John Williams becomes an Honorary Knight of the Order of the British Empire
9 October 2023, 16:49 | Updated: 10 October 2023, 09:16
The American film composer’s honorary KBE was one of the final awards approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
John Williams has been awarded a knighthood, in one of the final honorary awards for foreign nationals approved by the late Queen Elizabeth II before she died.
The Schindler’s List and Harry Potter composer was honoured for his services to film music, as one of two of Her Majesty’s final ‘Knights’.
The other is Robert Iger, former CEO of Disney Company, who tweeted his “special congratulations” to John Williams.
“It is an honor for me to join him as an Honorary Knight!” Iger said when the honours were announced in September 2022. “I have always been in awe of his work. May the force be with him!”
The honour was presented to the 91-year-old composer by Dame Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to the United States, in a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington last week.
The awards, listed on the government website, recognise foreign and Commonwealth nationals who have made an outstanding contribution to the UK. The title ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’, however, is reserved for British nationals.
The embassy said the titles and awards were given to eight US Citizens “who have gone above and beyond to change the world around them for the better.”
Previous KBE recipients include director Steven Spielberg, who received one for his contributions to the British film industry in 2000.
WATCH: John Williams at 90 | A Classic FM Exclusive
Williams, 90, has scored countless films including Jaws, Superman, E.T. and Indiana Jones, and is the most Oscar-nominated person alive today, with 52 Academy Award nods. He has also collected 25 Grammys, seven BAFTA awards and five Oscars.
He has a long legacy with the British music scene and recorded some of his most popular film scores in London including Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).
The London Symphony Orchestra, who recorded the original soundtrack for A New Hope under Williams’ baton, tweeted their delight at the news. “Such wonderful news, congratulations John Williams KBE! What an honour to be the last knight of QEII.”
The orchestra added: “We shall raise a glass during today's performances of Return of the Jedi at @RoyalAlbertHall.”
Such wonderful news, congratulations John Williams KBE! What an honour to be the last knight of QEII. We shall raise a glass during today's performances of Return of the Jedi at @RoyalAlbertHall 🍾 https://t.co/RRODW78bGg— London Symphony Orchestra (@londonsymphony) September 24, 2022
Williams is set to retire from scoring films after completing his work on the upcoming Indiana Jones 5.
In recent years, the movie maestro has increasingly collaborated with artists in the classical world, composing music for string virtuosos Yo-Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter, and creating an album with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra which became the best-selling orchestral album of 2020.
In an exclusive interview with Classic FM in 2022, Williams expressed his gratitude “for music itself”.
“We can think of music as a living thing,” the composer said. “Once it’s released from the composer’s pen, it’s out there, it’s alive. Whatever Tchaikovsky has written, whatever Schoenberg has written is still alive and with us.
“You and I are talking,” Williams added, speaking to Classic FM’s Andrew Collins. “Right now, we’re in Los Angeles, and you’re from Great Britain. What has brought us together? Music. That’s the reason we’re together in this room, not because of airplanes or of cameras or any of your technology, but music.”