KNIGHTS of the Garter
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The Oldest and Highest British Order of Chivalry,
founded in 1348 by Edward III
It was thought that in 1344 King Edward III inspired by the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, made a spectacular demonstration of his interest in Arthurian legend during a massive joust at Windsor Castle. He also promised to renew King Arthur's fraternity of knights with al lthe paragons of knightly virtues with a complement of 300 men. Work also even began on a gigantic circular building two-hundred feet across within the upper ward of the castle to house this so-called Order of the Round Table. The renewal of war with France intervened with this project but in 1348 it was revived in a different guise.
Originally it was intended that the Order of the Garter was to consist of twenty four knights, however during 1349/50 it consisted of himself as Sovereign together with twenty five Knights Companion, one of whom was the Prince of Wales, the Black Prince.These 'founder knights' were military men, skilled in battle and tournaments, few of these knights were much over the age of 30 and four were under the age of 20. The other founder-knights had all served in the French campaigns of the time, including the battle of Crécy and three were foreigners who had previously sworn allegiance to the English king,making twenty six knights in all. it was intended by Edward III to be reserved as the highest reward for loyalty and for military merit.
These Knights included some who owed allegiance to King Edward not as King of England, but as Lord of Gascony . These Companions were known as Stranger Knights a distinction from subjects of the English Crown. Such was the prestige of the Order that during the next hundred years Foreign monarchs in the Order are admitted and known as 'Stranger Knights' and are in addition to the number allowed by statute.
The origin of the symbol of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a blue 'garter' with the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense will probably never be known for certain as the earliest records of the order were destroyed by fire, however the story goes that at a Ball possibly held at Calais, Joan Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter and King Edward seeing her embarrassment picked it up and bound it about his own leg saying in French, Evil, (or shamed) be he that that thinks evil of it' ["shame upon him who thinks evil upon it", or "evil to him who evil thinks"] this is almost certainly a later fiction. This fable appears to have originated in France and was, perhaps, invented to try and bring discredit on the Order. There is a natural unwillingness to believe that the World's foremost Order of Chivalry had so frivolous a beginning. It is thought more likely that as the garter was a small strap used as a device to attach pieces of armour, it might have been thought appropriate to use the garter as a symbol of binding together in common brotherhood. Whilst the motto probably refers to the leading political topic of the 1340's, Edward's claim to the throne of France. The patron saint of the Order of the Garter is St George and as he is the patron saint of soldiers and also of England, the spiritual home of the order has therefore always been St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
The foundation of the Order of the Garter by King Edward III in the early fourteenth century, brought together in close companionship the Sovereign and twenty-fiveof the most outstanding military leaders of the country at that time as a means of marking and securing alliances; it also established a new fellowship in religious worship ' to the honour of Almighty God, the glorious Virgin Saint Mary and St. George the Martyr'. The concept was of a like-minded brotherhood dedicated to service and chivalry.
The insignia of the Order has gradually developed over the centuries,starting with a garter and badge depicting St George and the Dragon.A collar was added in the sixteenth century with the star and broad ribbon being added in the seventeenth century.See pic below.
(The dates are those of appointment or nomination (app), or investiture or installation (inv).
List of first 25 knights below:
During Henry VIII's reign from 1495 - 1547