Order of the Garter

KG (Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter)
LG (Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter)

This is the most prestigious of all the Orders of Chivalry. The original members of the Order (founded in 1348) were the Black Prince (eldest son of King Edward III) and 24 military noblemen.

Four years earlier King Edward III had been impressed by the formation of a voluntary association of knights in Lincoln and swore to found his own Round Table, like King Arthur's Table of 300 knights.

In October 1347 and January 1348 the king chose various knights at a great military tournament, presenting them with garters and robes from his own wardrobe. In August 1348 letters patent erected Windsor Chapel into a College consisting of a Warden, 23 Canons and 24 Poor Knights, and the Order of the Garter was founded. The patron saint of the Order was St George, whose identity as patron saint of soldiers had been established by King Richard the Lionheart at the time of the Crusades.

For over 600 years Knights of the Garter have been chosen personally by the Sovereign, and the Garter is seen as a mark of particular favour to a subject. It is still restricted to 24 Knights Companion.

In 1901 King Edward VII created Queen Alexandra a Lady of the Order. Since then other royal ladies have been appointed, and in 1987 The Queen opened the Order to non-royal female subjects. The first Lady Companion to be admitted was Lavinia Duchess of Norfolk, who was invested and installed in 1990. Since then Baroness Thatcher and Baroness Soames have been appointed to the Garter.

Since the accession of the present Queen, those appointed to the Order have included seven former prime ministers (Churchill, Eden, Attlee, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher and Major), four Governors-Generals of Australia, a Governor-General and prime minister of New Zealand, generals and field marshals, an Admiral of the Fleet, a Marshal of the RAF, cabinet ministers, Lord-Lieutenants, chancellors of universities, diplomats and explorers.

The present 'supernumerary knights' (these are knights other than the 24 Knights Companions) are the Royal Knights Companions, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Kent, The Princess Royal, The Duke of Gloucester, Princess Alexandra the Hon Lady Ogilvy, The Duke of York, The Earl of Wessex and Prince William of Wales.

The 'Stranger Knights', usually foreign monarchs, presently consist of the Kings of Sweden, Spain and Norway, the Queens of Denmark and the Netherlands, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the Emperor of Japan.

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