Why Sir Jony but not Sir Steve

December 31, 2011, 1:24 PM UTC

Two reasons: Jobs’ birthplace and, reportedly, a speaking invitation he blew off in 2009

Ive and Jobs in 2002

The news that Jonathan Ive, Apple’s (AAPL) chief wizard of industrial design, has been made a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) and should henceforth be addressed as Sir Jony, raises once again the question of why his boss and closest collaborator was never so honored.

According to a story that surfaced in the British press 10 months ago, Steve Jobs nearly got his own KBE a year before Ive.

In March, the Telegraph reported that Jobs was put forward for an honorary knighthood in 2009, but the proposal was blocked by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown because Jobs had declined an invitation to speak at the Labor Party’s annual conference.

The Telegraph‘s source, an unnamed former senior member of Parliament, claims Apple was aware of the proposal, which reportedly reached the final stages of approval before it was rejected by Downing Street.

Jobs, however, would never have been Sir Steve, even if his honorary knighthood had gone through. Recipients who don’t have the British monarch as their head of state can append the letters KBE after their name, but not style themselves “Sir.”

This is the second time Sir Jony has made the Crown’s honors list. In 2005 he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), a cut below KBE in the Empire’s hierarchy of  chivalric orders. (See See the Wikipedia entry Orders, decorations, and medals of the United Kingdom for further detail.)

Previous American KBEs include Bill Gates, Billy Graham and Rudolph Giuliani.