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A Windsor Guide from c.1811

An Account of The Most Noble Order of The Garter

The final chapter of a series taken from Charles Knight's 'Guide to Windsor' describing the Castle in his time. For more information about the booklet and texts, please see the information panel in Chapter 1.

Editor's Note: The following description of the Most Noble Order of The Garter will be augmented as time permits with illustrations and more recent descriptions of the pageantry and ceremony associated with this most famous of institutions. We would welcome your photographs from recent times.

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The Order of The Garter - pictures and more info links

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3 The Castle - Upper Ward

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5 The Castle - Lower Ward

6a St George's Chapel

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8 The Royal Lodges and Parks

9 Of The Order of The Garter

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9 An Account Of The Order of The Garter

The Deans Cloister, Windsor Castle
The Knights of the Garter proceeding from the Deanery
to their stalls in St George's Chapel, March 10th 1863
(© Thamesweb)

This Most Noble Order of the Garter, is allowed to excel all other institutions of honour in the whole world; and though various are the accounts given by different historians, of the origin and institution of it, yet the most authentic records agree in the following particulars:

King Edward III, influenced by a thirst for martial glory, gave himself up to military affairs, making St. George the martyr, who was a man of great renown for chivalry, his patron; and being engaged in a war, for the recovering his rights in France, and making use of the best martialists of the age, he thereupon designed (induced by its ancient fame) to restore King Arthur's round table, and for that purpose invited hither the gallant spirits from abroad; and that he might endear and bind them to himself, he, upon New Year's Day, 1344, issued out letters of protection, for the safe going and returning of foreign knights, to try their valour at the solemn jousts, to be held at Windsor, on the 19th of January ensuing, when he provided a great supper to begin the solemnity; and then ordaining this festival to be annually held at Whitsuntide, he, for that purpose, erected a particular building in the Castle, wherein he placed a table, 200 feet in diameter, and thereat entertained the knights at his own expense of £100 a week. And about three years after, issuing out his garter, for the signal of a battle that was crowned with success (which is conceived to be the Battle of Cressy, where he took the French King prisoner, and brought him to England) he, upon so remarkable a victory, took occasion to institute this order, giving the garter pre-eminence amongst its ensigns, whence the select number whom he first incorporated, were styled Knights of the Golden Garter; an order by companionship, illustrated by eight Emperors of Germany, five Kings of France, three Kings of Spain, seven Kings of Portugal, one King of Poland, two Kings of Sweden, six Kings of Denmark, two Kings of Scotland, one King of Prussia, one King of Arragon, two Kings of Naples, one King of Sicily and Jerusalem, and one King of Bohemia; seven Princes of Orange, and a numerous list of Princes, Electors, and Dukes, of the first states of Europe.

The Habit and Ensigns of this most noble order, are eminently distinguishable and magnificent, and consist of the following particulars, viz. the garter, mantle, surcoat, hood, george, and collar. The four first were assigned by the founder, and the george and collar by King Henry VIII and all these together are called the whole habit of the order.

The Garter, which, as before mentioned, has the pre-eminence, as being that from which the order is denominated, is the first part of the habit presented to foreign princes and absent knights; who, and with all other knights elect, are therewith first adorned; and is of so great honour and grandeur, that by the bare investiture with this noble ensign, the knights are esteemed companions of the greatest military order in the world. This noble ensign, the garter, which is worn on the left leg, between the knee and calf, was so instituted by the founder, at the erection of the order, and was to put in mind the companions, that, as by their order they were joined in a firm league of amity and concord, so by their garters as by a fast tie of affection, they were obliged to love one another. And lest this strict combination might seem to have any other air or end, than what was honourable and just, as to the said King's obtaining his kingdom of France, etc., he caused to be enamelled on the said garter, this motto "Honi soit qui mal y pense" - Evil be to him that evil thinks.

When the Sovereign designs to elect a companion into this most illustrious order, the Chancellor belonging to the said order, draws up the letters, which, passing both under the sovereign's sign manual and the signet of the order, are sent to the person by Garter, Principal King at Arms, and are to the following effect:

"We, with the companions of our most noble Order of the Garter, assembled in chapter, holden this present day at our Castle of Windsor, considering the various fidelity you have shown, and the honourable exploits you have done in our service, by vindicating and maintaining our just right, etc., have elected and chosen you one of the companions of our Order. Therefore we require you to make your speedy repair unto us, to receive the ensigns thereof, and be ready for your installation, on the _____ day of this present month, etc."

The garter, which is of blue velvet, bordered with fine gold wire, (having commonly the letters of the motto of the same) is buckled upon the leg, at the time of the election, with this ceremony:

"To the honour of God omnipotent, and in memorial of the blessed martyr, St. George, tie about thy leg, for thy renown, this noble garter; wear it as a symbol of the most illustrious order, never to be forgotten or laid aside, that thereby thou may'st be admonished to be courageous; and having undertaken a just war, in which thou shalt be engaged, thou may'st stand firm, valiantly fight, and successfully conquer."

The garter being thus buckled on, and the words of its signification pronounced, the knight elect is brought before the Sovereign, who puts a deep blue riband beltwise over his left shoulder, whereunto is appendant, wrought in gold, within the garter, the image of St. George, on horseback, with his drawn sword encountering the dragon. The admonition is thus:

"Wear this ribband about thy neck, adorned with the image of the blessed martyr and soldier in Christ, St. George, by whose imitation provoked, thou may'st overpass both prosperous and adverse adventures that having stoutly vanquished thine enemies, both of body and soul, thou may'st not only receive the praise of this transient combat, but be crowned with the palm of eternal victory."

Having thus briefly spoken of the institution of the order, and of the garter and george wherewith a knight companion is invested at the time of his election, we shall now proceed to the ceremonial of installation, which is always performed in St. George's Chapel in the lower ward of Windsor Castle.

The commissioners appointed to install the knights elect, being robed in the complete habit of the order, meet in the great chamber of the deanery, where Garter, and the other officers of the order, attend in their habits; and the knights elect come thither in their under habits only, with their caps and feathers in their hands.

When there is a proctor, or proxy, he comes in his ordinary habit.

The knights not named in the commission, are first conducted to the Chapel, preceded by the poor knights, canons of Windsor, and officers at arms, all in their proper habits, who, on entering the choir, make their usual reverences of bowing, first to the altar, and then to the Sovereign's stall; after which, the knights are seated in their respective stalls.

Then the poor knights, canons, etc., return to the dean's hall, from whence the procession begins thus:

Poor Knights, two and two.
Canons, two and two.
Pursuivants, two and two.
Heralds, two and two.
Kings at Arms.
The knights elect, with their caps and feathers in their hands, the Juniors going first.
Register of the Order, with Garter King at Arms on his right hand, and Usher of the Black Rod on his left, in their crimson satin mantles.
Then the knights commissioners in their robes, and covered with their caps and feathers.

Thus the knights are conducted into the north aisle of the Chapel, where they all make a stand, while the knights elect retire to their seats placed behind the altar, and the three officers, Register, Garter, and Black Rod, enter into the chapter house, and after them the knights commissioners, who seat themselves at the table according to their seniority.

Then Garter presents the commission to the senior knight (commissioner) who gives it to the Register to read, which being done, it is returned to him again, who re-delivers it to the Register to be entered.

Garter is now sent to conduct the senior knight elect to the chapter-house door, where he is received by the commissioners; and the same manner the other knights elect are conducted, one by one, according to their seniority.

Garter then presents the Lords-Commissioners the surcoat of the senior knight elect, who invests him therewith, the Register reading this admonitions:

"Take this robe of crimson, to the increase of your honour, and in token and sign of the most noble Order you have received; wherewith you being defended, may be bold, not only strong to fight, but also to offer yourself to shed your blood for Christ's faith, the liberties of the church, and the just and necessary defense of them that are oppressed and needy."

Then Garter presents the crimson velvet girdle to the Lords Commissioners, who buckle it on over the surcoat. Then the hanger and sword, which they also gird on. The same is repeated to all the knights elect, according to their seniority, but the proxies are not invested.

The Commissioners then (leaving the knights elect in the chapter house) proceed to the choir, to offer up the hatchments of the deceased knights, in the following order:

The poor knights, two and two, enter first, and make their references all together, in the middle of the choir, first to the altar and then to the Sovereign's stall, and proceed up as near as they can to the rails of the altar, placing themselves below each other on each side.

The canons follow in the same order, making the like reverences, and stand below the poor knights, excepting two, who are conducted to the altar, in order to receive the hatchments as they are offered.

Pursuivants and heralds at arms, two and two, next enter, making their reverences also, and place themselves on each side below the canons.

Garter, Register, and Black Rod, follow next, and stand before their respective seats.

The last in this part of the procession are the commissioners, who enter in the afore-mentioned manner; and after making their reverences, stand under their banners, before their respective stalls.

Garter then advances to the middle of the choir, where he makes his reverences, and then repairs to the hatchment of the deceased knight, taking up the banner, which he holds almost rolled up; the two other kings at arms then meet, making their reverences, and pass down to the knights commissioners, who thereon join, and receiving the banner from Garter, make their reverences; and being preceded by the two kings at arms, carrying the same to the altar, where, kneeling down, they deliver it to the two canons, who place it upright on the south side of the altar; when the commissioners, having made the same reverences as before, return to their former places under their banners, being waited on by the said kings at arms, who return to their former stations.

Then the two elder heralds meet, and after the same manner conduct the commissioners, who carry up the sword, the hilt being upwards, which is offered in like manner, and return as before.

Lastly, the two next heralds meet in like form, and repair to the Lords Commissioners, to whom Garter delivers the helmet and crest, which are offered in the same manner; and being returned to their former stations, the procession is then made to and from the chapter house, in the following orders. The knights remain standing under their respective stalls.

The poor knights immediately join, make their reverence, and go out of the choir, two and two. Then the canons do the same. Next the officers at arms, as also the officers of the order, do the like. The commissioners, with like ceremony, (the Junior going first if they are not companions) close the rear of the procession, which is made through the aisle, towards the chapter house, when the Poor Knights make a stand, and divide themselves on both sides, at a distance from the door. The officers at arms in like manner, nearest the door.

The officers of the order then enter the chapter house, and after them the Lords Commissioners, who conduct the knight elect from hence to the choir, preceded by the Poor Knights, Prebends, Officers at Arms, and the officers of the Order.

The Poor Knights make their reverences and place themselves on both sides as before, near the altar.

The Prebendaries then enter, with the same reverences, and go to their respective seats. The officers of arms stand next below the poor knights.

The officers of the order follow, Garter in the middle, carrying on a cushion the mantle, hood, great collar, george, and book of statutes, having register on his right hand, carrying the new testament, and the oath fairly written on parchment, and Black Rod on his left: They enter with the like reverences, and proceed to the seat below the stall of the knight elect, where Garter places the cushion, with the ensigns, on the desk; and the officers of the order stand below in the choir.

The commissioners, having between them the knight elect, carrying his cap and feathers in his hand, enter and make the like reverences together; and then these go into the seat below, or under the knight's stall, the senior commissioner entering first.

The knight elect being thus conducted into the seat below his stall; takes the following oath, which is administered by the Register of the Garter:

"You being chosen to be one of the honourable company of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, shall promise and swear by the holy evangelists, by you here touched, that wittingly and willingly you shall not break any statute of the said Order, or any article in them contained, the same being agreeable and not repugnant to the will of God, and the laws of the realm, as far forth as to you belongeth and appertaineth, so help you God and his holy word."

Then the knight elect enters his stall, the senior commissioner going before him, and the junior commissioner following, Register and Garter entering into the seat under it, where Garter presents the mantle to the commissioners, who invest the knight elect therewith, Register reading at the same time the following admonitions

"Receive this robe of heavenly colour, the livery of this most excellent order, in augmentation of thy honour, ennobled with the shield and red cross of our Lord, by whose power thou may'st safely pierce troops of thine enemies, and be over them ever victorious; and being in this temporal warfare glorious, in egregious and heroic actions, thou may'st obtain eternal and triumphant joy."

Garter then presents the hood to the commissioners, who put it over the knight's right shoulder, bringing the tippets athwart his breast, and tucking them under the belt. This part of the investiture has no ceremony.

Then Garter presents to the commissioners the great Collar and George, which they fasten over the mantle and hood upon the knight's shoulders, Register at the same time pronouncing the following admonition:

"Wear this collar about thy neck, adorned with the image of the Blessed martyr and soldier in Christ, St. George, by whose imitation provoked, thou may'st so o'erpass both prosperous and adverse encounters; that having stoutly vanquished thine enemies, both of body and soul, thou may'st not only receive of this transient combat, but be crowned with palms of eternal victory."

Garter then presents the statute book, which the commissioners deliver to the knight, and the commissioners then place the cap and feathers on his head, and seat him in his stalls whereupon the officers of the order retire with the usual reverences, and stand before their seats.

The knight being thus installed, he rises up and makes his reverences, first to the altar, and then to the Sovereign's stall; the commissioners then embrace and congratulate him, after which they descend into the middle of the choir, and make their reverences, and return to their former stations, under their respective banners, from whence (if there be more knights to be installed) the procession is again made to the chapter house, as before; conducting each knight elect singly, according to their seniority, into the choir, where the same ceremony is repeated.

After all the knights are installed, the commissioners then ascent their stalls, which having done, they make their usual reverences; then the officers of the order, officers at arms, canons and poor knights, after having made their references, retire to their respective seats; then divine service is performed as follows:

Our Father, etc.
Venite exultamus domino.
Psalm the 21st.
Ecclesiasticus, chap. the 4th.
Te deum.
The apostle's creed.
A prayer for the Sovereign.
A Prayer for the Sovereign and Companions of the Order of the Garter.
Collect for peace. Collect for grace.
Anthem from Psalm 20, verse 5.
Communion service.
The three last prayers in the service for obiit Sunday.
The nicene creed.
Let your light 80 shine, etc.

When this last part of the service is performed, "Let your light so shine, etc." the Poor Knights and Officers at Arms range themselves in their former order, and make their reverences then Garter rises from his seat, and repairs to the middle of the choir, and there makes his reverence, from whence he comes before each knight's stall and summons them to descend; beginning with the juniors, and proceeding to the seniors, who descend in pairs, if companions, otherwise singly, and then stand under their respective banners .

The knights and proxies all thus standing under their banners, Garter making his reverences, repairs to his seat; the provincial kings at arms meet and make their reverences, and repair to the senior knight, or knights, if pairs, who go from under their banners, and make their reverences, and being preceded by the kings of arms, pass up to the first step of the altar, where they again make-their usual reverences; and coming to the rails, make only reverence towards the altar, and kneeling down, offer gold and silver into the bason held by two prebends.

Then they make again their reverences to the altar only, and at their return,on the lowest step to the altar to the sovereign's stall; and thence are conducted into the stalls of the junior knights on their respective sides, where, being ascended, they again make their reverences, and then pass on through the stall to their own, where they do the same, and then sit down.

In like manner, the two senior heralds conduct the next knight or knights, if companions, who also make their offerings and return; the same is done by all the knights, either singly or in pairs, after which the officers at arms make their reverences in a body, and stand in their places; the Poor Knights also return to their seats; then the benediction is read, which concludes the prayer.

The prebends having made their reverences, are conducted by the verger to their seats. Garter then goes into the middle of the choir, makes his obeisances, goes up to the stalls of the junior knights, if companions, summoning them to descents who, having made their reverences, come down, and meeting below, make their reverences together, and then retire under the banners.

The same is repeated to and by all the knights and proxies, but so as companions descend together, otherwise single, ending with the senior.

All the knights and proxies being thus under their banners, the poor knights join, make their reverences in the middle of the choir, and proceed towards the end of the chapel.

The canons, officers at arms, and officers of the order, having done the same, the procession commences in the following order:

 1. Marshalmen, two and two.
 2. Poor Knights, two and two.
 5. The King's household drums.
 4. Trumpets.
 5. Kettle drums.
 6. Trumpets.
 7. Canons of Windsor, two and two.
 8. Pursuivants at arms.
 9. Heralds at arms, two and two.
10. King at arms.
11. Garter, Register, and Black Rod.
12, Knights of the Garter, according to their seniority, the juniors going first, either singly or with their companions, having their trains supported by the singing boys of the chapel.

N.B. The proxy goes no farther in the procession than the door of the chapel, where the sexton receives the mantle from him.

A detachment of the yeomen of the guard closes the procession, which is made from the church through the court to the King's Guard Chamber.

The drums and trumpets stay at the foot of the stairs leading to the Guard Chamber; the Poor Knights enter the Guard Room, and there stand off on both sides for the procession to pass Between them; the prebends do the like; the Officers at Arms go into the Presence Chamber, and there place themselves in the like manner, the Pursuivants at Arms next the door; in which place the officers of the order are uncovered.

The knights, dressed in their robes or surcoats, if the Sovereign is present, dine in St. George's Hall; but in the absence of the Sovereign, in the King's Guard Chamber.

At the second course, Garter, with all the officers at arms following him, proceed from the lower end of the room to the place where the knights sit, where he pronounces Largesse. In the same manner Garter proclaims the titles of all the newly installed knights; after which, making their obeisances, they retire.

In one of the King's apartments is prepared a very elegant table for the ladies, and the whole is concluded with a grand ball.

Degradation of a Knight Companion

Having given the ceremonies of Installation, I shall also add a succinct account of the Degradion of a Knight Companion; which, according to the second article of King Henry VIIIth's statutes is to be inflicted on all those who shall be found guilty of Heresy, Treason, or flying from Battle.

When a Knight Companion is found guilty of any of these offences, and is in the dominions of the Sovereign, he is usually degraded at the ensuing chapter; and the Sovereign having acquainted the Knights Companions of his intention to have the ceremony performed, he commands Garter to attend such of them, as are appointed to go to the convict knight, who, in a solemn manner, first take from him his george and ribband, and then his garter. And at the following feast of St. George (or sooner if the Sovereign appoint) publication of his crimes and degradation is made by Garter, and a warrant issued out to him for taking down the achievements of the Knights, which is performed as follows:

First, Garter in his coat of arms, usually before morning prayer, standing in the middle of the choir of St. George's Chapel, the officers of arms standing about him, and the Black Rod also present, reads aloud the instrument for publishing the Knight's degradation. This being read, the deputed herald being placed on the back of the stall of the convicted knight, when Garter pronounces these words: "Be expelled and put from among the arms, etc." takes his crest, and violently casts it down into the choir, and afterward, his banner and swords and when the publication is read out, all the officers at arms spurn the achievements out of the choir into the body of the church, first the sword, secondly the banner, and lastly the crest; so on, out of the west door, thence through the castle-gate, from whence they are thrown into the castle ditch.

At a chapter held 32d Henry VIII it was determined that wheresoever the actions and names of such offenders should be found in the books of the Order, these words "Vah Proditore" should be written in the margin, as a mark of ignominy, by which means the registers would be preserved fair, and not defaced by erasements.

The last Knight who was thus degraded was the Duke of Ormond, Anno I. George I, for acting in concert with the French General.

As the prolixity of the foregoing ceremonies may appear insipid to many of my readers, to such I beg leave to offer the following verses, on the installation in April, 1742, supposed to be written by the late Earl of Chesterfield.

As Anstis was trotting away from the Chapter, *
Extremely in drink, and extremely in rapture,
Scarce able his bible and statutes to carry;
Up started the spectre of jolly King Harry
As on march'd the nobles he ey'd them all o'er,
When seeing such knights as he ne'er saw before,
With things on their shoulders and things at their knees,
"Ha,ha!" cried the King, "What Companions are these?
Are they such from their colours, who never have fled?   
Are they honestly born, are they honestly bred?
Have they honestly liv'd, without blame or disgrace?
Odds flesh! master Garter, I like not their face."
Please your grace, quoth the 'squire, how can we keep rules?
We must make April Knights, or else April fools.
But faith of the first I can tell you no more,  
Than that he's the son of a son of a whore.
The next, who shall sensure for lewdness of life?
Has no man, but he hurt another man's wife?
His Cordon of France was a pitiful thing;
But England affords him a much finer string.
The third of these Knights, as he chang'd once before,
We have made him true blue, that he ne'er may change more;
And now cross his shoulder the collar is drawn,
That his grace may have one thing he never can pawn,
That short bit of ribbon, for man never meant,
May serve little Portland, it serv'd little Kent;
Tho' stain'd and defil'd by that nasty old bug,
What ty'd an old monkey may tie a young pug,
The times, Sir, are alter'd, and riches are all,
And honours - folks, now, take them up as they fall,
They pay, like good fellows, the charge of their string,
The King saves his money, and God Save the King.

*  [Anstis - Garter King of Arms]
Ý This alludes to the qualification of the Knights according to the Statutes of their Order.
¦ Duke of St. Albans
¦¦ Duke of Kingston
** Duke of Marlborough

Knights and Officers of the Most Noble Order of The Garter

The number of Knights, at the first establishment of the Order, consisted of the Sovereign and twenty-five Companions: but, by an additional statute, made by injunction of his present Majesty, June 3rd., 1786, it is to consist, henceforth, of twenty-six Knights, including the Sovereign, besides all the King's sons. These are as in the following list:

* The Sovereign,
* The Prince of Wales
* Duke of York
Duke of Clarence
Prince Edward
Prince Ernest Augustus
Prince Augustus Frederic
Prince Adulphus Frederic
* Duke of Gloucester,
Prince William Henry of Gloucester
* Prince of Orange
* Duke of Brunswick
* Duke of Marlborough
* Duke of Grafton
* Marquis of Stafford
Marquis of Bath
Duke of Richmond
Duke of Devonshire
Marquis of Lansdown
Landgrave of Hesse Cassel
Duke of Beaufort
Marquis of Buckingham
Marquis Cornwallis
Duke of Dorset
Duke of Northumberland
Duke of Saxe Gotha
Duke of Leeds
Earl of Chatham
Marquis of Salisbury
Earl of Westmorland
Earl of Carlisle
Duke of Buccleugh
Duke of Portland

Note from the 1790s: The * text, coloured blue, indicates that these have been installed, and have their banners affixed over their stalls. The others being only Knights elect, have not their banners displayed, nor any particular stall assigned to them.

Officers of the Order

Hon. Dr. Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester, Prelate of the order. [Dr. Brownlow North was Bishop of Winchester from 1806 - 1817]
Dr. John Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, Chancellor.
[Dr. Douglas was Bishop of Salisbury from 1791-1807 and Canon of Windsor in the 1780s]
Dr. Charles Manners Sutton, Bishop of Norwich, Register.
[Dr. Sutton was Bishop of Norwich from 1792-1805]
Sir Isaac Heard, Knight, Garter, Principal King at Arms.
[He held this position from 1784 until his death on April 29th 1822 aged ninety-one.]
Sir Francis Molyneux, Bart. Usher of the Black Rod.

Note: The dignity of Prelate, is annexed to the Bishopric of Winchester; that of Chancellor, is vested in the Bishop of Salisbury; and the office of Register is attached to the Deanery of Windsor.

Thamesweb are grateful to MNC for typing the above from the original edition and to JGC for scanning and OCR work.

See also

1 The Town of Windsor

2 Building of The Castle

3 The Castle - Upper Ward

4 The Castle - The Round Tower

5 The Castle - Lower Ward

6 St George's Chapel - I

6 St George's Chapel - 2

6 St George's Chapel - 3

7 The College of St George

8 The Royal Lodges and Parks

9 Of The Order of The Garter

Pictures of the Garter Procession

The History Zone Index

A List of Kings and Queens of England since AD1066

Royal Windsor Home Page


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