Why Keith Richards Was Disgusted by Mick Jagger Being Knighted

Over the years, there have been some epic, very public back-and-forths between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Glancing at the Mick-Keith highlight reel, it’s hard to choose which one was the ugliest of the bunch. There are just too many to count.

But if we had to pick, Keith writing about Mick’s shortcomings below the waist ranks near the top. Likewise, Keith saying Mick should get his tubes tied in 2018 led to dark days between the Glimmer Twins. Both were about as low as things got since Mick considered replacing Keith in the ’70s.

But another explosive chapter in the Stones frontmen’s relationship came just after the turn of the century. That was when Mick had the chance to become a knight. While Queen Elizabeth reportedly disliked the idea, that was nothing compared to the reaction by the legendary Stones guitarist.

Keith absolutely lambasted Mick before and after the Stones singer got knighted in 2003. And, naturally, Mick had an equally biting response for his old bandmate.

Keith went ‘berserk’ because of the Stones’ old problems with the law.

rolling stones in 2016
Rolling Stones Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood arrive to the National Stadium in Santiago on February 1, 2016. | JORGE AMENGUAL/AFP/Getty Images

Keith has never shied away from utter candor when he believes the situation warrants it. Once it became clear Mick would become a knight at Buckingham Palace, Keith went on the record with Uncut Magazine saying he “went f**king berserk” over the news.

You can understand his reasoning. “I thought it was ludicrous to take one of those gongs from the establishment when they did their very best to throw us in jail and kill us at one time,” Keith told Uncut. He was referring to their drug convictions (and brief incarcerations) in 1967.

However, Keith was also looking at the band’s reputation after 40 years as rock ‘n’ rollers. “It’s not what the Stones is about, is it? I don’t want to step onstage with someone wearing a f**king coronet and sporting the old ermine.”

When asked to respond, Mick suggested Keith was jealous of the title and status associated with knighthood. “It’s like children being given an ice cream — one gets one and they all want one.”

Queen Elizabeth apparently sided with Keith on Mick’s knighthood.

rolling stones mick jagger and keith richards in 2002
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger attend a Rolling Stones press conference on May 7, 2002 in New York City. | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

A few years after the fact, we got a few clues as to why Queen Elizabeth didn’t show up to knight Mick. (Prince Charles did so in her place.) Apparently, the queen purposely scheduled surgery the day before so as to have the perfect excuse for missing Mick at Buckingham Palace.

That revelation came in the 2012 unauthorized biography Mick: the Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger. In the book, Christopher Andersen also quotes a royal aide saying “there was absolutely no way in the world that [Queen Elizabeth] was going to take part in that.”

Besides Jagger once calling the queen “Chief Witch,” the long-reigning monarch also reportedly resented Mick’s relationship with Prince Margaret. The Daily Mail reported that each time Tony Blair pitched the idea of Mick getting knighted, she’d reject the idea with two words: “not suitable.”

Queen Elizabeth and Keith Richards might not see eye-to-eye on many things, but on this matter they were perfectly aligned.

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