Ian McKellen, best known for his part as Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Magneto in the "X-Men" saga, recalls how he was convinced he was the unfortunate victim of a very unfunny practical joke when in 1991 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, on the recommendation of the most unlikely of people.
McKellen received word that he would be honored with the coveted British accolade in 1990, when he got a phone call from the British Ministry, and he was told that the beneficiary of the recommendation came from none other than former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, literally the day she left office.
The actor admits that he was more shocked than anyone. Ian, who was never a keen proponent of the Iron Lady, was blown away when he learned that she had been instrumental in his knighting. In fact he believed that this was the British Ministry's attempt at "pulling his leg."
In a post on his blog, he writes, "I was having breakfast alone in bed, watching the television relay from London, where the cameras were fixed on the front door of Number 10 (Downing Street), waiting for Mrs Thatcher's final exit as Prime Minister...Now the phone rang: 'This is 10 Downing Street'. I thought it was a colleague having a joke but no: 'The Prime Minister has been trying to reach you. She has it in mind... to recommend that the Queen give you a knighthood.'”
He continues: "Flummoxed, I asked for time to think it over. Then, just as I put down the phone, the big black shiny door opened and the Thatchers emerged, she crying a little. It was as if she had kept the world waiting until she knew for sure that I'd been contacted. Of course not. But nevertheless, I suppose the very last thing Thatcher did as prime minster was to organize my knighthood."
Margaret Thatcher passed away last week following a stroke. There is set to be a ceremonial procession attended by royalty, her supporters and advocates preceding a funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Wednesday night.
Though you probably won't find McKellen there. Ever since Thatcher's death, the anti-Thatchers have adopted the song "Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead" in celebratory praise of her departure. But even so, KcKellen isn't without gratitude in recognition of what the former Prime Minister did for him.
He makes an amendment to the Anti-Thatcher adage: "Ding dong, maybe, but thanks all the same."