11 Famous People Who Turned Down a Knighthood

When asked why he refused the honor, musician David Bowie told the Sun, "I seriously don't know what it's for."
When asked why he refused the honor, musician David Bowie told the Sun, "I seriously don't know what it's for."
Jo Hale/Getty Images

Of all the honors that the Queen of England bestows on her subjects, a knighthood is easily the most coveted. To British citizens, few titles could be greater than having a “Sir” or “Dame” in front of their name. So what kind of person would turn down such a title? Surprisingly enough, many notables have done so. Here are some of them.

1. David Bowie

A few rock stars have been knighted, including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger – much to the anger of his fellow Rolling Stone, Keith Richards, who felt that Jagger should have declined … like another of Sir Mick’s friends, David Bowie. Bowie turned down a knighthood in 2003. “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that,” he said. “I seriously don't know what it's for. It's not what I spent my life working for.”

2. Vanessa Redgrave

The Oscar-winning actress is often considered one of the “grand Dames” of the British stage. But unlike Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren, Redgrave actually turned down the title in 1999. Known for supporting various left-wing and humanitarian causes, she might have thought (like many others) that a knighthood would make her too much a part of the establishment. Still, she was happy to be awarded the next-highest honor, a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

3. L.S. Lowry

The artist, famous for paintings of the Lancashire industrial scene, turned down more honors from the Queen than any other individual – a total of five, including an OBE in 1955, a CBE in 1961 and a knighthood in 1968. Always a friend to the working class, he turned down the honors because, according to a friend, he did not want to “change his situation.”

4. Alfred Deakin

The Australian statesman turned down a knighthood in 1887, when Australia was still a colony of Great Britain. He went on to become one of Australia’s founding fathers (it became a nation in 1901) and serve as Prime Minister three times. It seems that his refusal of a knighthood was due to a combination of humility (he would turn down several honors) and his preference for Australia becoming a republic, severing the last of its political links to the British Empire. Australia continued to award knighthoods (conferred by the Crown) after winning independence from Britain, even though many saw them as a remnant of the colonial past. Though it has still not become a republic, Australia finally stopped awarding knighthoods in 1983.

5. Robert Morley

The actor and playwright, famous for playing a variety of rotund eccentrics, accepted an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957, but turned down a knighthood in 1975. Other actors to turn down knighthoods included Trevor Howard, Alistair Sim and Paul Scofield.

6. Aldous Huxley

The essayist and author (Brave New World) refused a knighthood in 1959, only four years before his death. Random fact: Huxley, C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy all died on November 22, 1963.

7. Doris Lessing

When she was young, the Nobel Prize-winning author was an ardent communist, rebelling against the monarchy and the British political system. In 1993, at the age of 74, she refused to be made a Dame. “Surely," she said, "there is something unlikable about a person, when old, accepting honors from an institution she attacked when young?” Some years earlier, she had turned down an OBE, as the honor came from a “non-existent empire.” In 2000, however, she accepted a Companion of Honor (CH), claiming to prefer it because “you’re not called anything."

8. Henry Moore

The great sculptor, a major figure in the modern art movement, was always keen to remember his roots as the son of a Yorkshire coal miner. Hence, he turned down a knighthood in 1951 because he didn't want to be seen as an establishment figure.

9. Rabindranath Tagore

One of India’s great hyphenates – spiritual man, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize (for literature, in 1913), poet, songwriter, dramatist, novelist, painter, educator – Tagore was offered a knighthood by King George V in 1915… and accepted it. However, he renounced his knighthood in 1919, following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which hundreds of Indians, suspected of plotting an insurrection, were gunned down by British troops.

10. Michael Faraday

Just to prove that turning down knighthoods isn’t just for modern-day rebels, Faraday (1791-1867), the great chemist and physicist who discovered the electromagnetic field, also turned down a knighthood.

11. Stephen Hawking

Over a century later, another famed scientist, Stephen Hawking, also reportedly said no to the Queen. According to some, Hawking refused the honor because he believed the UK government wasn't giving enough funding to scientific causes.

Bonus: John Lennon

While turning down returning an MBE, Lennon spelled out his reasons in a letter to the Queen:

"Your Majesty, I am returning this in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon of Bag."

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis.
Daiki Tomidokoro, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

From his turns as unlikely action hero John McClane in the Die Hard series to smaller supporting roles in 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, Bruce Willis has consistently surprised audiences with his eclectic career choices. For more on Willis, including his recording career and how he made movie history with 1988’s original Die Hard, keep reading.

1. Bruce Willis was born in West Germany.

Walter Bruce Willis, the son of a military man, was born on March 19, 1955, while his father was stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Just two years later, parents David and Marlene Willis moved to Carneys Point, New Jersey, where he spent part of his time in both high school and at Montclair State University trying his hand at acting. After his sophomore year, Willis decided to leave college and head to New York City to pursue a performing career.

2. Bruce Willis may have been one of the best bartenders in New York City.

While auditioning for acting roles and scoring the occasional break—he appeared in an off-Broadway play, Heaven and Earth, in 1977—Willis tended bar at Chelsea Central on New York City's Upper West Side. According to actor John Goodman, who knew Willis before either of them became famous, Willis was notable even then. “Bruce was the best bartender in New York,” Goodman told The New York Post in 2017. “He kept an entire joint entertained all night. He just kept the show going. He was amazing.”

3. Bruce Willis was cast in Moonlighting even though ABC thought the role was “uncastable.”

Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting (1985)
Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting.
ABC

Willis had done only some stage work and bit parts in movies like 1980’s The First Deadly Sin with Frank Sinatra and 1982’s The Verdict with Paul Newman before he went in to audition for ABC’s Moonlighting, a send-up of detective dramas. At the time, the role of David Addison was proving so difficult to cast that the network was looking to pay creator Glenn Gordon Caron, director Bob Butler, and co-star Cybill Shepherd to abandon the project. Then Willis auditioned, beating out 3000 other hopefuls and securing the part. The series ran from 1985 to 1989.

4. Thanks to Die Hard, Bruce Willis changed Hollywood salaries forever.

While doing Moonlighting, Willis spent his hiatus shooting feature films like 1987’s Blind Date with Kim Basinger. But it was 1988’s Die Hard that cemented him as a big-screen attraction. The action film about a New York City cop trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper with his estranged wife and a group of terrorists was a hot commodity, and 20th Century Fox agreed to pay Willis the then-astronomical sum of $5 million for the role. (Richard Gere and Clint Eastwood were also considered.) At the time, major stars like Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox were getting roughly $3 million a picture. The payday for Willis had other performers taking notice, and salaries reportedly went up as a result.

“It was an enormous amount of money at the time,” Willis told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. “And I was a TV actor! The day after I signed the deal, every actor in Hollywood’s salary went up to $5 million.”

5. The Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk was based on a song.


Getty Images

Following Die Hard, Willis was a proven box office commodity that could help projects get made. In 1991, he starred in Hudson Hawk, a critical and commercial disappointment about a jewel thief with a love of music who is hired to steal from the Vatican. The film was based in part on a song written by musician Robert Kraft in 1981. Kraft knew Willis, then a bartender and actor, and shared it with him. Over the years, the two continued to shape the song, adding characters and stories. Eventually, it wound up in the hands of screenwriters Stephen De Souza and Daniel Waters.

6. Bruce Willis all but disappeared in Nobody’s Fool.

In contrast to conventional wisdom of the era, Willis parlayed his success as an action hero into opportunities to work with actors and directors he found interesting—even if it meant taking a small supporting role. (Willis spent just 22 minutes onscreen in 1994’s Pulp Fiction as boxer Butch Coolidge.) For 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, he passed on his normal $15 million fee to take $1400 a week since it meant working with Paul Newman. (Newman had forgotten the then-unknown Willis was a bit player in Newman’s 1982 film, The Verdict.) Because Willis felt so strongly Nobody’s Fool was Newman’s film, he opted out of having his photo included in the press kit and his name wasn’t in the production notes.

7. Bruce Willis had his own cartoon series.

In 1996, Willis lent his voice to Bruno the Kid, a syndicated animated series about an 11-year-old spy named Bruno who convinces his handlers he’s really an adult. “Bruno” was Willis’s nickname growing up as well as the name of his musical alter ego. In 1987, Willis released an album, The Return of Bruno, along with a cable special. The cartoon lasted one season.

8. Bruce Willis never finished shooting one of his movies.

In 1997, Willis started shooting Broadway Brawler, a romantic comedy about a washed-up hockey player falling in love. Just 20 days into shooting, Willis used his powers as producer to fire director Lee Grant, Grant’s husband and producer Joe Feury, cinematographer William Fraker, and wardrobe designer Carol Oditz—all reportedly over creative differences. The problems continued even after replacement director Dennis Dugan was brought on board. Rather than continue to waste money on the $28 million movie, studio Cinergi opted to shut it down. Cinergi’s parent company, Disney, absorbed the production costs in exchange for Willis agreeing to star in three Disney movies: Armageddon (1998); The Sixth Sense (1999), Willis’s biggest hit to date; and The Kid (2000).