Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Order of the Garter

From the Tudor Society:
The Order of the Garter, officially known as The Most Noble Order of the Garter, is the oldest and highest British order of chivalry. The Order was founded in 1348 by King Edward III and consists of the King (or Queen), their spouse, the Prince of Wales and twenty four Knights. Other members of The Order are known as Royal Knights Companions and Extra or Stranger Knights.

While the members of the Order of the Garter are a small group a new member can be chosen if a vacancy becomes available. A new member of The Order is chosen personally by the ruling Sovereign and has to be someone who has served the Sovereign, held a public office or contributed to national life. Previously, only men were allowed to be Knighted with the Order of the Garter. Women had been associated with The Order but did not hold full memberships. For example, King Henry VII's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was invested as a Lady of The Order of the Garter but was not considered to be a full member of The Order. In 1987 the current Queen, Elizabeth II, decided that both men and women had equal rights at being elected as a Lady Or Knight Companion of the Garter.

Every person that holds an Order of the Garter is required to display their banner of arms, helmet, crest and sword as well as a stall plate within the stalls of St George's Chapel. Upon a Knight or Lady's death, their banner of arms, helmet, crest and sword are removed, leaving only the stall plate. The Stalls at St George's Chapel contain stall plates of previous knights dating back over six hundred years.

Previously, an appointment to the Order was only for aristocracy but in today's modern times a person can be from a non-royal background. If there are vacancies within the Order, appointments are made on 23rd April, which is St George’s Day in England. A person who previously held an Order of the Garter can have it removed if they do not honour the title. Under the rule of Henry VIII several members of the Garter lost their title, these include Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, who was executed in 1521 for treason, Sir Nicholas Carew, who was also executed for treason in 1539, and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was executed for treason in 1547.

Many famous Tudor personalities have received the Order of the Garter, the most famous of these being King Henry VIII. On Saturday 1st November 1494 young Henry Tudor was created Duke of York in a lavish ceremony. Then on the 17th of May 1495 Henry was created a Knight of the Garter by order of his father King Henry VII. For the occasion, the young boy, only three and a half years of age, wore a crimson velvet gown and a bonnet of the same colour. It is most likely that the ceremony took place at St George's Chapel, the home of the patron Saint George. It is interesting to note that the traditional colour worn during the Order of the Garter ceremony is a mantle of blue and yet Henry VII chose for his son a crimson gown. Perhaps this was to signify his son's status as Duke of York and his royal lineage. (Read more.)

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