO ONE on these blogs can say that they have done as much as this man for this country. So who are you again? Oh yeah – you're a nobody, just like everybody else.
DO SOMETHING PEOPLE!
I am appalled!!!!! at the venom spoken here. Senator Kennedy has performed wonderfully, and it is a great honor.
What the heck, we Knighted Robert Mugaby too. Seems the only way to get a Knighthood now is to be scum. Ill stay a commoner.
He then made haste out of Washington, intending to slay a innocent gi- I mean, a dragon.
If the democrats are the party of wimps and whiners, then the pubs are the dead party of fascists and warmongers....
Bring it on people...I love the attention!
This man has done more for the common person than any of his detractors ever thought of doing. Typical wacked out political comments on this site. LOL. I'm not big on royalty but it's a nice, symbolic honor for a highly respected Irishman.
Sick, disgusting and disgraceful. You should be ashamed of yourself.
obama-mama March 4th, 2009 11:09 am ET
Congrats and slay those court jester republicans with your sword ….lol
And April –
I've read MANY of your comments before – if you're a lifelong democrat – then WHY THE HELL DO YOU SAY THE THINGS YOU SAY?
You're a poser for the pubs.....that's all you are.
Thanks to people like marzxyz, America's collective IQ continues to fall.
**Writing again to see what is the determining factor for some being posted, while others are not.
I am so happy for Ted Kennedy.
You forget his nephews Smith trial for rape as well.
Good old guy went out with his nephews to pick up girls in the bar.
Later that night, good old Ted after getting the girls all liqu'd up, went
and hid in the closet so he could watch.
Then he is part of the entire great Kennedy clan that stands and
supports the rapist nephew in court each day.
Nothing like a good old fashioned Kennedy cover up.
Great when you can pay enough to get out of any trouble.
It comes down to the Elitist specialty " do as I say not as I do".
Then Ted said, "Thank you ferry much- Now where are my keys and where is the bar!"
This is an Insult to the Royal Crown.
It used to mean something to be knighted.
Shame he can't use the title.
Unarguably the most effective United States Senator since Lyndon Johnson, job well done Senator.