New Year’s Honours: Camilla & Tony Blair join Order of the Garter & Covid heroes recognised

Unsurprisingly, the New Year’s Honours list has recognised hundreds of pandemic heroes, or those who have led through such an uncertain time, but a few personal gifts can be seen. Most notably, however, is The Queen’s award to Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, who is to be installed to the Order of the Garter.

207 people have been honoured for services ‘during Covid-19’ and 17 specifically for ‘services to the Covid-19 response’, making up 19% of the total. Most names are from the fields of science and medicine.

Public health figures, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have both been made Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath for their role in steering England through the pandemic, while Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has been awarded a knighthood for his contributions.

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Dr Jenny Harries, who is chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, has been made a Dame for her services to health, alongside NHS England vaccine deployment lead, Dr Emily Lawson, and Dr June Raine, who is chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Tell me about the British honours system – what’s an MBE anyway?

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, and the Welsh CMO, Dr Frank Atherton, have been knighted.

Those involved in vaccine development have been recognised on the overseas and international list, for helping give Britain one of best jab rollouts on the planet. Americans Rod MacKenzie of Pfizer and Melanie Ivarsson of Moderna receive a Companionship of the Order of St Michael and St George and an OBE respectively. German BioNTech chief business and commercial officer, Sean Marett (left), is also made a Companion.

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Mohammed Aziz, who is Boots’ director of healthcare services, is made an OBE for the testing services provided.

Her Majesty’s daughter-in-law, Camilla, meanwhile, is to be made a Royal Lady of the Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior of the Orders of Chivalry.

This personal gift shows the close bond the pair have, now the Duchess has been a member of the Royal Family for 16 years.

The order was begun by Edward III, and each year a service (usually) takes place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where the members don traditional velvet robes and a feathered Tudor bonnet.

Members of The Royal Family attend a service for the Most Noble Order of the Garter at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor on the 17th June 2019. Picture by James Whatling

The Duchess of Cornwall joins The Queen for the carriage ride back to the private apartments at Windsor Castle, after the Garter Day service 2018.

Members were originally aristocrats who had personally served the Monarch, but this has shifted to recognise public service, contribution to national life, in addition to personal service. The government is not involved in the admission to the Garter.

The number of Knights and Ladies Companion is limited to 24 in total at any one time, but royal members are not limited.

Labour politician Baroness Amos is also to be made a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter, and she will be the first person from an ethnic minority to be appointed. Amos is also a diplomat, who has served as UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and British High Commissioner to Australia.

She was also Leader of the House of Lords and the chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Controversially, former Prime Minister Tony Blair will join the two. He is to be installed into the Order of the Garter as a Knight Companion, a personal gift from The Queen. While most PMs are recognised with the honour, it is usually much closer to the end of their tenure.

It has been thought the two had something of a tense relationship, particularly due to the Annus Horribilis of 1997, and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, which was a low point for the popularity of the Monarchy.

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Blair said it was an ‘immense honour’.

In the entertainment world, Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave have been made Dames, while Daniel Craig is to join the Order of St Michael and St George as a Companion.

Lumley said: “I am astonished and thrilled and touched beyond words to receive this colossal honour.It comes as a complete and unexpected surprise, and is the kindest and most beautiful present imaginable.”

Former Spice Girl, Mel B, has been made an MBE for her work with domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid, while Katie Piper is awarded an OBE for her services to charity and victims of disfigurement injuries.

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Comedian Adam Hills has been made an MBE for his contributions to Paralympic sport and disability awareness and TV personality Martin Lewis has been made a CBE for services to broadcasting and consumer rights.

The youngest recipient was Tobias Weller, 11, who has cerebral palsy and autism. Inspired by Captain Tom Moore, he raised money during the pandemic, totalling more than £150,000; Tobias has been given a British Empire Medal.

In the world of sport, Olympians Laura and Jason Kenny have been created a Knight and a Dame in the list, with both being the most awarded athletes in British history, and tennis star Emma Raducanu has been made an MBE. Raducanu also won BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

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Diver Tom Daley will be made an OBE, while his partner, Matty Lee, will be made an MBE, the lower ranking honour.

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