Turning down a British honor isn't uncommon. In fact, it's enough of a thing that Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to it, and several notable names who've done it, including Roald Dahl and Aldous Huxley. But the number of those who've rebuffed the queen is on the upswing, more than doubling over the last nine years, per a closer look by the Guardian. The paper reports that, from 2011 to 2020, nearly 450 people said "thanks, but no thanks" to being knighted or otherwise recognized for their service, contributions, or bravery, per Cabinet Office stats. In 2011, of the nearly 1,987 honors extended, 24 people turned down the offer—1.3% of the potential honorees. This year, however, 68 people out of the 2,504 prospects, or 2.7%, rejected the queen's offers, which she typically makes on her birthday.
So what would make someone turn down the chance to get an official "Sir" or "Dame" in front of their name? The Wikipedia page throws down a laundry list of reasons, from a desire to stay out of the limelight to an aversion to pretension. But the Guardian and Independent note two main factors are an uneasiness with the centuries-old process that has often rewarded political allies with favors, as well as its association with the oppression and racism of the British Empire's imperialism; some of the honorary titles even include the word "empire," such as OBE (officer of the order of the British Empire), CBE (commander), and MBE (member). "Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a nonexistent empire," author JG Ballard, who rejected a CBE offer, said way back in 2003. "It makes us look a laughingstock and encourages deference to the crown." (Read more United Kingdom stories.)