Knighthoods are not hereditary but more frequently conferred, compared to the grades of the peerage.
There are two types of knighthood conferred by the Sovereign: knights of various orders of chivalry, identified by the appropriate letters after the name (e.g. GCMG, GCVO, KCB), and knights bachelor, which in ordinary correspondence carry no letters after the name.
The recipient of a knighthood is allowed to use his title, which is conferred for life, and to attach the appropriate letters for knights of orders of chivalry after his name from the date of the announcement in the London Gazette (known as being ‘gazetted’). He does not have to wait for the accolade to be officially conferred upon him.
The rules for knights can vary depending on the order or whether the recipient has any other order or official function (for example if they are clergy or a peer).
What follows is a more general guide – for specific questions about styling, please contact us.
Formally addressed and referred to as ‘Sir John’.
Envelope: Sir John Smith (and the appropriate letters after the name, if any)
Dear Sir John
Envelope: Sir John Smith (and the appropriate letters after the name)
Spouse of a Knight
The wife of a knight is known as ‘Lady’, followed by her (husband’s) surname (e.g. Lady Smith), and she is addressed as with the wife of a baronet.
She would never be styled ‘Lady Mary Smith’ unless she was the daughter of a Duke, Marquess or Earl. Former wives of knights retain their style as ‘Lady Smith’ unless they remarry.
Formally addressed and referred to as ‘Lady Smith’.
Envelope: Lady Smith
Dear Lady Smith
Envelope: Lady Smith
Husbands of knights do not derive any title or style from their husband.
Precedence of Knights in England and Wales
Knights of the Garter
Knights of the Thistle
Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knights Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India
Knights Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knights Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knights Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire
For In-Depth advice…
or matters that are not covered in our Forms of Address section, please feel free to