The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor was established to uphold the dignity of the designation of ‘knight’ and act as a registry of all those who have had the honour bestowed upon them. It was initially founded under the auspices of King George V in 1908 and operates as a registered charity, providing guidance to members on protocol and how the designation should be used. In the PDF attachment, you can find out more about what is means to be designated a knight.

Historically, knighthoods were granted to members of the armed forces to commemorate bravery in battle. Today, the designation is often granted to those that have made an outstanding contribution in their field, covering sectors such as the arts, education, law, healthcare and public services.

There are two ceremonies held each year for the awarding of knighthoods: the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. In 2012, Sir Peter Birkett was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours List.

The infographic attachment details some of the top royal honour rankings that can be awarded.


Records show that Knights Bachelor were granted the right to wear distinctive insignia in the form of a riband and badge as far back as 1627, when King Charles I passed a motion decreeing this. However, despite favourable reception and approval by the relevant professional bodies, this was not carried out.

It was not until 1926 that King George V, in response to a petition, gave the authority for Knights Bachelor to wear a distinctive breast badge. A few years later, in 1933, the Royal Mint issued a second version of the badge, which was smaller.

Queen Elizabeth II extended this in 1973 by granting a neck badge, to be worn on a ribbon around the neck. This was smaller and more discreet again and can be worn together with the breast badge to show status.

In 2001, a button-hole rosette was issued, for wearing on occasions where other insignia may be inappropriate. There is also a lady’s brooch, which comes in gold or diamond, and can be worn by the wives and daughters of Knights Bachelor.

A definition of the word ‘insignia’ can be seen in the embedded short video.

Wearing of Decorations

Knights bachelor are permitted to wear the insignia as decoration under certain circumstances and there are strict rules about which insignia can be worn at which time. Each new Knight Bachelor receives a neck badge from the Queen at the time of being honoured. Other insignia, including the breast badge, can be purchased optionally at the expense of the knight. The wearing of the miniature badge alone is prohibited except for times when neither the neck badge nor breast badge is being worn.

Ceremonial Sword

The ceremonial sword used by the Queen today when granting knighthoods was designed by Sir Robert Balchin and wrought by Wilkinson Sword Ltd., with the coats of arms of all Council knights depicted on the blade. It was presented to the Queen and first used in 1996 at the Annual Service. The scabbard of the sword is decorated with the badge of the Knights Bachelor and covered in blue velvet. The sword, which is named Chivalry, was handed by the Queen to the Imperial Society for safekeeping.


The officers of the Imperial Society of the Knights Bachelor are divided into several categories, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen. These include Knights Principal, Registrars of the Society, Honorary Treasurers, Clerks, Prelates, Deans, Prelates Emeritus, Provosts, Genealogists, and Officers and Council.