Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Potter author made French knight

JK Rowling
JK Rowling wears the Legion of Honour medal given with the knighthood

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been made a knight of the Legion of Honour, France's highest civilian award.

The best selling writer, whose great-grandfather was French, was given the honorary title by President Nicolas Sarkozy at a ceremony in Paris.

Speaking in fluent French, Rowling apologised to the crowd for giving Potter's evil nemesis a French name.

Voldemort means either thief or flight of death in the language, but Rowling says the bad guy is "100% English".

She added she was just looking for "a name that evokes both power and exoticism" for the dark wizard who can speak to snakes.

Rowling thanked the French public for not bearing a grudge.

President Sarkozy praised the writer for getting millions of children to read again.

Her fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, became a bestseller in France before it was even translated into French, making it the first book in English to top the country's sales chart.

Two knights

Rowling revealed that her great grandfather had also been made a knight of the Legion of Honour for his courage during World War I.

At a special ceremony at the Elysee Palace she said she hoped he would have been pleased to know there were now two knights in the family.

The Legion of Honour was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th Century and is France's elite national merit society.

Only French people can be officially made a member of the society but foreigners can be made honorary knights.

Rowling joins Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand as foreign recipients of the honour.

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