Captain Tom Moore has officially become a knight of the realm, after he was knighted by the Queen in a private ceremony in Windsor Castle.
The Queen, 94, used her father’s sword to bestow the honour on him, surrounded by his family.
It’s the first investiture she has carried out in months, having postponed several ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sir Tom won the hearts of the nation - and raised £33 million for NHS charities - after he set out on his challenge to walk 100 lengths of his Bedfordshire garden before his 100th birthday earlier this year.
The ceremony was staged in the open air in the Windsor Castle Quadrangle, shortly after 3pm.
The Queen walked towards the veteran, holding the sword, and smiled as she declared him a Knight Bachelor.
It was her first face-to-face royal engagement with a member of the public since March.
The Queen’s Piper, Pipe Major Richard Grisdale, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, played as she entered the Quadrangle, and she was joined by the Master of the Household, retired Vice Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, who carried the insignia.
One of the Queen’s pages was entrusted with the sword of King George VI, her father.
She lightly touched Sir Tom first on his right shoulder then his left with the blade – dubbing him a knight.
After the ceremony, the Queen spent a few minutes chatting to Sir Tom and his family, and told him: “Thank you so much, an amazing amount of money you raised.”
She was heard to say: “One hundred is a great age.”
She asked him: “Have you been shut up – been isolating?”
She also mentioned the morning’s wedding, telling them: “My granddaughter got married this morning both Philip and I managed to get there – very nice.”
After a refreshment break, Sir Tom told the waiting media: “I am absolutely overawed, this is such a high award and to get it from Her Majesty as well – what more can anyone wish for? This has been an absolutely magnificent day for me.”
Asked whether raising the money was better or meeting the Queen, he said: “The money is very useful but you’ve only one Queen and when you get a message from the Queen there’s no value that can be placed on that.”
He added: “To meet the Queen was more than anyone could expect, never ever did I imagine I would get so close to the Queen and have such a kind message from her, that was really outstanding, it was truly outstanding.”
But he refused to be drawn on what they spoke about.
“That’s between the Queen and I,” he said “I don’t think I’ll tell anybody what she said, it was just the Queen and I speaking privately and it was a great honour for me to be able to speak to her at all.”
However he later admitted: “She did mention I’m 100 and I said to her ‘well you’ve a long way to go yet’, so she’s alright.”
He said: “When you think that about four months ago I was just Tom Moore, now I’m Sir Tom Moore, no one could ever have believed that, in that time it would happen to me.
“I’ve been really honoured that this should happen and I’m thrilled that it did happen, and thank you everyone who subscribed to the fund – I really appreciate it and thank you all very much.”
Sir Tom’s daughter and grandchildren spoke to BBC Breakfast about how proud they were of him and their excitement for the big day.
Hannah Ingram-Moore said: “It is just the most sensational day – of all the things Tom been honoured by, this is just truly the absolute icing on the cake.
“We will take a leisurely pace down to Windsor – no rushing today and no falling, no tripping, and we have a fairly regimented day ahead of us.
“This is, I believe, the first individual investiture.”
His grandson Benjie said: “This is a really special day for the entire family.”
He added: “I just want to say thank you to absolutely everybody who has supported us.
“We would not be in this situation without everyone on the other side of the camera, so, from our family, thank you for putting us in this situation.”
Sir Tom’s granddaughter Georgia said: “We are so proud of him and I’m so excited for this day.”
— Captain Tom Moore (@captaintommoore) July 17, 2020
Ahead of the big day, Captain Tom Moore tweeted: “Good Morning! Ready and raring to go for what is a very special day. Thank you for all the well wishes, as ever, overwhelmed by your support.”
Sir Tom set out to walk 100 lengths of his back garden before his 100th birthday, and hoped to raise £1000.
But his efforts caught the hearts and attention of the nation, and he raised more than £33 million, as he continued to walk longer than his original target too.
His birthday was marked with an RAF flypast, an honourary title of Colonel, and a card from the Queen, hand delivered by her representative in Bedfordshire.
The ceremony is not the first big event at Windsor on Friday. On the morning of 17 July, Princess Beatrice married her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a secret ceremony.
Their wedding had been postponed because of the pandemic.