Queen Elizabeth II makes Giuliani an honorary knight

Wednesday, February 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ Brash, bold New York met the rarefied world of royal pomp Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II made former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani an honorary knight for his steadfastness after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Former New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik became honorary Commanders of the British Empire. Both said they accepted the awards on behalf of the 366 New York police and firefighters killed when the World Trade Center fell, and the thousands who dug through the wreckage later.

Giuliani, who left office as New York's mayor on Dec. 31, said the royal honors were a reflection of the high esteem in which the world holds New Yorkers since the attacks.

``It means to me recognition for a group of people that went through the worst attack on their country ever and came through stronger than they were before,'' he said outside the palace. ``I'm just honored to be their representative.''

Giuliani, known to Britons before the terror attacks mostly for his crime-fighting and messy personal life, won praise here and around the world for his calm leadership following Sept. 11.

He said that in the dark and frightening days after thousands died in lower Manhattan, he often thought of Londoners' fortitude during the Nazi bombing raids of World War II.

``A number of times I said to the people of New York, 'If the people of Britain can go through the Battle of Britain, being bombed for 13 months, we can accept this and overcome it,''' he recalled.

The queen received the three New Yorkers in Buckingham Palace's gilded ballroom at the end of a ceremony in which she honored a total of 104 people.

Elizabeth handed Giuliani an open case containing a blue and red enameled cross on a red ribbon, which he donned later at a lunch with London's Lord Mayor. He also received the Star of the Knight Commander, a jewel-encrusted silver medal.

The often combative former mayor and the always decorous monarch chatted for a few moments, then shook hands before Giuliani stepped backward and bowed gently.

He did not kneel before the queen for the traditional touching of the sword on each shoulder, a protocol reserved for British subjects who receive a full knighthood.

Elizabeth, whose younger sister, Princess Margaret, died on Saturday, wore a black dress but seemed upbeat. She did not speak to the audience of several hundred people, but talked privately to each honoree.

``She congratulated me for my leadership during a very horrible time,'' Giuliani said later. ``She said it must have been hard. She said that she watched a lot of what happened, and what I had done.''

The queen also said she hoped his life had become less stressful since he left office, he said. Giuliani told her it had.

``I thanked her very much for the support, the love and the generosity of the people of Britain,'' he said. ``At times like that ... you need friends, and we had no better friend than Great Britain.''

The mayor was accompanied by his girlfriend Judith Nathan, his uncle _ a former police officer _ and a longtime aide who lost her firefighter husband on Sept. 11.

Asked if he thought anybody would call him ``Sir Rudy,'' a title he is not entitled to use as an honorary knight, although he can place the letters KBE after his name, Giuliani laughed, ``They won't call me that in Brooklyn.''

The former mayor, who now heads his own consulting firm, later met Prince Andrew and attended Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons ahead of a planned meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Giuliani and his former commissioners also planned to discuss crime-fighting strategies with Home Secretary David Blunkett, Britain's top law enforcement official.

But the Buckingham Palace ceremony was the pomp-filled high point of their visit.

An orchestra of Scots Guards played through the ceremony, and the queen's Yeoman's Guards stood beside her in long red tunics, ruffled white collars and black top hats. All members of the royal household wore black arm bands in Margaret's memory.

Giuliani seemed impressed by the royal surroundings.

``I'm trying to think of in America if we have anything with ceilings this high,'' he gushed. ``This is really magnificent.''