Cricketer Sir Alastair Cook, England’s all-time leading run scorer and most capped player, said he did not have the words to describe how special a day it had been as he collected his knighthood.
He is the first England cricketer to be knighted since all-rounder Ian Botham in 2007 and joins an exclusive club of former England cricketers to hold the title, including Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Colin Cowdrey.
He was also awarded an MBE in 2011 and a CBE five years later.
Naturally shy Sir Alastair, speaking after being knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, said: “Seeing my name up there in whatever capacity – you just don’t get used to it.
“You never get used to it and I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing my name with a Sir before it.”
Sir Alastair, who turned 34 on Christmas Day, has not disappeared off the sporting radar as he plays for county side Essex and has also turned his hand to cricket commentary.
The left-handed opener retired from international cricket in the summer and ended his career with 12,472 Test runs and 33 Test centuries – both England records.
Sir Alastair led England for a record 59 Tests, resigning after a four-and-a-half-year tenure in February 2017.
His sheer weight of runs in series victories in Australia in 2010-11 and India in 2012 are also strong in the memory of cricket lovers.
Sir Alastair enjoyed a fairytale farewell as he bookended his Test career with three-figure knocks, having started life with England as a fresh-faced 21-year-old in 2006 with a hundred against the same opponents in Nagpur.
On the moment of being knighted for services to cricket, he said: “It is just weird, when you are told you have to just walk and kneel, that you should get so nervous.
“I have played cricket in front of many thousands and done OK but you get just as nervous just walking and kneeling, which is very strange.”
Sir Alastair said he has had a “fantastic five months” of international retirement, looking after his new baby, and has “not been craving” stepping back into the international fold.
He said: “Not many dads get the opportunity to spend four or five months being at home. In the last 13 or 14 years, I have been away a lot and to get that time has been pretty special.”
His children are Elsie, four, Isobel, two, and Jack, who is five months old.
Sir Alastair said he is “genuinely enjoying” this new phase in his career and had his first batting session with Essex last week.
He thinks they have “a good chance” of winning some trophies and “that is what you want to do as a player, whatever team you are in”.
Sir Alastair is now back in training and “looking forward to it”, he said.
He added: “It has been such a special day. I can’t put into words what it means, because I am not very good at that, but just for my family it has been a very special occasion.
“I am very lucky to have this at the end of my international career.”
The former choirboy shuns the limelight in favour of a quieter life, spending his free time helping on the family farm near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
Actress Sophie Okonedo, 50, who was Oscar nominated for her role in Hotel Rwanda in 2005 and more recently appeared in Antony And Cleopatra at the National Theatre, collected a CBE for services to drama.
In a statement, she said: “I feel honoured to have received my CBE from the Queen this morning.
“I had no idea she would be presenting it, it was so exciting and nerve-wracking to receive it from her.
“I was shaking when I left the stage. I could see my family sitting in the audience beaming. What a wonderful day we had.
“I met many of the other recipients as we were waiting to be honoured and we all had such a nice time exchanging stories and practising our curtsies.”
Former Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore also collected his CBE for services to football.