Alan's Investiture took
place on Wednesday, 19 March 2003, at Buckingham Palace. Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded his honour. Here are some
notes regarding the ceremony:
People whose names are published in the Queen's
Birthday Honours and New Year Honours lists usually receive their
award from the Queen (or the Prince of Wales or, occasionally,
another member of the Royal family) at an Investiture in Buckingham
Palace. Usually twenty Investitures are held in the Ballroom
at the Palace each year, with another at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
in Edinburgh and sometimes one more at Cardiff Castle in Wales.
Up to 150 recipients attend each ceremony, and
each recipient can nominate three friends or relations to sit
in the audience to witness the occasion. The Queen enters the
room attended by two Gurkha Orderly Officers, a tradition begun
by Queen Victoria in 1876. Also on duty are members of the Queen's
Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard, which was created by Henry
VII in 1485. Music is provided by either a military band or an
orchestra from the Purcell School of Music. The Queen, or the
member of the Royal family holding the Investiture, remains standing
throughout. Each Investiture takes about an hour.
After the National Anthem has been played either
the Lord Chamberlain or the Lord Steward announces the name of
each recipient and the achievement for which he or she is being
honoured. After his name is announced, the knight-elect kneels
on a knighting-stool in front of the Queen who then lays the
sword blade on the knight's right and then left shoulder. The
sword she uses belonged to her father, King George VI. [See
After he has been dubbed,
the new knight stands up (contrary to popular belief, the words
'Arise, Sir ---' are not used), and the Queen then invests the
knight with the insignia of the Order to which he has been appointed
(a star or badge, depending on the Order). The Queen then places
the decoration on the person concerned [second and third photos]
before congratulating him on receiving the award. [The badge
of the Knights Bachelor is shown at here.]
The appointment of Knights Bachelor originates
in the Middle Ages and recipients are called "Sir"
but have no post-nominal letters. Alan retained his CBE, and
was formally titled Sir Alan Bates, CBE.
Jasper Gerard meets Sir Alan Bates:
Chinks in a lonely knight's
Sunday Times, 5 January 03. IT'S HARD TO
BELIEVE that our newest theatrical knight glowered to prominence
in "Look Back in Anger." Logs sizzle below Christmas
lights in his glorious farmhouse, from where Sir Alan Bates surveys
his sheep on snow-sprinkled peaks. Such scenes of crackling contentment
are misleading, however. The heart was ripped out of Bates's
life, first when his son died, and then when his wife followed,
as if in sympathy. The knighthood, he says, is for the pair who
cannot make it to the palace.
- about bloody time -
'About bloody time,' sums up the attitude of Bates's
admirers, though the 68-year-old actor mumbles his humble gratitude
and jokes how he is rolling the phrase 'Sir Alan' round his mouth.
He has hopped astutely between
film, television and theatre. A favourite of playwrights including
Osborne and Pinter, he was in at the start of the kitchen sink
drama that revolutionised theatre.
Yet I have harboured a grudge
against Sir Alan ever since my parents declared his sexual performance
with Glenda Jackson in "Women in Love" too athletic
for nippers, and I was sent to bed. Of the film's famous buttock-bearing
brawl with Oliver Reed, he says: "It was strange and difficult.
Not only did he want to be drunk for the scene, he wanted me
to be drunk, too. But my God he was good."
It is something they have been
saying about Bates since childhood (which was more greasy spoon
than greasepaint). His mother took him to Derby's Little Theatre
Club where the young Osborne was acting. He befriended the even
younger Bates. Then an astute teacher nurtured the Bates talent.
"It's why I found "Billy Elliot" terribly moving.
I think every town has a wonderful teacher like that, who just
knows when they spot someone. Friends called him "sissy"
for wanting to be an actor. But he was always a stubborn loner
(some now call him a recluse).
- extraordinary crowd -
bounded into RADA, only to come up against an extraordinary crowd
including Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney. Many such roisterers
became friends. "I've always liked drink, but if I never
had another it wouldn't bother me. Addiction is terrible."
Pause. "I felt Oliver Reed could have been really great
if he didn't have that. When he wasn't drinking he was completely
Clearly it was Reed's hidden sober
side Bates preferred; you notice the longer you are with him,
Sir Alan is rather shy.
Not that he dared let that show
at RADA. "There was a huge sense of competition because
we all knew we had potential," he says. "I was the
only one who was unemployed afterwards," he grimaces, but
here fate was kind: he was free a couple of months later when
Osborne cast "Look Back in Anger."
Bates was slow to realise he was
part of a new theatrical movement. "I just felt lucky to
have some work," he says. "It was nice to have the
aura of an angry young man without having even thought of it.
It wasn't till the play moved to New York I realised this was
He has made American movies but
has turned down most and refused Hollywood contracts. "I
didn't want to be someone else's property and be told what to
do. I would rather come back to Stratford or do 'The Mayor of
Casterbridge' for the BBC." But he admits: "I have
been in rubbish, as there was the matter of school fees."
So did he never envy Michael Caine
the ease of the Bel Air pool? "He says he does everything
he is offered and one in 10 will be good, and that's great,"
says Bates politely. "But he didn't do theatre, which allows
you to be more in control. I remember being told I was up for
an Oscar on the day I was playing a matinee in Bristol to nine
people. But that's the wonderful irony: it was in Bristol I was
doing the nitty gritty of the job."
- theatrical tradition -
Whereas the late
Richard Harris told me he resented Hollywood for not rewarding
great British and Irish actors with Oscars, Bates thinks we trumpet
our theatrical tradition too much. While he has huge admiration
for Olivier, whom he worked with, he considers it British arrogance
not to recognise the comparable greatness of Pacino, Hoffman
and De Niro.
Working with Olivier sounds rather
trying. "You were on your toes the whole time," he
recalls. "When I took over from him in 'The Three Sisters'
I made my entrance with my back to the audience. And he said
quite curtly: 'What are you doing that for?' But he had done
it the same way. I'm sure he said that to see what I was made
Some highbrows snipe that Bates
has avoided classical roles. The charge seems to rankle as he
rattles off a credit list getting on for the complete works of
Shakespeare. Compellingly, he adds: "When you have Harold
Pinter and Simon Gray sending you scripts, it is hard to say
no." Bates seems to snaffle much of what's best on television,
notably Alan Bennett's "An Englishman Abroad," when
he played Guy Burgess.
Critics, searching for a theme
to the Bates odyssey, have suggested he tends to play ruined
lives. "Most lives are ruined if looked at from a certain
angle," he says softly, managing a weak smile. Pause. "I
am trying to think of a life that isn't ruined, whether by grief
or by someone else." Thirteen years ago his son Tristan
died after a freak asthma attack aged 19 in Tokyo. Two years
later his grieving wife of 23 years, Victoria, breathed her last.
But he seems to have come through it somehow.
always a giveaway, looks ordered and loved. "Well, you do
either collapse or you carry on. You have to draw strength from
those who have gone. You go through a trough of bewilderment.
It's a physical as well as an emotional loss. For a year or two
you think they are going to come through that door. You could
get on the edge of, well, madness." He looks up and his
eyes are filled with tears.
He is silent for an age, but this
is no time to jump in, Paxman-style. "That was a hugely
strong part of my life and it's gone, when it shouldn't have
gone. But my feelings didn't die. They gave me a lot of strength."
He breaks off. "This is a bit rambling, but I am trying
to understand it." Notice the present tense: perhaps loss
that large is never understood.
- contentment -
he rouses himself and says forcefully: "Whatever is left
of my life, and I might die tomorrow, I am still doing for them.
If life is that tenuous you have got to use the time."
It must, though, have seemed easier
to disappear in a fug of despair. "Oh, you can do that,
I've done that, and I wouldn't criticise it. Wasn't it Henry
II where he never smiled again? Well, you can understand that."
It took him three or four years
before he could force the faintest of smiles again. "There
are other people in your life. You have to look around. I've
got another son (Benedick, also an actor). He's married now.
He's going to have a baby. And I have a brother and family. But
for some time I brushed them aside because they had life."
He looks disbelieving at his absurdity:
ignoring the living to imagine the dead. He has been linked to
the actress Angharad Rees, who has also lost a son. Has he found
a new soulmate? "I would hope so, yes." And contentment?
"I can be happy, but I can also plunge," and he stares
out towards his cold sheep. Still, he no longer looks back in
anger. "I can't use that term. You have got to say: it just
is." Mostly, he doesn't even look back in acceptance. He
tries to look forward. |||
The Times of London
Sir Alan's CBE
Note: Alan Bates was appointed CBE (Commander
of the British Empire) in the 1995 Queen's Birthday Honours,
and attended the December ceremony accompanied by his mother,
his brother, Martin Bates, and his son, Benedick. (This honour
entitled him to use the letters CBE after his name; the title
is used even after his knighthood.) |||