The late Bruce Forsyth was a nationally beloved TV treasure, who spent more than seven decades in the entertainment industry. The variety performer fronted a number of popular shows including ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Generation Game’ and others. The BBC legend was also known for his support and fundraising for charities that helped war veterans, people with disabilities, animals and youth development. These cumulative contributions led to a campaign on Facebook, in newspapers and even from the Government to get Bruce on the Honours List, to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday. Six years before his death, at the age of 83, the popular presenter was finally decorated for his services to the British public and the noble causes he championed. During his knighthood ceremony in 2011, Bruce was praised by Her Majesty who endowed him with a subtle sign of respect and thanks on behalf of the nation.
Despite decades of tickling audiences across the country and working hard for humanitarian causes, Bruce feared he would never be knighted.
The TV star, who was awarded with a CBE in 2006, claimed the pressure increased as people from “all walks of life” regularly questioned why he hadn’t received the Queen’s top honour.
Bruce described “five years of torment” in the lead up to it happening, where despite having a lengthy career he appeared to crave affirmation from the honorary title.
Following the ceremony, he described: “It’s beginning to sink in now and it’s done wonders for my confidence, I’m a pretty confident person.
“But even after 83 years you need a boost now and again. The knighthood has definitely given me a boost.”
The late Bruce Forsyth received an knighthood from the Queen in 2011 after seven decades in showbiz
Bruce Forsyth died in 2017 – his last wife Wilnelia Merced sold their £5.5m mansion this year
During the 2011 ceremony, the Queen delicately touched the shoulder of the ‘Strictly’ star with her father King George VI’s sword and proudly proclaimed him “Sir Bruce Forsyth-Johnson”.
This was one of the first times the star had been referred to by his double-barrelled surname, since shaking it off in his early years in a bid to make the name of his act less of a mouthful.
He recalled the royal praise for his lengthy service in showbiz and appeared shocked to find out that he was just a teenager when he started his act during World War 2.
The star told the Independent: “She said thank you for entertaining the country for such a long time, she was very much on that wave length.
“But she was most intrigued about how long I’d been in show business. I think she was a bit shocked when I said (almost) 70 years.”
Bruce Forsyth met the Queen in 1958 at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Coliseum
The Strictly Come Dancing star started his career under the name ‘Boy Bruce, the Might Atom’ at 14
During those formative years, he operated under ‘Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom’ and toured military bases performing dance acts to troops – his first was at Theatre Royal in Bilston, West Midlands.
He said: “She was asking how old I was when I started and I told her 14, during the war, when you could leave school at 14 and go and work helping the war effort.
“I went on the stage and was travelling up and down the country during the Blitz travelling on trains and sleeping in the luggage racks.”
As the performer walked away from the velvet investiture for his knighthood, he sweetly called out “Good luck” to other recipients.
When one of them joked “We were impressed to see you get off your knees”, the star, who spent decades firing back witty retorts during performances, replied: “That was an effort, I can tell you.”
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Bruce Forsyth feared he hadn’t received a knighthood because he had ‘done something wrong’
Prior to the award, Bruce admitted fears that he wouldn’t live long enough to see himself on the Queen’s Honours List.
Aside from the personal recognition, he revealed that he wanted to share the honour with third wife Wilnelia Merced.
He said: “I did feel as happy for her as I did for me and I can’t wait to call her my lady.”
Bruce spent years defying those who thought he should retire from the entertainment industry.
He officially stepped down from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in 2014 after suffering numerous bouts of bad health – and three years later died of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 89.
At the knighthood ceremony, his commitment to keep Britain laughing was revealed, he said: “Entertaining – it’s been the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do and I’ve done it for many, many years. Who feels like quitting? I want to go on.”