The Baroness Valerie Amos, born on the island of Wakenaam, Guyana, is to be appointed as a member of the Order of the Garter, England’s oldest and most senior order of chivalry, becoming the first Black person in 700 years to receive the honour.
The appointment is given to up to 24 “knight and lady companions”. The ceremonial order, founded in 1348, is a recognition of significant public service, made as the personal gift of the monarch.
Baroness Amos, a former Labour cabinet minister, becomes the first black member of the order, the BBC reported. The list of others to be appointed include the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and wife of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.
Amos becomes a “lady companion”, honouring her career as international development secretary, a United Nations under-secretary for humanitarian affairs. and her current role – master of University College, Oxford.
Amos, 67 and Tony Blair, 68, become two of the order’s younger members, with most in their seventies, eighties and above, in a post held until death.
The order, instituted by Edward III in the 14th Century, was rooted in the idea of medieval chivalry and monarchs surrounded by their most senior aristocratic companions.
The modern criteria, according to Buckingham Palace, is to “honour those who have undertaken public service, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the sovereign personally”.
The Queen takes part in an annual procession with members of the order at Windsor Castle, wearing velvet robes and plumed hats.
Baroness Valerie Amos of Brondesbury was appointed a Labour life peer in 1997 and was the first black woman to serve as a Minister in the British cabinet and in the House of Lords. She has consistently sustained an interest in, and a commitment to, development issues, and to equality and human rights.
She was an adviser to the Mandela Government on leadership and change management issues and was Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission between 1989 and 1994. She has also held high office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2001 and 2003 and also held the office of Secretary of State for International Development in 2003.
After a further period in the Lords as spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office she became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council between 2003 and 2007.
Valerie served as UK High Commissioner to Australia before joining the UN in 2010 as Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Her work in the voluntary and charity sector and in other non-governmental organisations has gone hand in hand with her policy and political work. Valerie has served as a Trustee for Voluntary Service Overseas, the Windsor Leadership Trust, Project Hope, and the Institute for Public Policy Research. She has also served as Deputy Chair of the Runnymede Trust.