It is the oldest Order of Chivalry in Britain, linking the 21st century with the medieval era and today it got new members. Buckingham Palace has announced that the Order of the Garter is to welcome two new appointments.
Dame Mary Peters, the Olympic gold medallist who has gone on to help thousands of young people into sport, is made a Lady Companion of the Order. The Marquess of Salisbury, who was formerly chairman of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation, becomes a Knight Companion. They join an order which was set up by King Edward III over 700 years ago. Their appointment was announced on the official Royal Family Twitter account.
The Order of the Garter was inspired by the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, a popular theme in the time of Edward III. The king was approaching the height of his power when he established the group in 1348 and he based it at Windsor, his birthplace and a royal residence he put great energy into remodelling.
The Order took as its motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, which translates as ‘Shame on him who thinks this evil’. There are several explanations for the use of the phrase, the most popular and romantic being that during a court event at Calais, one of the high born ladies lost her garter while dancing. Edward picked it up to help her and exclaimed to those watching ‘honi soit qui mal y pense’. The motto and the emblem of his order of chivalry were born.
The lady in question was said to be the Countess of Salisbury providing an interesting if somewhat tenuous link with one of the new companions named today. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, has had a long career in politics and served in both the House of Commons and House of Lords. He helped organise the famous flotillia of ships that marked the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
The other new companion, Dame Mary Peters, famously won gold in the pentathlon at the Munich Olympics of 1972 as well as golds in the same event and in the shot put at a string of Commonwealth Games. In 1975, she set up the Mary Peters Trust which helps aspiring athletes through grants and programmes. Among those the trust has supported are the golfer Rory McIlroy and Kelly Gallagher, the skier who won Britain’s first ever Paralympic Winter gold.
The two new members will be invested with their insignia by the Queen at a short ceremony in the Throne Room at Windsor Castle in June. Later that same day, they will be installed in the Order at the traditional ceremony at St. George’s Chapel.
They join a very select band – there are no more than 24 knights and ladies at any one time in the Order and the decision on who gets the honour rests ultimately with the Queen. The Order also includes the Royal Knights and Ladies and the ‘Stranger’ Knights and Ladies, the foreign dignitaries admitted to the Order by the Monarch.