Members of the oldest order of chivalry are chosen by the Queen
The Order of the Garter was founded by Edward III nearly 700 years ago, inspired by tales of King Arthur and the Round Table.
The Order is the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain.
It includes the Queen, who is Sovereign of the Garter, several senior royals, and twenty-four knights chosen ‘in recognition of their work’.
Buckingham Palace says the members are ‘chosen personally’ by the Queen.
From the 18th Century the monarch selected members on the advice of the government – but this arrangement was scrapped in 1946 when Clement Attlee, with agreement from Winston Churchill – again made it the sole gift of the Queen.
As a result there is no requirement for the PM to be consulted or offer advice – although they have regular audiences with the Queen and can discuss issues informally.
Those picked have included Marshal of the RAF, Lord Stirrup, and former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Sir Winston Churchill.
Downing Street insisted Tony Blair’s knighthood was a ‘matter for the Queen’ today after more than 600,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be revoked over his role in the Iraq War.
No10 denied that Boris Johnson had ‘any input’ on the decision to elevate the former PM to the Order of the Garter – one of the highest honours that can be bestowed.
But the spokesman appeared to endorse the move by pointing out every other ex-premier before Sir Tony had been offered the Order of the Garter or the Scottish equivalent Order of the Thistle.
The announcement in the New Year honours has caused a storm, with experts saying the 14-year delay between his leaving office and getting the distinction showed the monarch was aware how much backlash there would be. In contrast, John Major received the same honour less than eight years after departing Downing Street.
Ministers suggested that the move unblocks the route for Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May to join the exclusive Garter club. There is also speculation that the Queen might have wanted to spare Prince Charles from making the controversial choice.
A Change.org petition, set up three days ago, aims to strip Sir Tony of the title, accusing him of causing ‘irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society’.
The petition criticises the ex-PM for his role in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and claims he is the ‘least deserving person of any public honour’.
It urges Mr Johnson to ‘petition Her Majesty to have this honour removed’.
However, only petitions launched on the Parliament website can trigger a debate in the Commons – and the official platform has rejected efforts to start similar petitions.
Experts also believe there would be serious difficulties in staging a debate on the award of the honour, as it would amount to criticising the decision of the Queen.
The Queen has made Sir Tony a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
Appointments to the Garter are in the Queen’s gift and are made without prime ministerial advice, and are usually announced on St George’s Day on April 23.
However, the monarch can make the appointments at any time, and chose for Sir Tony’s to coincide with the New Year Honours list.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘Appointments to the Order of the Garter are a matter for her majesty the Queen, there is no involvement from the Prime Minister or the Government.
‘There is no input from the Prime Minister.’
The spokesman added: ‘Every prime minister before Tony Blair has received either the Order of the Garter or the Order of the Thistle.’
That is not quite true as Harold Macmillan turned down the honour when it was offered in 1964.
Sir Keir Starmer – who opposed the Iraq War in 2003 – said the former Labour leader was a ‘very successful prime minister’ and ‘made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country’.
The current Labour premier also argued the appointment is not ‘thorny at all’ amid a growing backlash. But he swiped that Mr Johnson himself should not get an honour when he leaves office – because he has not ‘earned the right’.
Labour MP Graham Stringer, who voted against the Iraq War in 2003, said he agreed with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle that former PMs should be honoured for their service.
‘I think when you have been PM you should probably get your reward unless you are actually convicted of some criminality,’ he told MailOnline.
‘I voted against the iraq War. I think Blair was a good PM for the first six years, and the Iraq War ruined him. But he was PM for 10 years and if the Queen wants to give him the Garter then I think he should have it.’
No10 denied that Boris Johnson (right) had ‘any input’ on the decision to elevate Tony Blair (left) to the Order of the Garter – one of the highest honours that can be bestowed
Sir Keir Starmer today insisted Tony Blair ‘deserves’ his new knighthood after more than 500,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be ‘rescinded’
Previous attempts to start an official petition on the Parliament website have been rejected because they are not allowed to deal with ‘honours or appointments’
The human cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
Tony Blair has long faced criticism for sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq.
The backlash culminated in a devastating report by Sir John Chilcot in 2016 which found the former PM overplayed evidence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
A total of 179 British Armed Forces personnel and Ministry of Defence civilians died serving during the Iraq campaign, which began in March 2003.
A further 457 were killed during deployment to Afghanistan.
UK service personnel withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years in August, but the Taliban retook control of the country within a matter of days.
The astonishing collapse of the Afghan regime prompted the families of British soldiers who died fighting in the country to say they felt like their loved ones had laid down their lives for nothing.
Sir Keir today defended the appointment, telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘I think Tony Blair deserves the honour. He won three elections. He was a very successful prime minister.
‘I haven’t got time this morning to list all of his many achievements which I think vastly improved our country, whether it’s minimum wage, Sure Start for young families.
‘But the one I would pick out in particular is the work he did in Northern Ireland and the peace process and the huge change that has made.
‘I worked myself in Northern Ireland for six years with the police service over there and I saw for myself the profound impact it had on peace, on both communities in Northern Ireland.
‘So, I don’t think it is thorny at all, I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.’
He added: ‘I understand there are strong views on the Iraq war, there were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.’
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup also supported the knighthood.
‘I think he did lots of good things and I think it’s only right that we do honour our previous Prime Ministers,’ she told LBC radio.
Suggesting that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May should now be in line for honours, she said: ‘I think obviously it now opens the doors for others to be recognised in the same way.’
A Change.org petition is urging Boris Johnson to ‘petition Her Majesty to have this honour removed’ from Sir Tony
What are the different ranks of honours awarded by the Queen?
Order of the Garter
Founded in 1348, it is the most senior order of knighthood, outranked only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. Membership, granted for public service or service to the sovereign, is limited to 24 living people plus the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
Companions of Honour (CH)
The Order of the Companions of Honour was founded on June 4 1917 by George V and it limited to just 65 members at any one time. Appointments go to those who have made a long-standing contribution to arts, science, medicine or government.
Two have been named in the latest list – former Labour MP and peer Frank Field, for public and political service, and Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute.
Order of the Bath (DCB/KCB/CB)
This recognises the work of senior military officials and civil servants.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty (KCB) and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (KCB) were honoured in the New Year Honours list.
– Order of St Michael and St George (Knight/GCMG/KCMG/DCMG/CMG)
This recognises service in a foreign country, or in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs, such as the work of diplomats overseas.
James Bond star Daniel Craig, was made a Companion of the Order, which is equivalent to a CBE and means he can use the post-nominals CMG, following his final outing as 007 in No Time To Die.
Knighthood and damehood (Knight/DBE)
These are usually bestowed on people who have made a major contribution at national level, who can use the titles Dame and Sir.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, Wales’ chief medical officer Frank Atherton and Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith were made knights.
There were also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief Dr Jenny Harries and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
People are recognised under this honour if they have have a prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level.
It also goes to those who make a distinguished, innovative contribution to any area.
James Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli was among those made a CBE.
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
People are made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire if they have a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally.
Among the 253 who were honoured in this way were Olympians Adam Peaty and Tom Daley.
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
This rank recognises outstanding achievements or service to the community which have had a long-term significant impact.
A total of 508 people were made Members of the Order of the British Empire in the latest list, including tennis star Emma Raducanu, Diversity member Ashley Banjo and former Spice Girl Mel B.
British Empire Medal (BEM)
The BEM was reintroduced in 2012 by then prime minister David Cameron as part of his bid to make the honours system ‘classless’, saying too few people making a difference in their areas were made MBEs.
The medal went to 361 people in the New Year Honours.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that all former prime ministers should be offered a knighthood because ‘it is one of the toughest jobs in the world’.
Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told MailOnline he could ‘understand the controversy’ and the 14-year delay in the honour ‘speaks for itself’.
‘In all other respects he has been the most successful Labour PM since Clement Attlee and responsible for some major achievements which even as a Conservative I acknowledge,’ Sir Malcolm said.
‘It is now 14 years since he has been PM. That is obviously why there has been this very long delay.
‘If the decision has been reached now I would not myself see it as very controversial.’
Sir Malcolm said there was ‘absolutely no role’ for the PM in elevating people to the Order of the Garter.
However, others have voiced fury at the move.
The twin brother of a soldier who died in Iraq said his ‘blood ran cold’ on hearing the news.
Lance Corporal David Wilson, who was 27 and from Spennymoor, County Durham, died from a gunshot wound at Basra airbase in 2008 where he served with 9 Regiment Army Air Corps.
His twin, Mike Wilson, now 40, said he was ‘disgusted’ that the former premier was awarded a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the New Year Honours list, adding it is ‘an insult to David’s memory’.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil told MailOnline that the announcement of the knighthood for Sir Tony had been helpful for Mr Johnson.
‘I think if I was Boris given the trouble and the hassle he’s got, there’s only one other guy he can put into focus that would create as much controversy – and that is Tony Blair,’ he said.
‘Giving Tony Blair his honour has probably been an inspired blinder for Boris.
‘If you want people to remember a controversial former PM hand Tony Blair a knighthood fast.’
Royal biographer Angela Levin said the Queen had been put in a difficult position but may have taken the unpopular step to spare her the Prince of Wales having to do so later.
She told MailOnline: ‘I think it is a very difficult situation for the Queen and should have been anticipated in advance.
‘Surely it would have been discussed with the Prime Minister and also Prince Charles in case he gets involved on behalf of the Queen.
‘Perhaps the Queen insisted he was knighted because she felt indebted to Blair when Diana died and convinced her to return to Buckingham Palace and change her stiff upper lip approach.’
Sir Tony, 68, led the Labour Party to a landslide general election victory in 1997.
He then went on to win two further general elections before quitting Westminster a decade later, as he handed the keys to Number 10 to his chancellor Gordon Brown.
He was prime minister during the Allied military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
After leaving politics the former barrister became a Middle East envoy and set up his own non-for-profit group, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Each year, Royal Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Garter gather at St George’s Chapel in Windsor for a colourful procession and ceremony.
Crowds watch as they walk down the hill to the chapel from the state apartments, dressed in blue velvet mantles, red velvet hoods, black velvet hats and white ostrich plumes.
Sir Tony, who left Downing Street more than 14 years ago, was one of three new appointments announced by Buckingham Palace.
Sir Tony has faced years of criticism over the Iraq War, culminating in the devastating report by Sir John Chilcot in 2016, which found that the former prime minister overplayed evidence about Saddam Hussein’s weaponry and ignored peaceful means to send troops into the country.
In a devastating set of conclusions, Sir John found Blair presented the case for war with ‘a certainty which was not justified’ based on ‘flawed’ intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Blair then said he would ‘take the same decision’ to invade Iraq again if he was presented with the same intelligence as he set out a defiant defence after being savaged by the Chilcot report.
The former prime minister put on a bullish performance as he responded to the long-awaited report and although he made a grovelling apology for the bloody consequences of the Iraq War, he attempted to shift the blame by saying the intelligence was not his responsibility.
In a remarkable performance of self-defence at a special press conference that lasted for nearly two hours, the visibly humbled former prime minister described the decision to take military action to remove Hussein in 2003 as the ‘hardest, most momentous, most agonising’ of his 10 years in office.
At several points during his speech at Admiralty House in Whitehall he appeared to be close to tears as he accepted the ‘serious criticisms’ made of him and his government in the run up and aftermath of the Iraq War and said he accepted ‘full responsibility, without exception, without excuse’.
Responding to the publication of the Iraq War report, his voice cracked as he said: ‘For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.’
He added later: ‘The decisions I made I have carried with me for 13 years and will do so for the rest of my days. ‘There will not be a day of my life where I do not relive and rethink what happened.
But he claimed the Iraq Inquiry proved ‘there were no lies’ from him over the justification for invading Iraq in March 2003 and showed neither Parliament nor Cabinet were misled.
And in the most extraordinary moment of his lengthy speech, Mr Blair insisted: ‘If I was back in the same place, with the same information I would take the same decision because obviously that was the decision I believe was right.
‘All I’m saying today, because obviously some of the intelligence has turned out to be wrong, the planning wasn’t done properly, I have to accept those criticisims, I accept responsibility for them.’