Queen Elizabeth II on Friday announced a knighthood for former prime minister Tony Blair, while the traditional New Year’s Honours also decorated officials who spearheaded Britain’s fight against Covid-19.
The Queen personally appointed Blair as Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the most senior order of knighthood.
She previously knighted former Conservative prime minister John Major in this way in 2005.
Blair, now 68, defeated Major with a landslide Labour victory in 1997 and spent a decade in office.
His successes included securing peace in Northern Ireland and massively expanding gay rights. But he was widely reviled at home for his support for the 2003 US-led war in Iraq.
Blair said “It is an immense honour to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen.”
The main New Year’s Honours list gave knighthoods to Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, and England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam.
Van-Tam in particular has gained a cult following over his colourful use of metaphors involving football and trains at Downing Street news conferences.
The Queen’s traditional annual honours recognise the achievements and contributions of people across Britain, including a minority from the worlds of showbiz, sport and politics.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson then signs off on the choices, before the Queen awards the honour at ceremonies during the year.
This time nearly one in five honours were virus-related, the Cabinet Office said.
The recipients “have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world,” Johnson said.
The chief scientific advisor to the government, Patrick Vallance, became a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath after receiving a knighthood in 2019. His counterparts in Scotland and Wales were also knighted Friday.
Vallance said he was “really pleased” honours were going to “those that have been working tirelessly as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
There was a damehood for Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, a government agency created during the pandemic.
The UK’s medicine regulator, the Medicines and the Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, in December 2020 became the world’s first to approve the Pfizer vaccine. Its chief executive, June Raine, also becomes a dame.
Daniel Craig, 53, who played James Bond for the fifth and final time in “No Time To Die”, released September, was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, a rare honour that author Ian Fleming bestowed on his fictional Bond.
The US producer of the Bond films for over two decades, Barbara Broccoli, has been made a CBE, or Commander of the British Empire for services to film, drama and philanthropy.
Actress Joanna Lumley, 75, who played champagne-quaffing Patsy in the BBC series “Absolutely Fabulous”, said she was “thrilled and touched beyond words” at becoming a dame.
Songwriter Bernie Taupin, 71, who together with Elton John composed hits such as “Rocket Man” and “Candle In The Wind” was made an OBE (Officer of the British Empire).
Former Spice Girls star Melanie Brown was made an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for her work with domestic violence charity Women’s Aid.
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