Arise, Sir David? Friends claim Beckham is set to make Victoria a very happy Lady

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The Independent Online

They got married on thrones, live in a so-called palace and have an annual income of more than £10m. What else might the world's most famous couple need? An aristocratic title, perhaps - a knighthood.

The gossip mill yesterday reached fever pitch that David Beckham - waning brand ambassador, former England captain and now Real Madrid substitute - may hear the words "Arise, Sir David" in the new year.

Victoria Beckham has had showbiz journalists scurrying all week, after raising the prospect in an interview on Monday that she might soon be called "Lady Victoria". Mrs Beckham told the Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley: "Can you imagine? Oh, I'd love that, that would be quite fabulous. It's just so camp, it's wonderful, isn't it? Lady Victoria. Something like that goes in the paper and you think: that would be quite amazing." (In fact, were her husband to be knighted, the former singer would be Lady Beckham. Etiquette allows only the daughters of dukes, earls and marquesses to be addressed by their first names.)

She added that her husband deserved such an honour: "I think David's done a lot for charity. He was heavily involved with the Olympic bid and has given a lot to his country with the football too. And I think he deserves it, but we'll see."

According to an A-list celebrity friend of the couple, the for-now-Mrs Beckham was being coy. The member of the Beckham circle said: "It is true. David is going to get a knighthood. He has got the letter." The rumour spread around showbiz agents and the couple's friends yesterday afternoon, although Beckham's agent denied it was true.

If the story proves correct, it is as yet unclear what the honour would be for. Cruel gags about "services to the male grooming industry" aside, the England team rarely excelled under his captaincy, and Beckham considers himself many years from retirement.

He is the fifth most capped England player of all time, and the only one to score in three different World Cups. He was given an OBE in 2003 for services to football. But knighting a playing footballer would be an unprecedented move. It would place the 31-year-old Real Madrid employee in the company of theWorld Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst, scorer of that 1966 hat-trick.

Beckham's star has lost some of its twinkle. After he resigned the national captaincy in July, the new England coach Steve McLaren dropped the midfielder altogether from his squad. He has even found himself out of favour in Madrid, where he has warmed the substitutes' bench as younger, faster players take to the turf.

Beckham's publicist said last night: "I was with him yesterday and he has not received any letter at all. Perhaps David's friends are picking up the speculation last week that Whitehall are considering him." If Beckham has received a letter, he would be sworn to secrecy - although the story may yet prove to be a wind-up by his celebrity chums.

Buckingham Palace referred queries to Downing Street, who said only: "I'm afraid we don't comment on New Year's Honours. We just publish the list."

Mrs Beckham said earlier this week the couple worried about their lack of friends outside sport. "David has his friends in football, but to be honest with you, over the years, he's been so busy with his football, you don't actually get much time to socialise," she said. "So for the first time, we are getting a little bit more time, so we've got to find him some mates." Sir David wouldn't have any trouble with that.

Football knights

Sir Stanley Matthews

The Wizard of the Dribble played top level football until he was 50. In 1965, he became the first footballer to be knighted.

Sir Matt Busby

The Scot played for Manchester City and was Liverpool captain until the Second World War. Managed Manchester United 1946-1971. Knighted in 1968.

Sir Tom Finney

Finney's loyalty to Preston North End FC is as renowned as his footballing skills. He scored 30 goals for England and was knighted in 1988.

Sir Bobby Charlton

He survived the Munich disaster and went on to win the World Cup in 1966. Knighted in 1994.