Image: Sen. Edward Kennedy
Lauren Victoria Burke  /  AP file
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2008.
updated 3/4/2009 3:09:18 PM ET 2009-03-04T20:09:18

He won't be allowed to call himself Sir Ted, but U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy has been awarded an honorary knighthood by Britain.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the honor Wednesday during an address to a joint session of Congress in Washington. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, did not attend Brown's speech.

Brown said Kennedy had helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, expand health care for Americans and improve access to education for children around the world.

"And for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of Sen. Edward Kennedy," Brown said.

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Brown referred to the senator as "Sir Edward Kennedy," although unlike British knights he is not entitled to use the honorific "Sir" before his name.

Knighthoods are bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II, but recipients are selected by the government or an advisory committee.

Kennedy, scion of an Irish-American political dynasty, is known in Britain for his involvement in the long process that led to Northern Ireland's 1998 Good Friday peace accord.

The 77-year-old brother of the late President John F. Kennedy has served in the Senate since 1962.

In a statement, Kennedy said he was "deeply grateful to her majesty the queen and to Prime Minister Brown for this extraordinary honor." Kennedy, whose father, Joseph Kennedy, was U.S. ambassador to Britain between 1938 and 1940, called the knighthood "a reflection not only of my public life, but of things that profoundly matter to me as an individual."

Other Americans to receive honorary knighthoods include Microsoft chief Bill Gates, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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