March 4th, 2009
11:19 AM ET
5 years ago

Ted Kennedy to get honorary knighthood

The British Prime Minister announced Wednesday that Sen. Kennedy will receive an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.
The British Prime Minister announced Wednesday that Sen. Kennedy will receive an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.

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.


Filed under: Ted Kennedy
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. G.R.I.T.S. - Girl Raised in the South

    Good for you, Ted! You rock!

    March 4, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. hj

    Ted, why dont you come back to Washington and do your job. If your too sick quit.

    March 4, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. John

    "This "news" website is horrible. They never post my comments"

    Except when they do...

    March 4, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Roger

    It is true that CNN censors out at least 75% of posts that are at all critical of Obama or any of the liberal gods they have annointed.

    March 4, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Wade

    I see the CNN censors hard at work implementing the "fairness doctrine" in posting responses.

    Kennedy is a waste of human flesh living off the family name.
    He should have been rotting in a jail cell for manslaughter, instead we reward him with a Senate seat for life.

    March 4, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Are you kidding me? This is a complete joke.

    Does anybody remember that this guy killed a woman?

    March 4, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. Proud American

    Republicans are such hateful Idiots. Life must be really difficult when you have nothing else to destory.

    March 4, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. Jackie in Dallas

    The level of vindictiveness on this story on the part of some people is pretty sickening. I'm not discounting Chappaquiddick. A beautiful young lady lost her life, and Senator Kennedy has had to play out his remorse (yes, he has expressed is numerous times) and his part in the loss of her life on a public stage for more than 30 years. It was an accidental death, not murder, and even her family has expressed a desire to let the event, and their daughter, rest in peace. If they can, why can't you? Is your life so perfect that you can cast the first stone?

    On the balance, Senator Kennedy has done some remarkable things, including being tremendously effective in helping to forge a peace between the two Irelands, and reduce the violence. That is what Queen Elizabeth is acknowledging. It is a rare honor given to non-British subjects, and should bring pride of an American winning it rather than scorn.

    March 4, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    Too bad his girlfriend Mary Jo couldn't be there to see it.

    March 4, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. JOE

    I am praying for you tonight Teddy.....Praying you CHECK OUT by noon..

    March 4, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. Kathy S. Cloughn

    Say what you will about him but listen to him when he is on a committee. he is great. he is a caring person who has done a lot of good for the nation. He should have been president.

    March 4, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Matt B

    "Ted Kennedy has done great things for this country…period.
    What have YOU done???"

    Danny,
    I sure haven't killed someone like he has, and I sure haven't stood idle while my nephew raped a woman like he has. I have lived a quality life as a law-abiding citizen. Does that answer your question?

    March 4, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. Matthew, Detroit

    Kathy S. Clown,

    Too bad you were not riding in the car with him on an island when

    you told him you were pregnant with his child. Maybe you would have

    a fact based opinion of the guy.

    March 4, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. thomas

    A nice honor Ted, but it doesn't compare to the honor you have gleaned from your many years of service to the weak, the downtrodden, and the mistreated. Now that is a legacy for which you can be proud.

    March 4, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Sad

    It makes one sad to see the incredible petty mindedness. Senator Kennedy has his foibles yet his record of public service is second to none. Perhaps those who have written imbecilic comments slighting Senator Kennedy would feel comforted if Rush Limbaugh is offered knighthood.

    March 4, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. april

    Name what Teddy has done for this country.Until his brain cancer –he was thought of as a joke, just another shady, alcoholic, Senator, making a living off his brothers tragic stories.

    March 4, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. Nomoreloonyleft

    This is a grave disappointment. For years, Kennedy was a supporter of terrorism through his open backing of the IRA in Northern Ireland. I don't understand the rationale for this move. It makes no sense. If anything, it again shows how out of touch the British royals are. Hundreds of Irish and British victims of terror must be shaking in their graves.

    March 4, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. Lee W. in Raleigh, NC

    Uh April. <>

    George Bush is no longer the President, so we no longer have a President who thinks he's a king. Oh, you were talking about President Obama? Bush and Obama are exact opposites in their leadership styles. I'm really wondering when I see posts like yours who are the real morons.

    As far as Senator Kennedy goes, I think it's a wonderful honor from the British royalty to bestow on him for just some of the meaningful work he's done through the years, particularly as it applies to their dominion.

    March 4, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Jackie in Dallas

    And no, our Constitution does NOT forbid him accepting an honorary title. Think of it as the British equivalent of a Nobel Peace Prize (which, by the way, also comes with a medal from the Norweigan King) or being granted an honorary degree at a university. At times, a number of American statesmen and diplomats have been awarded both honorary and non-honorary awards from foreign governments. As long as the award does not require the taking of an oath that counters the oath taken to the U.S., there is not considered a conflict.

    March 4, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. d1120

    He never would have survivded with a real job, in the working world. None of the Kennedy's can. They have to mooch off the government taxpayers.

    March 4, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  21. Dave

    I have lived in NJ for 20 years. The state has been in money trouble every one of those years. We have the highest taxes in America, the highest car insurance rates.The people of NJ complain every year but vote for the same group they say is the problem. NJ is in trouble because of it's people not it's elected politicians. Vote them all out in Nov. You have the power, now use your brains.

    March 4, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Tom, London UK

    I think most Brits, like myself, are pretty unaware of the depth of feeling obviously surrounding Senator Kennedy. For us, he is simply one of the Kennedy brothers, and well known / respected as a long standing senator who seems to have worked hard to improve some of the things within his jurisdiction. He became better known over here during the Northern Ireland Peace Process, which is the outward motivation behind this nomination.

    We know of the "Chappaquiddick" incident, but no reporters mention how much people seem to hate him – they report occasionally on his health issues, etc, but with an image of sympathy. A read of the comments on this forum, and indeed even a couple of other ones such as the UK Times, has surprised me a lot by the depth of the reaction. Considering he is an elected official, presumably not everyone feels like that? So are the comments on here mostly political, or is this a bipartisan feeling? No judgement here, I don't know enough about it, obviously.

    That said, I do think this is a strange move by our erstwhile Prime Minister. I can't see how any American would want to be a Knight of the British Empire, no matter how honorary the position – doesn't that go against the whole idea of America and its independence?

    On Gordon Brown's front, he is struggling at home in the polls, some of which say that if he called an election tomorrow he wouldn't just lose, he might become the third party in UK politics instead of the opposition (imagine the Republicans losing to the Democrats, but losing so many seats that the Green party or someone became the second biggest). So Gordon is trying to curry up a bit of British support by visiting the world's most popular international man of the moment, your President.

    However, he also wants to make a gesture of unity, so he offers a senior Democrat a KBE. It all makes sense in his head, just, seemingly, no-one elses.

    March 4, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. strong

    Knighthood? For a Kennedy?

    Gasp. What a joke this all is. I live in the real world, 2009.

    March 4, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. Scott H

    Wow, I suppose knights no longer require chivalry. I guess knights get sloppy drunk, pick up some chick, park by a lake, have the car slide out of gear, dip into the lake...leave the woman in a sinking car... and report what happened TEN HOURS LATER after she's been long dead and the car has long sunk. That's some Knight.

    March 4, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Matthew, Detroit

    I love how people who complain about RICH WHITE GUYS,

    dont mind the elitist king kennedy. He tells you people every day that

    you are too stupid to take care of yourselves and that he will make all

    your decisions for you. You dont read any bill you just accept it willingly.

    Jews walked into the showers willingly as well. The Germans even

    put shower heads up so that they could believe the lie easier. They

    new that they were walking to their death but they wanted to believe

    so bad. It is truly amazing that as people you are such sheep.

    Think for yourself and try to come to an honest conclusion.

    By the way if you dont think barack is an elitist who would be king,

    than you are missing the entire point.

    March 4, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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