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Knights of the Garter

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Knights of the Garter

The Order of the Garter is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348.

Edward, the Black Prince (son of Edward the III) was the first Knight of the Order of the Garter

This project is on History Link

The Order, consisting of the King and twenty-five knights, honours those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

The patron saint of the Order is St George (patron saint of soldiers and also of England) and the spiritual home of the Order is St George's Chapel, Windsor.

Every knight is required to display a banner of his arms in the Chapel, together with a helmet, crest and sword and an enamelled stallplate.

These 'achievements' are taken down on the knight's death and the insignia are returned to the Sovereign. The stallplates remain as a memorial and these now form one of the finest collections of heraldry in the world.

The insignia of the Order have developed over the centuries, starting with a garter and badge depicting St George and the Dragon. A collar was added in the sixteenth century, and the star and broad riband in the seventeenth century.

Although the collar could not be decorated with precious stones (the statutes forbid it), the other insignia could be decorated according to taste and affordability. George IV, well-known for his vanity, left 55 different Garter badges of varying styles.

Over the years, a number of knights have been 'degraded' (for the crimes of heresy, treason or cowardice) or even executed - such as Lord Scrope of Masham (a childhood friend of Henry V), and the 3rd Duke of Buckingham in 1521. Charles I wore his Order (ornamented with over 400 diamonds) to his execution in 1649.

From the eighteenth century to 1946, appointments to the Order (and to the Order of the Thistle) were made on advice from government.

Today, the Order has returned to its original function as a mark of Royal favour; Knights of the Garter 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 number of knights is limited to 24, plus Royal knights. For much of its history, the Garter was limited to the aristocracy, but today the knights are from varied backgrounds. If there are vacancies in the Order, appointments are announced on St George's Day (23 April).

Every June, the Knights of the Garter gather at Windsor Castle, where new knights take the oath and are invested with the insignia. A lunch is given in the Waterloo Chamber, after which the knights process to a service in St George's Chapel, wearing their blue velvet robes (with the badge of the Order - St George's Cross within the Garter surrounded by radiating silver beams - on the left shoulder) and black velvet hats with white plumes.

The Queen (whose father George VI appointed her and her husband to the Order in 1947) attends the service as Sovereign of the Order. Other members of the Royal Family in the Order also attend, including The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Princess Royal.

During the Middle Ages ladies were associated with the Order, although unlike today they did not enjoy full membership. One of the last medieval ladies to be honoured was Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII.

After her death in 1509 the Order remained exclusively male, except for reigning queens as Sovereign of the Order, until 1901 when Edward VII made Queen Alexandra a lady of the Order.

In 1987, The Queen decided that women should be eligible for the Garter in the same way as men. Women are therefore included in this number and currently The Baroness Manningham-Buller holds this honour.

View a list of members of the Order of the Garter:

Find out more about the Order of the Garter service in St George's Chapel.

  • Motto: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks this evil)
  • Chapel: St. George's Chapel, Windsor
  • Ranks: Knight or Lady
  • Post-nominals: KG or LG
  • Founded: 1348

List of Knights of the Garter.

Edward III (r.1349–1377)

Richard II (r.1377–1399)

Henry IV (r.1399–1413)

Henry V (r.1413–1422)

Henry VI (r.1422–1461)

Edward IV (r.1461–1470)

Henry VI (r.1470–1471)

During Henry's short second reign, no appointments were made to the Garter

Edward IV (r.1471–1483)

Edward V (r.1483)

Edward V's very short reign saw no Garter appointments

Richard III (r.1483–1485)

Henry VII (r.1485–1509)

Henry VIII (r.1509–1547)

Edward VI (r.1547–1553)

Lady Jane Grey (r.1553)

(by Device of Succession Document of Edward VI, before his death, her cousin Jane (and male heirs) should follow the line of succession of the Tudor dynasty).

Lady Jane's extremely short and disputed reign ended before anyone could be appointed to the Garter. She reigned for only 9 days. She was caught in a power struggle. Married to Guilford Northumberland (son of the Duke of Northumberland), most people found it unbearable he should be made King in her stead as Queen, not least her, who was worried that the Crown might after all not rightfully be hers. In the aftermath, Mary I (daughter of Catherine of Aragon), the rightful heir, did not want to have her executed, but reluctantly had to agree to her beheading too, (months after those of the Northumberlands') as she would always be an unwilling contender (after the Wyatt riots in February 1554) to the Catholic faith she (Mary) so passionately defended.

Mary I (r.1553–1558)

Elizabeth I (r.1558–1603)

James I (r.1603–1625)

Charles I (r.1625–1649)

(Lordprotector Oliver Cromwell)

Charles II (r.1658–1685)

James II (r.1685–1688)

William III & Mary II (r.1689–1694)

William III (r.1694–1702)

Anne (r.1702–1714)

George I (r.1714–1727)

George II (r.1727–1760)

George III (r.1760–1820)

George IV (r.1820–1830)

William IV (r.1830–1837)

Victoria (r.1837–1901)

Edward VII (r.1901–1910)

George V (r.1910–1936)

Edward VIII (r.1936)

Edward VIII admitted no-one to the Order during his short reign

George VI (r.1936–1952)

Elizabeth II (r.1952–2022)

Charles III (r.2022–)