Find your ancestors in Britain, Knights of the Realm & Commonwealth index

What can these records tell me?

This index spans several centuries, with entries dating back to pre-1500 and continuing on to present day. Each result will provide a transcript that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Biography, which often includes rank or position/occupation
  • Birth year
  • Death year (as applicable)
  • Award – Type of knighthood / order of chivalry
  • Year of award(s)
  • Date(s) of award(s)
  • Remarks – often includes where an individual was dubbed

When searching by name, be sure to check multiple spellings, especially for foreign names.

For a comprehensive list of abbreviations used in this record set, please follow the link for Complete list of abbreviations used in Britain, Knights of the Realm index in the Useful Links & Resources section.

This collection will be updated every six months (January and June) in response to the New Year Honours list and Queen’s Birthday Honours list respectively.

Discover more about the origin of this collection

Colin J Parry has been working on this collection for over 40 years. The work began from a desire to determine how many knights were made in each century and, furthermore, to discover who received such honours and orders of chivalry.

At the time that Parry started this work, there was no comprehensive list of knighthoods in existence. The two most instrumental publications for Parry were Shaw’s The Knights of England (1906) and Metcalfe’s Book of Knights (1885).

While indexing in the 1970s, Parry determined to find the following information about every individual who received such an accolade:

  • Surname and forenames
  • Birth year
  • Death year
  • Type of knighthood / order of chivalry
  • Date of gazetting
  • Reason for receiving the accolade, rank, or position
  • Date of dubbing
  • Remarks (including sources or other additional information

This work involved, in part, picking up where Shaw had left off in examining the London Gazettes, which meant studying the London Gazettes from 1905 onwards (hence the phrase ‘date of gazetting’). A list of the sources used by Parry in compiling this collection can be found in the Useful Links & Resources section, Britain, Knights of the Realm select bibliography.

Parry chose to start his database with knighthoods from the 16th century. Generally, anything prior to this is difficult to verify. However, Parry has been able to confirm some knighthoods predating the 16th century, which has led to the inclusion of several hundred pre-1500 knights in the database. Research continues and pre-1500 entries will continue to grow with future updates to this database.

With the advent of the computer, Parry’s work was transferred over to a digital database. When the London Gazette came online, followed by Who’s Who together with Who was Who, Parry’s work was able to take a significant leap forward and allowed for the inclusion of biographical details for individuals in the database. It has allowed Parry to update his database within a day or two of the New Year and Queen’s Birthday Honours lists.

In 1999, Parry’s friend Don Elliot joined him in compiling information for his database, which allowed the work to move forward at a quicker pace. In 2011, Dr Bruce Durie of the Department of Genealogy at Stathclyde University joined the team. Dr Durie began the enormous task of converting their Microsoft Works database into an excel file.

Parry and his team continue to update the database week by week.

Some difficulties with the work should be noted, most pressing being the variations in the spelling of names, which has led to some confusion regarding potential duplicates. Some individuals, particularly Indian recipients, were listed by titles, such as Bahadur, as well as by names. In some cases, British knights changed their surnames. In such cases, those knights are listed under the name they held when they received their first award.

While it is generally understood that awards are limited to those countries that accepted Her Majesty The Queen as head of state, there are exceptions. However, those awards are then listed as 'honorary'. For example, a recent well-known recipient is Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York. He was awarded honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for his concern for the British victims and their families of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. As the system for awarding such honorary appointments is less comprehensive than that for the substantive awards, this part of the index is not exhaustive.

Occasionally, an individual holding an official position but not actually a knight has been permitted to confer a knighthood on another person. Lists of people permitted to confer such honours on behalf of the sovereign have been included in the chronologies for 18th, 19th, and 20th century knights, which can be viewed by following the link Britain, Knights of the Realm chronologies in the Useful Links & Resources section.