Her Majesty The Queen will be joined by members of the Royal Family next week as she leads the traditional Order of the Garter procession and service in Windsor Castle. The Queen will invest new knights and ladies of the Garter in the Garter Throne Rooms inside the Castle, this year there are two new members to be invested.
The event, which will take place in mid-afternoon on Monday 16th, will be attended by most members of the Royal Family, many of whom are also members of the Order, including the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge.
Viewable from inside the Castle with tickets, the ceremonial procession from the Castle down to the Lower Ward where St George’s Chapel is located is led by The Queen and followed by members of the Order in full mantle and regalia of the Garter. There ceremony is held every year in Windsor and membership of the Order remains within The Queen’s personal gift, where members are not selected by the Government.
The Order of the Garter is one of the oldest orders of chivalry in the world still in existence. Founded in 1348 by King Edward III, legend says the order’s existence came about after a lady’s garter fell off during a ball. The King then apparently picked it up before handing it to the lady, uttering the words ‘Honi soit qui mal y pens’ – ‘shame on he who thinks evil of it’ – which became the Order’s motto.
Only 26 companions can be appointed to the Order at any one time (including the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales), to the degree of Knight of the Garter or Lady of the Garter. Unusually for a British order of chivalry, whilst male members are entitled to the style of “Sir” prefixing their name, female members take the title of “Lady” instead (rather than Dame).
Wives of male members also are permitted the use of the title of “Lady” affixed to their surname, though no equivalent exists for the husbands of Ladies of the Garter.
Members of the Royal Family and honorary members do not count towards the limit of 26 members and are counted as supernumerary members.
Some of Britain’s most famous individuals have been made members of the Order of the Garter through history, from the Dukes of Wellington to Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Edward Heath and Baroness Thatcher (Prime Ministers) to Sir Edmund Hilary (the first man to climb Everest).
The Queen will invest Lord King and Baroness Manningham-Buller on Monday as new members of the Order. Their appointments were announced earlier this year, bringing the Order up to full capacity with its 26 members.
Membership of the Order comes with a few privileges. As well as the title of Sir/Lady (if the recipient is untitled), a place in the Order of Precedence is granted, above baronets and other knights and just below members of the clergy. A right to extra components to a member’s coat of arms also exists, including the right to circle one’s arms with the collar and the Order’s motto on it and the right to use supporters (e.g. lions, unicorns) on their arms – an honour few have outside of the Royal Family.
The Order’s members are often distinguished on formal occasions by the wearing of a striking blue sash (one of the only two orders where the sash is worn from the left shoulder) as well as the distinctive Garter star worn on the breast.
The Garter remains the highest ranking order of chivalry in the UK, followed by the Order of the Thistle which is the highest order of chivalry in Scotland, the service for which is held every other year in Edinburgh.
photo credit: hmcotterill and Royal Central