Today, the Queen and other members of the royal family will attend the Order of the Garter service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
The Order is the senior and oldest British Order of Chivalry, founded by Edward III in 1348. The Order is limited to 24 knights plus the monarch and the Prince of Wales, although other royals and foreign members can be supernumerary (extra) knights. If the Queen intends to appoint any new members, the appointments will be announced on St George’s Day (23rd April) but the knights will not be formally invested until Garter Day. Membership of the Order is in the personal gift of the Queen, and is usually given because a member has held public office, has contributed to the nation, or has personally served Her Majesty.
Every knight displays a banner of his arms in the Chapel, together with a helmet, crest and sword and an enamelled stallplate. While the former are taken down upon a knight’s death, the stallplates remain as a memorial, and make an impressive sight. The Order’s motto is “Honi soit qui mal y pense” which means “Shame on him who thinks this evil”.
On Garter Day, which is always a Monday in June, new and old members meet in the Throne Room of Windsor Castle. The Queen then formally invests any new members with the insignia “at a Chapter of the Order”. This year, she is installing Air Chief Marshal The Right Honourable The Lord Stirrup as a new Knight Companion.
Afterwards, the Queen (and usually the Duke of Edinburgh, who is absent this year while he rests in hospital) holds a lunch in the Waterloo Chamber for all members. After lunch, the Knights walk through the Upper, Middle and Lower Wards of the castle to St George’s Chapel, wearing their robes of blue velvet (known as mantels) and their black velvet hats with white plumes.
At the start of the short service in the Chapel, the new Knights will be installed. Members will then return to the castle in carriages and cars.
Attending the service today as members will be The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, The Duke of York, The Earl of Wessex, The Princess Royal, The Duke of Gloucester, The Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.