The Accolade (1901), by Edmund Leighton

The accolade (also known as dubbing or adoubement) (Latin: benedictio militis) was the central act in the rite of passage ceremonies conferring knighthood in the Middle Ages.[1][2][3][4]


The term accolade entered English by 1591, when Thomas Lodge used it in a historical romance about Robert the Devil: "He had with all solemnitie the accolade, and was commanded to kneele downe to receiue the order of Knighthoode." It derives from the Middle French accolee, meaning an embrace or the bestowal of knighthood thereby, which in turn descends from the Latin collum, meaning "neck".[5]



King John II of France in a ceremony of "adoubement", early 15th century miniature

Accolade ceremonies have taken a variety of forms, including the tapping of the flat side of a knighting sword on the shoulders of a candidate (who is himself sometimes referred to as an accolade during the ceremony)[1][6] or an embrace about the neck.[citation needed]

The earliest reference to the knighting as a formal ceremony in Germany is in the Annals of Aachen under the year 1184, when the Emperor Frederick I's sons, Henry VI and Frederick VI, "were made knights" (facti sunt milites).[7]

Francis Drake (left) being knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581. The recipient is tapped on each shoulder with a sword

An early Germanic coming-of-age ceremony, of presenting a youth with a weapon that was buckled on him, was elaborated in the 10th and 11th centuries as a sign that the minor had come of age. A panel in the Bayeux Tapestry shows the knighting of Harold by William of Normandy, but the specific gesture is not clearly represented.

In medieval France, early ceremonies of the adoubement were purely secular and indicated a young noble coming of age. Around 1200, these ceremonies began to include elements of Christian ritual (such as a night spent in prayers, prior to the rite ).[8]

The increasingly impressive ceremonies surrounding adoubement figured largely in the Romance literature, both in French and in Middle English, particularly those set in the Trojan War or around the legendary personage of Alexander the Great.[9]

Accolade in the 21st century

Accolade performed by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands during the Military Order of William ceremony of Marco Kroon in 2009


Newly inducted military Knights of the Legion of Honour are struck on both shoulders with a sword (Army and Navy) or a dirk (Air Force), if the ceremony is presided over by a military authority.[10] Civilian members and all members of lesser orders (Merit, Arts and Letters...) are not dubbed with a bladed weapon. They receive only the accolade, which has kept in French its ancient meaning of "embrace".

Officers in the French Armed Forces also receive the accolade, but a different version. When they graduate, during the ceremony a senior officer hovers their sword on the kneeling graduate's shoulders as if he were knighting the young officer. This part is called the "adoubement", which has a different meaning than accolade. Adoubement involves the sword, accolade is a movement of the hands which varies in different countries. In France, it can be akin to a hug or a hand on the shoulder.


In the Netherlands, the knights in the exclusive Military Order of William (the Dutch "Victoria Cross") are struck on the left shoulder with the palm of the hand, first by the Dutch monarch (if present) then by the other knights. The new knight does not kneel.[11]

United Kingdom

King George VI knights General Oliver Leese in a field in Italy in 1944.

All newly created knights in the UK are dubbed on both shoulders with a sword by the monarch or the prince delegated by them. In the first example, the "knight-elect" kneels in front of the monarch on a knighting-stool.[1] First, the monarch lays the side of the sword's blade onto the accolade's right shoulder.[1] The monarch then raises the sword just up over the apprentice's head, flips it counterclockwise so that the same side of the blade will come in contact with the knight's body, and places it on his left shoulder.[1] The new knight then stands up, and the king or queen presents him with the insignia of his new order. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase "Arise, Sir ..." is not used.[12] There are currently eleven different knighthoods being bestowed (in ascending order): Knights Bachelor, Knights Commanders and Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Royal Victorian Order, Order of Saint Michael and Saint George and Order of the Bath, Knights of the Order of the Thistle and Knights Companion of the Order of the Garter.

Women who are awarded damehoods do not receive the accolade.[13]

Clergy receiving a knighthood are not dubbed. The use of a sword in this kind of a ceremony is believed to be inappropriate.[1]


Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an order of chivalry under the protection of the Holy See, are dubbed in the head and on both shoulders during the investiture ceremony. The accolade is given during Holy Mass, by the officiating Prelate.

Central Europe

The accolade is also performed today with the unrecognized Habsburg Order of St. George during the investiture with a sword on both shoulders. The ceremony including the oath is performed by Karl von Habsburg or Georg von Habsburg. The knights kneel and the sword touches both shoulders.[14][15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Royal insights". Archived from the original on 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  2. ^ "Knighthood, Chivalry & Tournament -Glossary of Terms (letter "A")". Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Accolade" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 121.
  4. ^ "Castle Life - The International History Project". Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-18.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "accolade". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  6. ^ "Dictionary online reference". Archived from the original on 19 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  7. ^ Joachim Bumke (1991), Courtly Culture: Literature and Society in the High Middle Ages, University of California Press, pp. 232–33.
  8. ^ Dominique Barthélemy, L'Ordre seigneurial: XIe - XIIe siècle, Collection: Nouvelle histoire de la France moderne, vol. 3, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1990, p.190. ISBN 2-02-011554-9
  9. ^ Ackerman, Robert W. "The Knighting Ceremonies in the Middle English Romances." Speculum 19(3): July 1944, 285–313, compared the abbreviated historical accounts with the sometimes fancifully elaborated episodes in the romances.
  10. ^ (in French) Art. 56, Code de la Légion d'honneur
  11. ^ Moed en Trouw door J. Van Zelm van Eldik
  12. ^ "Queen and Honours: Knighthoods". The British Monarchy. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  13. ^ "Guide to the Honours". BBC News. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  14. ^ St.-Georgs-Orden feierte im Dom
  15. ^ Investitur des St. Georgs-Ordens mit Karl Habsburg