WASHINGTON — – Without most of the trappings of medieval chivalry, Steven Spielberg became the newest honorary knight of the British Empire on Monday — one of the highest honors bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II to those born outside the United Kingdom.
Spielberg received the award at the British Embassy with his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, friends, family and dignitaries from the United States and Great Britain looking on.
The honorary title is for those born outside the United Kingdom who make outstanding contributions to society.
With trademark humility, Spielberg asked "Why me?" after Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador, presented the award at the front of a candlelit ballroom.
Witnesses included retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former NATO commander, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and actress Holly Hunter.
"Mr. Spielberg's career has had a global impact," Meyer said, before hanging a cross-shaped medallion around Spielberg's neck. "But the impact in the United Kingdom stands out. His films helped significantly in the doubling of cinema admission in the UK since the early 1980s."
As an honorary knight, Spielberg was ineligible for the elements of full knighthood, best known from literature and cinema. Nor will Spielberg be addressed as "Sir."
But just the same, the famed director of such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, joins an elite list of American honorary knights.
Others include former Presidents Bush and Reagan, Secretary of State Colin Powell, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, comedian Bob Hope and conductor Andre Previn.