Most Noble Order of the Garter
Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense
Jean Froissart wrote in his Chronicles that "His like had not been seen since the days of King Arthur".
The truth behind the formation of this noble order is veiled in several stories from the noble to the romantic. The motto; Honi Soit qui Mal y
Pense, "Shame to him who thinks ill of it.", leaves room for the imagination. Edward III reveled in the ethos of the Arthurian tales. He desired to bring about a brotherhood of unity bound by a code chivalry.
Froissart's account, tells us:
"The King of England took pleasure to new re-edify the Castle of Windsor, the which was begun by King Arthur, and there first began the Table Round, whereby sprang the fame of so many noble knights throughout all the World. Then King Edward determined to make an Order and a Brotherhood ….. to be called Knights of the Blue Garter, and a feast to be kept yearly
on St. George's Day."
In 1344 Edward III inspired by
his interest in the Arthurian legends made an announcement during a spectacular jousting tournament. It was a tournament where the King and 19 Knights fought all who would challenge them for 3 days. By the end he proclaimed he was forming a special Order that would renew King Arthur's fraternity of knights with all of the paragons of knightly virtues.
was begun on a massive circular building two hundred feet across as home to his Round Table. But the hand of fate intervened. It wasn't long before war with France brought his dream to a halt were it slumbered for a more peaceful time.
Edward picked up his earlier plans in 1348 of a great hall dedicated to St George at Windsor Castle.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter was born on the feast of St George's day 23rd April 1348. The order dedicated to St. George was housed in
Windsor Castle. The order consisted of the King and 25 knights it was made up of the Sovereign, and the Prince of Wales; each with 12 companions, all having served in
the French campaigns.
Froissart, a contemporary of King Edward’s, gives us this glimpse of the establishment:
At that time King Edward of England conceived the idea of altering and rebuilding
the great castle of Windsor, originally built by King Arthur, and where had first been established the noble Round Table, from which so many fine men and brave knights had gone forth and performed great deeds throughout the world. King Edward’s intention
was to found an order of knights, made up of himself and his sons and the bravest and noblest in England. There would be forty of them in all and they would be called the Knights of the Blue Garter and their feast was to be held every year at Windsor on St
George’s Day. To institute the feast, the King called together the earls, barons and knights of the whole country and told them of his intentions and of his great desire to see them carried out. They agreed with him wholeheartedly, because they thought
it an honourable undertaking and one which would strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. Forty knights were then chosen from among the most gallant of them all and these swore a solemn oath to the King always to observe the feast and the statutes, as
these were agreed and drawn up.
The first record of a Round
Table festive event was in 1223, when the Crusader lord of Beirut held one in Cyprus to celebrate the knighting of his eldest sons. These festivals generally involved jousts and melees to celebrate victories, wedding and other occasions of great meaning. Participants dressed as the legendary
knights of King Arthurs Court.
Edward I held two; one for his marriage, and one in 1284 to celebrate his conquest of Wales. The "Winchester Round Table" in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle remains from Edward I time. The timber of this table has been dated by tree-ring dating to 1275, during Edward's reign.
"Winchester Round Table" was painted and modified to its current state in 1522 by order of King Henry VIII