The Accolade is a painting by British artist Edmund Leighton. It is one of many paintings produced by Leighton in the 1900s on the subject of chivalry, with others including God Speed (1901) and The Dedication (1908). It has been described as among Leighton’s best known works and one of the most recognizable paintings of the period.
There are many stories considering the origin of and inspiration for the painting, although none of them are confirmed. The painting depicts an accolade, a ceremony to confer knighthood. Such ceremonies took many forms, including the tapping of the flat side of a sword on the shoulders of a candidate or an embrace about the neck. In the first example, the “knight-elect” kneels in front of the monarch on a knighting-stool. The monarch lays the side of the sword’s blade onto the candidate’s right shoulder. The monarch then raises the sword gently just up over the apprentice’s head and places it on his left shoulder. The newly appointed knight arises, and the administrator presents him with the insignia of their knightly order. In the painting, the ceremony is performed by a young queen, the knight bowed before her feet in a position of submission and fealty. An audience is gathered on the Queen’s left, serving as witnesses to the ceremony.