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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Order Of The Garter Day

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in Garter robes by Franz Winterhalter 1842 Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

Today is Garter day… held in June every year. A grand procession of Knights takes place in Windsor castle which is accompanied by a marching band and Officers of The Order dressed in ceremonial dress. The day begins with the Sovereign formally investing any new Companions with the Order's insignia in the Throne Room of the Castle. Members and Officers of The Order attend luncheon held by The Sovereign and then begin a procession to St George’s Chapel. A short service is held and new memembers are installed as companions. Appointments to the Order of The Garter are announced on St George's Day the 23rd April, Gater Day takes place in June which sees members invested within St George's Hall in Windsor Castle.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry and the United Kingdoms third most prestigious honour, only inferior to the Victoria Cross and George Cross.

The Monarch alone can grant membership. He or she is known as the Sovereign of the Garter, and the Prince of Wales is known as a Royal Knight Companion of the Garter, plus not more than 24 Companions, and various supernumerary members known as Royal Knights and Ladies of the Garter. Women were appointed as Ladies of the Garter in the 14th and 15th centuries, but this medieval courtly tradition did not extend beyond the reign of Henry VII. Edward VII appointed his wife Queen Alexandra as a Lady of the Order but it was not until 1987 that women, as ‘Lady Companions’, were entitled to become Garter members on the same terms as men. The first woman to be appointed a full Lady of The Garter was the Duchess of Norfolk in 1990.

Tradition says that to cover a lady’s embarrassment King Edward picked up her garter which had fallen and with the words, ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’, (roughly translated as ‘shame on anyone who thinks evil of this’) buckled it on to his own leg. The phrase remains the motto of the Order.

According to another legend, King Richard I was inspired in the 12th century by St George the Martyr while fighting in the Crusades to tie garters around the legs of his knights, who subsequently won the battle. King Edward III supposedly recalled the event in the 14th century when he founded the Order.

Soon after the founding of the Order, many women were appointed "Ladies of the Garter," but were not knighted as companions. King Henry VII stopped the practice in 1488 and created no more Ladies of the Garter after his mother Margaret Beaufort. The Order was thereafter exclusively male (except, of course, for the occasional female sovereign) until 1901, when King Edward VII created his wife Queen Alexandra a Lady of the Garter. The same occurred when King George V made his consort Queen Mary a Lady of the Garter.

Looking back to the 15th century - Alice Chaucer was granted the honour of being made a Lady of the Garter, her husband had been made a knight of the Garter in 1421, and Alice herself was first granted Garter robes in 1432 and then again in the years 1434-36.

The Investiture of Napoleon III with the Order of the Garter, 18 April 1855 Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

Once the Monarch succeeds their predecessor they instantly inherit The Garter title and regalia. Upon Queen Victoria'a accession to the throne she automatically became Sovereign of each of the British orders of chivalry: the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, St Patrick, Bath, and St Michael and St George

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