Hollywood A-lister Angelina Jolie took the entertainment industry by storm in 1998 with her award-winning performance in the HBO television film Gia. Since then, she has been turning heads, most recently for her role in the Disney blockbuster Maleficent. Fans of movies and celebrity gossip tabloids are not the only ones taking notice of the ex-Mrs. Pitt.
The queen of the United Kingdom, herself, is a big fan. Jolie was called upon by the British royal family to receive an honor bestowed upon very few Americans. Queen Elizabeth II is selective about who receives this distinction, so to be singled out is a big deal for the acclaimed actor. Interestingly, it wasn’t Jolie’s acting skills that caught the attention of the royal family.
According to the protocol, the Queen mum can grant royal honors to citizens that have made a significant contribution to society. A female candidate receives damehood, while a male becomes a knight. The British government website says, “This is awarded for having a major contribution in any activity, usually at a national level. Other people working in the nominee’s area will see their contribution as inspirational and significant, requiring commitment over a long period of time.”
Several celebrities have received the honor of damehood. Oscar award-winning Emma Thompson was acknowledged for her services to drama. Twiggy, an iconic supermodel from the ’60s, received damehood from the royal family for her contribution to the arts, fashion, and charity, according to Vogue.
In 1970, actor Judi Dench was honored with an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire award. In 1988, she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Actor Maggie Smith became a dame in 1990. She was again honored in 2014 with the Companion of Honor award, which is given “for having a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.”
Before winning an Oscar for her role in The Queen, Helen Mirren was awarded her damehood. Julie Andrews and Elizabeth Taylor also received the prestigious title of dame.
Angelina Jolie is a humanitarian at heart
The successful actor has made a name for herself in Hollywood, starring in films such as Girl, Interrupted and Changeling. She has been a longtime staple of the tabloids, fueled by rumors of her volatile romantic relationships. Being married to actor Brad Pitt thrust her into the center of the entertainment industry.
Her personal life, while strife with turmoil, inspires others to make the world a better place. The mother of six children, three of which she adopted from other countries, is a humanitarian and activist. Jolie continually strives to be an advocate for promoting human rights throughout the world.
She has worked closely as a goodwill ambassador with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Jolie explained to Vogue her role as a special envoy, saying, “My work now involves fighting alongside my colleagues for refugees to have rights and protection, to resist forced returns, and to push for better learning opportunities.”
In 2013, Jolie was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As her father, actor Jon Voight, proudly looked on, Jolie humbly expressed the importance of her humanitarian efforts.
Receiving an honorary title
American citizens technically cannot become dames, a distinction typically reserved for the British. In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II made an exception and bestowed upon Jolie the honorary title of dame. While she can’t officially be called Dame Angelina, she can use the initials DCMG after her name, according to Marie Claire.
The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace in a private audience. Jolie’s ex-husband and six children were introduced to the Queen afterward. The Hollywood A-lister didn’t receive the honor for her acting abilities but instead for her global efforts to end sexual violence against women.
Very few Americans have been honored by the Queen in this fashion. Director Steven Spielberg was granted an honorary knighthood in 2006 for his contribution to the country’s film industry, according to ABC News.
Jolie was humbled by the recognition, telling Entertainment Tonight, “To receive an honor related to foreign policy means a great deal to me, as it is what I wish to dedicate my working life to. Working on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and with survivors of rape is an honor in itself. I know that succeeding in our goals will take a lifetime, and I am dedicated to it for all of mine.”