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Queen knights Tony Blair, honors Camilla and officials leading COVID fight

James Bond actor Daniel Craig awarded same title bestowed on fictional spy in UK’s traditional New Year’s Honors

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is shown ahead of a meeting at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, in this November 6, 2019, file photo. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via AP, File)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is shown ahead of a meeting at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, in this November 6, 2019, file photo. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via AP, File)

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II on Friday announced a knighthood for former prime minister Tony Blair, while the traditional New Year’s Honors 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 honor to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen.”

Elizabeth also said on Friday she was appointing her daughter-in-law Camilla, a member of the ancient Order of the Garter, in an apparent boost to her royal standing.

The monarch announced she was adding Camilla, the wife of the heir to the throne Prince Charles, to the royal members of the Order, who currently include her children Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward and her eldest grandson Prince William — but not their spouses.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, foreground, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, centre and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge attend an event in celebration of ‘The Big Lunch ‘initiative, during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, Friday June 11, 2021. (Oli Scarff/Pool Photo via AP)

The inclusion of Camilla, who married Charles in 2005, comes as she has taken on more prominent royal duties in recent years and has seen her public approval rating grow.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest order of chivalry in the world, established in 1348 by the queen’s ancestor King Edward III.

Its members are called knights and ladies.

They attend an annual service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, walking in procession wearing white ostrich plumes, blue velvet robes and black velvet hats.

The order includes a maximum of 24 non-royals personally chosen by the monarch.

It is Britain’s highest honor and is awarded for outstanding public service and achievement.

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.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Witty speaks during a press conference about coronavirus in 10 Downing Street in London, March 9, 2020. Whitty has been made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for services to public health in the 2021 New Year honours list (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, file)

Van-Tam in particular has gained a cult following over his colorful use of metaphors involving football and trains at Downing Street news conferences.

The Queen’s traditional annual honors recognize 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 honor at ceremonies during the year.

This time nearly one in five honors 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” honors 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.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, Jan. 25, 2021 (John Sibley/Pool Photo via AP)

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 honor that author Ian Fleming bestowed on his fictional Bond.

Daniel Craig appears during a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Oct. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. Craig has been made an Ordinary Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) on the Diplomatic Service and Overseas List for services to film and theatre in the 2021 New Year honours list (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, file)

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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