a light touch on the shoulder with the flat side of the sword or formerly by an embrace, done in the ceremony of conferring knighthood.
The accolade is a ceremony to confer knighthood. It may take many forms, including the tapping of the flat side of a sword on the shoulders of a candidateor an embrace about the neck. In the first example, the “knight-elect” kneels in front of the monarch on a knighting-stool. First, the monarch lays the side of the sword’s blade onto the accolade’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 new knight then stands up, and the king or queen presents him with the insignia of his new order. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “Arise, Sir …” is not used.
There is some disagreement among historians on the actual ceremony and in what time period certain methods could have been used. It could have been an embrace or a slight blow on the neck or cheek. Gregory of Tours wrote that the early kings of France, in conferring the gilt shoulder-belt, kissed the knights on the left cheek. In knighting his son Henry, with the ceremony of the accolade, history records that William the Conqueror used the blow.
Francis Drake (left) being knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581. The recipient is tapped on each shoulder with a sword
The blow, or colée, when first utilized was given with a bare fist, a stout box on the ear. This was later substituted for by a gentle stroke with the flat part of the sword against the side of the neck. This then developed into the custom of tapping on either the right or left shoulder, or both, which is still the tradition in Great Britain today.