Rudy Giuliani's Queen Elizabeth Controversy Fully Explained

September 11, 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, but it seems the tribute given by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has done its best to overshadow the memorial itself. Giuliani, whose response as the city's leader during and after 9/11 prompted a wave of popularity that seems almost inconceivably counter to his reputation now, was largely lambasted by the public for his in memoriam address, which The New York Times called "a wandering, unfunny but still-comic monologue" which veered far afield from a solemn moment meant to remember and honor 9/11 victims and survivors.

As Insider noted, Giuliani's comportment during his address led to a number of alarming rumors, including that Giuliani delivered his speech while inebriated. (Though Giuliani himself denied he was intoxicated, per the Daily Mail, he did admit to having a sole round of scotch whisky.) But his most bizarre behavior by far, it seems, was a tangent involving an anecdote about Queen Elizabeth II, in which Giuliani stated he had turned down being knighted by the reigning British royal. The reason? According to Giuliani, was that a knighthood would cause him to "lose his citizenship." 

But as sites like verified, Giuliani did accept a knighthood from Elizabeth in October 2001 — and the story gets even stranger from there.

Rudy Giuliani's story about his knighthood is swaddled in fabrication

In a distorted, fun-house mirror fashion, there's a kernel of truth to Rudy Giuliani's story. He was, indeed, honored by Queen Elizabeth II with a knighthood for his leadership as New York City mayor on 9/11 only weeks after the terrorist attacks occurred. Everything else, however, appears to be an embellished fiction. According to the fact-checking website, Giuliani, as an American, was granted an honorary knighthood, which is the highest distinction a non-British citizen can receive from a ruling royal, but not a "substantive" one, which is only given to U.K. or Commonwealth citizenry. 

Categorically, its very designation also means it does not in any way usurp the citizenship of whoever receives it. In addition to this, the Los Angeles Times explained shortly following Giuliani's bestowment, his substantive knighthood did not come with a full title (meaning, in this case, sans the honorific of "Sir Rudy"). As Snopes noted, it's possible for those given honorary knighthoods to change to "substantive" ones if they pursue and receive U.K. citizenship, but that comes with a set of standards — for instance, doing the bare minimum to attain it, like establishing U.K. residency as a non-citizen, which Giuliani has never done. 

As of now, it remains unclear as to why Giuliani offered up this provably false anecdote during his 9/11 anniversary speech.