Tony Blair, the Queen & the Riddle of Ellen's Damehood

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Byline: LORRAINE FISHER and OONAGH BLACKMAN, Political Editor

THE Queen and Tony Blair were at the centre of a bizarre riddle over yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur's Damehood last night.

It began on Monday when the sailor received an email from her project manager telling her about the honour.

He claimed Tony Blair wanted to award her only a CBE, but the Queen had overruled him and demanded that Ellen be made a Dame.

Downing Street and Buckingham Palace denied the allegation, which was made in an ITV documentary screened last night.

But Ellen's project manager Mark Turner confirmed that, at first, No10 had wanted to give her a CBE. Within two-and-a-half hours, however, they had changed their mind and upgraded her honour.

Mr Turner was contacted by Downing Street at 5.30pm on Monday, five hours before Ellen broke the solo round-the-world sailing record.

He said: "They asked if I could pass the message on to Ellen to ask whether she was willing to accept a CBE. It was quite difficult for me to get hold of her on the boat. …