Former prime minister Tony Blair has been made a knight of Britain’s most senior order of chivalry, in an honor bestowed directly by the Queen.
Sir Tony said his appointment as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter some 14 years after leaving office was “an immense honor”.
But it is certain to prove controversial among those who blame the former PM for the UK’s involvement in the war in Iraq in 2003.
Founded in 1348 by Edward III, membership of the Garter is awarded personally by the Sovereign to honor those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life, or who have served the sovereign personally.
The knighthood has regularly been bestowed upon former prime ministers, with all of Sir Tony’s nine predecessors receiving the honor apart from Harold Macmillan, who declined the title, and Alec Douglas-Home, who was already a member of the Order of the Thistle before entering Downing Street.
Membership is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living Companions. Current members include former MP Sir John Major, businessman Lord Sainsbury, former head of the civil service Lord Butler, ex-MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller and former chiefs of defense staff Lord Inge, Lord Boyce, and Lord Stirrup.
Former Labour leader Blair, who held the keys to No 10 between 1997 and 2007, 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.
“It was a great privilege to serve as prime minister and I would like to thank all those who served alongside me, in politics, public service, and all parts of our society, for their dedication and commitment to our country.”
Sir Tony became Labour leader following the death of John Smith in 1994 and led the party to a landslide victory in 1997.