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Sir Becks? Maybe. But Lady Posh?

Idea of knighthood for David Beckham makes some Britons uneasy -- a title for his ex-Spice Girl wife, queasy.

June 15, 2007|Kim Murphy | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — It has a certain ring to it: Sir David Beckham.

It's the corollary -- Lady Victoria Beckham -- that gives pause.

The former "Posh Spice" is one of several reasons Britons are ambivalent about rumored plans to give the Manchester-turned-Madrid-turned-Los Angeles soccer star a knighthood.

Likewise, there's bemusement over informal talk of putting Beckham on the 20-pound note, a spot historically reserved for people such as the British monarch or economist Adam Smith. If Beckham is such a British hero, some here want to know, why is he moving to Los Angeles?

The controversy arose almost immediately after British papers got wind that Prime Minister Tony Blair was said to be thinking of recommending a knighthood for the 32-year-old soccer player, who has signed a five-year contract to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy, beginning next month.

The honor is intended for those deemed to have rendered exceptional service to the United Kingdom. Sean Connery is a "sir." So is Paul McCartney, along with half a dozen past soccer greats, former Formula One race car drivers Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss and enough cricket players to fill Piccadilly Circus.

Why not Beckham, many have argued, an English soccer legend in his own right and a key political player in London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics?

Lots of reasons, apparently.

First, there were leaks to the Evening Standard that unidentified "civil servants" had created a backlash against the rumored proposal to include Beckham in Blair's imminent list of nominations to precede his departure from office June 27.

The reluctant bureaucrats were said by the newspaper to be concerned that Beckham was about to become a "tax exile" in the United States. Cabinet spokesmen denied there was any such civil service rebellion.

Beckham "is an excellent sportsman who has been a good role model for young people," Jim Devine, a member of Parliament from Livingston, Scotland, said in an interview. "But knighthoods are for people who have lived extraordinary lives, at least that's how it should be, and made major contributions in a broader sense than just having talent to play football."

Actor Michael Caine, himself a sir -- a title he uses with his real name, Maurice Micklewhite -- opined that Beckham seemed "a bit young to be a sir," and noted that he didn't receive the honor until he was more than twice Beckham's age, 66.

Some ordinary Brits have been even less polite. "To honor a tattooed twerp whose only skill is kicking a ball around, and who makes millions in the process, would be an insult to ordinary people who give their all for the benefit of humanity ... without reward," Devon resident Colin Richey said in a letter to the Daily Mirror a few days ago.

"Some patriot," Londoner Margaret King wrote in another letter. "He can't even live here."

The issue of having to call Victoria Beckham "Lady Beckham" (but not "Lady Victoria," since she's not the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl) appears to rise to the level of the insufferable for some. "Is this a Halloween nightmare?" one blogger wanted to know. "I don't think the world is ready for this."

Posh Spice herself has been ready to see the potential fun in it. "I'd love that, that would be quite fabulous. It's just so camp, it's wonderful isn't it? Lady Victoria -- that would be quite amazing," she told the BBC last year.

Beckham's spokesman, Simon Oliveira, professes to know nothing about the footballer's prospects. "To be honest, at the moment it's just media speculation, really," he said. "If David were to receive it, it would be an honor, but we haven't heard anything to either contradict it or support it."

And despite the naysayers, the dominant mood seems to be on the side of giving "Becks" the nod. The former captain of England's national team has been enjoying a resurgent popularity in Britain, brought about by his recent triumphant return to that team after a long time out of the lineup and in exile in Madrid, where he played for the Real Madrid club.

"A knighthood for Beckham would be fitting recognition for someone who's been a lionheart for England," novelist and columnist Tony Parsons wrote in the Daily Mirror. "In an age when it is fashionable to deride patriotism, Beckham is a proud Englishman. As we saw against Brazil on [June 1], he would sweat blood for his country."

kim.murphy@latimes.com

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