Back in June I was invited to attend the Order of the Garter at Windsor Castle by my new American friend Christine. It was a day of lots of queuing, champagne, tail gate picnic and Royal watching!
It was a super fun day and it was amazing how close we were to the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Princess Anne, and several other kings and queens of various countries! Here is some info on the Order of the Garter for those that are interested. Pics are below!
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 Lady Soames (the youngest daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, also a holder of the Order of the Garter) holds this honour.
|The queue outside of Windsor Castle waiting to be admitted|
|We are in and have great seats to watch the procession down to St. George's Chapel|
|The Royal Guards are standing at attention|
|More posh wives of the Members|
|Here comes the band|
|The procession begins|
|More members-have no idea who is who but some are really quite old|
|The Queen and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge|
|Prince Chuckie, Queenie and Wills - she is so tiny!|
|I believe the boys holding her train are somehow related...|
|After the ceremony, they get a ride back up the hill in a horse drawn carriage-HRH Queen Elizabeth with Camilla|
|Looking right at us!|
|Oh hey Wills!|
|Duke and Duchess of Gloucester|