Order of the Garter (established 1348)

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Heir Apparent
Mar 29, 2004

The Order of the Garter is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348.

The Order, consisting of the King and twenty-five knights, was intended by Edward III to be reserved as the highest reward for loyalty and for military merit.

Like the Prince of Wales (the Black Prince), the other founder-knights had all served in the French campaigns of the time, including the battle of Crécy - three were foreigners who had previously sworn allegiance to the English king: four of the knights were under the age of 20 and few were much over the age of 30.

The origin of the emblem of the Order, a blue garter, is obscure. It is said to have been inspired by an incident which took place whilst the King danced with Joan, Countess of Salisbury.

The Countess's garter fell to the floor and after the King retrieved it he tied it to his own leg. Those watching this were apparently amused, but the King admonished them saying, 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' (Shame on him who thinks this evil). This then became the motto of the Order.

Modern scholars think it is more likely that the Order was inspired by the strap used to attach pieces of armour, and that the motto could well have referred to critics of Edward's claim to the throne of France.

The patron saint of the Order is St George (patron saint of soldiers and also of England) and the spiritual home of the Order is St George's Chapel, Windsor. Every knight is required to display a banner of his arms in the Chapel, together with a helmet, crest and sword and an enamelled stallplate.

These 'achievements' are taken down on the knight's death (and the insignia are returned to the Sovereign), but the stallplates remain as a memorial and these now constitute one of the finest collections of heraldry in the world.

The insignia of the Order have developed over the centuries: starting with a garter and badge depicting St George and the Dragon. A collar was added in the sixteenth century, and the star and broad riband in the seventeenth century.

Although the collar could not be decorated with precious stones (the statutes forbid it), the other insignia could be decorated according to taste and affordability. George IV, well-known for his vanity, left 55 different Garter badges of varying styles.

Over the years, a number of knights have been 'degraded' (for the crimes of heresy, treason or cowardice), the most recent example being the Duke of Ormond in 1715, or even executed - such as Lord Scrope of Masham (a childhood friend of Henry V), and the 3rd Duke of Buckingham in 1521. Charles I wore his Order (ornamented with over 400 diamonds) to his execution in 1649.

From the eighteenth century to 1946, appointments to the Order (and to the Order of the Thistle) were made on advice from government.

Today, the Order has returned to its original function as a mark of royal favour; Knights of the Garter are chosen personally by the Sovereign to honour those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

The number of knights is limited to 24 plus royal knights. For much of its history, the Garter was limited to the aristocracy, but today the knights are from varied backgrounds. If there are vacancies in the Order, appointments are announced on St George's Day (23 April).

Every June, the Knights of the Garter gather at Windsor Castle, where new knights take the oath and are invested with the insignia. A lunch is given in the Waterloo Chamber, after which the knights process to a service in St George's Chapel, wearing their blue velvet robes (with the badge of the Order - St George's Cross within the Garter surrounded by radiating silver beams - on the left shoulder) and black velvet hats with white plumes.

The Queen (whose father George VI appointed her and her husband to the Order in 1947), as Sovereign of the Order, attends the service along with other members of the Royal family in the Order, including The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Princess Royal.

During the Middle Ages ladies were associated with the Order, although unlike today they did not enjoy full membership. One of the last medieval ladies to be honoured was Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII.

After her death in 1509 the Order remained exclusively male, except for reigning queens as Sovereign of the Order, until 1901 when Edward VII made Queen Alexandra a lady of the Order.

In 1987, The Queen decided that women should be eligible for the Garter in the same way as men. Women are therefore included in this number and currently Lady Thatcher (formerly Margaret Thatcher, first female prime minister of Great Britain) and Lady Soames (the youngest daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, also a holder of the Order of the Garter) hold this honour.

Since the early fourteenth century, foreign monarchs have been appointed to the Order, as a means of marking and securing alliances - one of the earliest such appointments was that of the Duke of Urbino by Edward IV in 1474.

Such appointments were and are occasionally made to non-Christian rulers (for example, the Shah of Persia in 1902), which prompted some debate over removing Christian imagery (the cross of St George) from the Order when it is given to non-Christian recipients; in the end, the design remained unchanged.

Foreign monarchs in the Order are known as 'Stranger Knights'. These knights are in addition to the number allowed by statute, and they include the kings of Spain and Sweden and the emperor of Japan.
The blue ribbon from the Order of the Garter that King Charles I wore to his execution has been bought by a private buyer for over 4 thousand pounds.

From the BBC


From the picture it looks like only part of the ribbon remains.
According to the article, a number of museums had expressed interest. Are museums really in such bad shape that they couldn't afford that sort of price?
I should certainly think that artifact from Charles I is worth MUCH more than pounds 4,000!
I am reading about order of the Garter on wikipedia,and in the article, it is said that on minor occasions. men can wear "the collar" on the shoulder with their uniforms(instead of the mantle). then I try to find a picture of it. in the trooping the colours thread i do find pictures of the Duke of Edingburgh wearing something like a chain across his shoulder, but it does not look like the Garter collar. can anyone tell me what the name of the chain-like thing is? and can anyone post a picture of any Knight of Garter wearing a collar on the shoulder in his uniform? thanks.
thank you Kelly . but the chain i was talking about is the thing he wears on his right shoulder. the collar is the thing from his left to his right shoulder. is there a specefic name to the chain? what is it for?
Are you talking about the white ribbons? Those are apparently there to hold the collar in place.

Or the blue and gold cord? Those hold the robe together.

I'm looking at the pictures and I'm not seeing any chain on the right shoulder.
florawindsor said:
hi kelly the chains i was talking about is the thing i encircled with red lines.

These aren't "chains at all, there gold braid (cord) on a uniform to show rank.
RoyalProtocol said:
These aren't "chains at all, there gold braid (cord) on a uniform to show rank.
Florawindsor, Royal Protocol,

You're both referring to an aiguillette, a mark of an Aide-de-Camp or Equerry to Her Majesty The Queen, a member of the Royal Family, or someone holding one of the Admiral, General or Marshal ranks in the armed forces. The aiguillette has long been a symbol of those holding these appointments (whether for life or a fixed shorter term). You'll find most senior members of the Royal family are appointed honourary Aides-de-Camp to Her Majesty, or if not, they wear the aiguillette simply by virtue of being an Admiral, General or Air Marshal.
The Queen robes up for the Order of the Garter in Windsor

Just two days after the pomp and splendour of the Trooping the Colour parade, the Queen was celebrating yet another of her country's oldest traditions in splendid style at the Order of the Garter service in Windsor. Wearing the distinctive ostrich-plumed hat and ceremonial robes and accompanied by Prince Phillip, on Monday she joined the 25 Knights and Ladies of the oldest surviving order of chivalry in the world.

The Queen robes up for the Order of the Garter in Windsor
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Information on the Order of the Garter from the royal family's website:

The Monarchy Today > Ceremony and symbol > Ceremonies > Garter Day

Vestments of the Order


Garter Collar (so it says, but the page is labelled "Thistle Badge")


Garter Collar badge (Great George)

Probably made for George II


Another Great George (18th century)


Lesser George sash badge


Worn by George IV when Prince of Wales


Worn by Queen Victoria


Garter Star


The Queen's Garter Star



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Are there any vacancies in the Order right now? From what I have read, it sounds like new Knights are admitted only when there is a vacancy. I do love seeing photos of the Queen in her jewels for this order.
Royal Knights can be admitted at any time, but regular knights need to wait for a vacancy. I don't think there's a vacancy at the moment, though.
Here is the Order of the Garter that was given by James I to his brother-in-law, Danish King Christian IV. It is believed to be the oldest specimen of the Order of the Garter in existence.

Order of the Garter
A bit of trivia also: the riband has been a few shades of blue, but the "cornflower blue" that it is now is where the phrase "true blue" came from.
Royal Knights can be admitted at any time, but regular knights need to wait for a vacancy. I don't think there's a vacancy at the moment, though.

There must be a vacancy, because it's been stated that the two new Knights brought the number to 23. The limit is 24.

(I asked about this earlier and was informed that one Knight resigned too recently to be replaced yet).
I'm just wondering but is the order of the garter only available or given to members of the BRF ? not a Windsor prince's wife ?
I'm just wondering but is the order of the garter only available or given to members of the BRF ? not a Windsor prince's wife ?

Royals are counted in two separate categories to the 24 Knights and Ladies Companion who can be submitted to the Order. You have Royal Knights and Ladies from the BRF solely and then Stranger Knights and Ladies which consist of reigning royal monarchs from around the globe. If a monarch wished either Sophie, Camilla, Catherine or any future spouse to be a member of the Order they could do so.
I was reading the article on wikipedia about the Order of the Garter and got the feeling that this order is a very special one but also a very personal gift from the queen. probably the only order in which the queen really choses the people she gives the order to.
and then i investigated briefly the list of members in it, including the 24 knights, and noticed that many of them were politicians of the Conservative party, including Baroness Tatcher and Sir John Major who were prime-ministers. I see no one from Labour there, for example. Doesn't this constitutes a problem in the public opinion in UK? I mean, the Knights are people the Queen trusts and seem somehow close to her (even if just in official situations and not really friends), right? I know the tories usually have more conections with the aristocracy than any other party, and many of these men besides being politicians are also aristocrats (or at least titled people), but, for example, this is not the case of John Major... Why was he chosen? For his services to the UK as a prime-minister? I doubt so, at least, I cannot figure out Tony Blair wearing the robe with the Order :bang: Isn't the Queen somehow showing her preferences? I know the Order has no power at all, so at the end it doesn't really matter, but still it's symbolical... I wonder how people in the uk look at this?
The Order of the Garter is within the personal gift of the Queen and she never gives reasons for appointments as far as I know.
The Queen is allowed to have a bias in this case because its in her personal gift. If she doesn't like Tony Blair (and who does) the Queen is not obligated to appoint him just because there are Tory members who are knights.
The Queen is free to appoint the entire front bench of the Tory party as long as there were the vacancies
Former British Prime Ministers are almost certain to become members of the Order of Garter at some point, however it's neither an automatic, nor an immediate process; it usually takes several years after PMs left the office for them to be awarded the honour. Margaret Thatcher became a Lady of the Order in 1995 (5 years after she left the office) and John Major became Knight in 2005 (8 years after he left the office). Though I am not one ofTony Blair's biggest fans, he will most probably become Knight at some point, and the same goes for Gordon Brown.

Although only a handful of politicians have actually been awarded the honour of becoming a Knight and/or Lady of the Order of Garter, it is certainly not limited to Conservatives only. For instance, James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minster from 1976 to 1979) was created Knight of the Order in 1987.
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Harold Wilson, Labour Prime Minister 1964-70 and 1974-76 was also a Knight of the Garter.
Wilson and James Callaghan (KG) have been described as the Prime Ministers with whom HM related to/got on with best. Both men were from the Labour Party.
Edward Heath, Conservative Prime Minister 1970-74 received his Garter in 1992.

Former Labour PM Gordon Brown cannot be made a KG before Tony Blair [protocol constraint] and Tony Blair has not been offered it, supposedly due to his being on the outer with the Palace (and Prince William).
A Google search of 'tony blair order of the garter' will bring up a number of possible reasons.
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown cannot be made a KG before Tony Blair [protocol constraint] and Tony Blair has not been offered it, supposedly due to his being on the outer with the Palace (and Prince William).
A Google search of 'tony blair order of the garter' will bring up a number of possible reasons.

I've just looked that up Warren,many thanks and I think it answers my questions :flowers:
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown cannot be made a KG before Tony Blair [protocol constraint] and Tony Blair has not been offered it, supposedly due to his being on the outer with the Palace (and Prince William).
A Google search of 'tony blair order of the garter' will bring up a number of possible reasons.

I don't think there are actually any protocol constraints regarding appointment of former Prime Ministers to the Order.
Edward Heath served as a Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, yet he was appointed to the Order only in 1992 - after Harold Wilson (who served as PM from 1974 to 1976 and became Knight of the Order in 1976) and James Callaghan (who served as PM from 1976 to 1979 and became Knight of the Order in 1987).

In regards to Tony Blair, I do sincerely hope he never becomes Knight of the Order; however, he was a Prime Minister for 10 years - the only Labour leader to lead his party to three consecutive general election victories. Regardless of the unfortunate legacy he has left in certain areas, it would be a great snub to the Labour Party if both its last Prime Ministers were denied the honour.
"Protocol constraints" is a useful term which may disguise unpleasant detail. Not so much a euphemism, but since protocol is an arcane and esoteric subject, further elaboration is neatly sidestepped. :)
The honours system in Britain is broken and everyone admits it. If the Garter is in HM's personal gift and there really are no 'unwritten rules' as to who she appoints, than I can guarantee Tony B will never become a Knight.
The man is universally loathed and millions of people in the UK believe he should be in the dock in the Hague for war crimes rather than a Knight of the Garter.
Any sovereign who would appoint him would have it as the biggest blight on their reign, no matter if they were to be on the throne a hundred years
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