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British Royals

Honi soit qui mal y pense: the history of the Order of the Garter

The Order of the Garter is the oldest chivalric order in Great Britain. 

King Edward III founded the Most Noble Order of the Garter. It was officially founded in 1348 but may date back to 1344. Reportedly he was inspired by King Arthur and his Round Table of Knights, but he also may have drawn on other European orders created at roughly the same time.

Edward and 25 Founder Knights created the order, including Edward, the Black Prince. They each took their stall in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, and the chapel remains the spiritual home of the order to this day. 

Fittingly, St. George was chosen as the patron saint; any new inductees are announced on St. George’s Day (23 April). Buckingham Palace notes that members 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 Sovereign leads an investiture at St. George’s Chapel on Garter Day in Windsor where any new members are invested with their order, and all living members of the Order process in their ceremonial robes and regalia.

The order remains at 24 members, and the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales. The Order’s motto is Honi soit qui mal y pense (“Shame on him who thinks evil of it”). 

The Sovereign can appoint supernumerary members to the Order now, who do not count towards the limit of 24 Knights. King George III created the title of “Royal Knights and Ladies of the Garter” to allow him to appoint his own sons and relatives to the order without taking away spots from others. In 1813, the first “Stranger Knights and Ladies of the Garter” were announced. Emperor Alexander I of Russia was the first foreign monarch to be given this title. 

As Prince of Wales, Charles was made a Royal Companion of the Order of the Garter in 1958. Upon his mother’s death on 8 September 2022, he became the Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

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