The Garter Day and heraldic heritage

One of the oldest traditions in the world. It has been 674 years since Garter Day has been celebrated, with the exception of the previous 2 years due to COVID-19. This year the celebration took place on June 13 in Windsor according to ancient tradition,. Participants and guests were invited to the chapel of St. George, as this saint is the order’s patron. According to the official sources of the royal court, during the ceremony, each bearer of the honorary order takes a corresponding place next to his flag and his coat of arms, helmet, sword, and a special enameled nameplate. These symbols are obligatory, as are the outfits of the participants specially designed for the ceremony. All this makes up one of the best collections of heraldic symbols and attributes in the world. The Garter Day celebration is not only a beautiful royal tradition, it is a collection of heraldic and historical values found nowhere else. This order preserves the historical heritage of heraldry – the coat of arms and flag of each ancient family, their armor, helmets, swords, and festive dresses decorated with heraldic symbols.

Order of the Garter Day celebration, collection of family crests

The inspiration for the order were noble knights of the round table. This beautiful story initially covered only 24 participants plus the sovereign. The monarch was considered the chief or sovereign. The founder of the order was the king – Edward III. The purpose of the order was to do good and maintain the spirit of the military, engaging worthy individuals. The family of the Britain monarch and other worthy states could become participants. Other persons-participants, but English only, were called. Now, these titles sound pathetic as the days of duels and knights are over. However, the title is still prestigious and means something. The title is awarded for achievements, contributions to science, culture, and other important areas of the development of the state. This is not just a formality, because in the history of the order there were cases when participants were expelled. This happened during the First and Second World Wars when there were conflicts between countries. Only one of the participants was returned to the Order, 30 years later, it was Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

Heraldic symbols and attributes, image of the order

The Order of the Garter contains an image of the patron battling a dragon or a serpent. There are 2 options for wearing the order: on a ribbon and on a chain that looks like a Tudor Rose inside a blue ribbon. The Tudor rose alternates with links of interconnected cords. The order includes an eight-pointed silver star with a cross of St. George made of red enamel in the middle. The order star is studded with precious stones. The order has a special designation in heraldry: it is a blue ribbon curled with a ring with the traditional motto. In translation, it says ‘Shame on him who thinks evil of it’ or “Honi soit qui mal y pense”.

Honorary Members of the Order of the Garter, heraldry legacy

Honorary members of the order are the Queen’s cousins the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester, and her sister Princess Alexandra, as well as the children of Elizabeth II, Princes Edward, Andrew, Charles and Princess Anne. It is noteworthy that Prince William, the grandson of the monarch, became the thousandth knight. This year, the Duchess of Cornwall joined the ranks of the order.

Photos from the royal family’s Instagram