British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Tuesday that Queen Elizabeth II would award Sen. Edward M. Kennedy an honorary knighthood.
“I know that you will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most distinguished Senators, known in every continent and a great friend,” Brown told a joint session of Congress Tuesday morning, “Northern Ireland today is at peace, more Americans have health care, children around the world are going to school, and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of, Sen. Edward Kennedy.”
Lawmakers greeted the news that the 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat will be designated a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire, with cheers and a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.
Brown contacted Kennedy, who did not attend the speech, on Tuesday evening to tell him the news.
Kennedy, who is being treated for a malignant brain tumor, has been recovering in Florida since a suffering a seizure Jan. 20 during a post-inaugural lunch at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Spokesman Anthony Coley said Tuesday that Kennedy planned to return to Washington “later this week.” The surviving brother of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy has returned to the Capitol just once since President Obama’s inauguration. On Feb. 9, he cast a key vote to advance the new president’s top priority: an economic stimulus package for the reeling U.S. economy.
Kennedy said in a statement that he was “deeply grateful” for the honor.
“I have always prized the opportunity to work with the British government and strengthen and deepen the role of our two countries as leading beacons of democracy in the world,” he said. “I am proud that I was able to play a part in the decades-long effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland.”