Order of the Garter

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The Order of the Garter (originally Order of the Blue Garter) is England’s highest order of chivalry, founded by Edward III and meant to exceed “in majesty, honour and fame all the chivalric orders in the world”.

The exact date of its inception is not known but it is thought that the knights first wore the insignia at a jousting tournament at Eltham Palace outside London in 1348.

The story goes that the beautiful Joan “the Fair Maid of Kent” dropped her garter at a royal ball. King Edward leapt forward, picked up the garter and secured it to his own knee, reproving the smirks of the courtiers with the phrase that has become the motto of the Order: “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (simply, “evil to him whom evil thinks”). Originally it was restricted to the Prince of Wales and 24 other “Valyantest men of the realm” (which, by the way, in theory, have always included women - the lovely Joan was amongst the original "Companions", and incidentally, Alice, the grand-daughter of Geoffrey Chaucer would be honoured during the next century. No woman was honoured between the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VII). These days, members of the Royal family, certain foreign princes and other dignitaries are added to the list.

The order, whilst “open” to all citizens of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, is English. The Scottish equivalent is the Order of the Thistle.

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