It’s finally happened. After years of speculation and waiting, though admittedly not on his part, Lewis Hamilton has finally been knighted.
Arise, Sir Lewis Hamilton.
The Formula One champion was made a knight in the New Year Honors list just hours ago, both Sky Sports and the Daily Mail confirm. The distinction was only possible after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, admittedly “under pressure” to make it happen, moved Hamilton to the Diplomatic and Overseas list, which meant he could be granted the title even though he’s no longer a UK resident.
“The 2021 New Year Honors offer us an opportunity to salute their dedication and recognize many who have gone above and beyond in their contribution to our country,” PM Johnson said in a statement.
Hamilton was presented with an MBE (Member Of The Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire) in 2009, and many believed it was high time his title was “upgraded” to knight, especially considering his accomplishments in the sports, his activism and his charitable work. However, the fact that he moved residence from the UK to Monaco and Switzerland, so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes back home, worked against him in receiving said upgrade earlier.
For his part, Hamilton always said the move was a necessary one because he spends most of his time overseas anyway. During this time, he still paid taxes in the UK, but they only covered a fraction of the money he made. Even so, according to a recent report, the HMRC’s UK income Tax Liabilities Statistics for 2019 ranks him among the highest 5,000 taxpayers in the country.
By being included in the Diplomatic and Overseas list (Hamilton is the first sports figure to have had this accommodation made for him), Hamilton’s knighthood means he’s being awarded for work done abroad to give “exceptional service to the UK.” It also means a technicality was used to sidestep the fact that he’s not paying full taxes here.
In short, the backstory to Hamilton’s road to knighthood is a convoluted and, some would say, typically complicated for the Brits. The recognition is way overdue, his supporters believe, but that’s not stopping “haters” from claiming he shouldn’t be given the highest distinction possible for a civilian in a country he no longer calls home. Even one the publications confirming the news does so with the headline “Arise, Sir Tax Exile,” which may be typical of a tabloid but is also indicative of how many must be feeling right now.