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The Order of the Garter and The Garter King of Arms

The Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III in 1348-9, was the first chivalric order of Europe. From 1415, it had its own herald, Garter King of Arms. The motto of the Order, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks) is inscribed on the Garter surrounding the royal arms and the arms of all knights of the Order.


Every knight of the Order of the Garter was given a copy of the Order's statutes when he was elected to it. This copy (top image right) has revisions and additions down to January 1559, and was probably written for Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland, who was elected a knight in 1559 and whose arms appear on the second leaf.


The royal arms encircled with the Garter appeared everywhere, including on bindings. King James I of England must have commissioned the binding of this copy of his Meditation upon the Lord's Prayer (middle image right), since his own arms (as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland) are surmounted by a crown and inlaid in gilt on crimson velvet. He most likely intended this luxurious copy to be given away.


This collection of coats of arms of knights of the Garter (bottom image right) was presented to James I in 1606 by William Segar, Garter King of Arms, who penned it himself. The arms shown at right, within a collar of the Order of the Garter, are intended to be those of Thomas FitzAlan, earl of Arundel, whose family history is recounted on the facing page. As a penciled note by a later owner remarks, Segar has unfortunately inverted the colors of this most celebrated coat of arms: by showing the lion as red and the field as gold, he has given the arms of the Charleton family, Lords Powys.



The statutes and ordinances of the Order of the Garter, ca. 1560

James I. Meditation upon the Lords prayer. 1619

Segar. Names and arms of the Knights of the Garter. Manuscript, 1606

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