Most Noble Order of the Garter

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Garter, Order of the. This, the oldest and highest order, was instituted in 1348 by Edward III in imitation of King Arthur and the great deeds of chivalry. Membership was limited to the sovereign, prince of Wales, and 24 knights. George III's fecundity created a problem since he had seven sons, and in 1786 a statute allowed them supernumerary status. After 1660, very few commoners were honoured, though exceptions were made for Sir Robert Walpole, Lord North, and Sir Edward Grey. The headquarters of the order is at Windsor, where St George's chapel was built by Edward IV. The motto—‘honi soit qui mal y pense’ (Shame unto those who think evil thoughts)—is said to derive from Edward restoring the countess of Salisbury's garter to her. The significant decorations are the Star, a garter to be worn below the left knee, and a diagonal blue ribbon.

J. A. Cannon

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Garter, Order of the Most ancient of chivalric orders in Britain, created by Edward III in 1348. The monarch is the Grand Master and there are usually 25 Knights of the Order.