Friday April 22, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Order of the Garter
On this Day:
In 1348, The Order of the Garter was founded by English King Edward III, Britain’s highest civic or military honor.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III of England in 1348. It is the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England’s patron saint.
Appointments are at the sovereign’s sole discretion, and are usually in recognition of a national contribution, for public service, or for personal service to the sovereign. Membership of the order is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living members, or Companions. The order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British royal family and foreign monarchs).
The order’s emblem is a garter with the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Middle French: “Shame on him who thinks evil of it”) in gold lettering. Members of the order wear it on ceremonial occasions.
King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter around the time of his claim to the French throne. The traditional year of foundation is usually given as 1348 (when it was formally proclaimed). However, The Complete Peerage, under “The Founders of the Order of the Garter”, states the order was first instituted on 23 April 1344, listing each founding member as knighted in 1344. The list includes Sir Sanchet D’Abrichecourt, who died on 20 October 1345. Other dates from 1344 to 1351 have also been proposed. The King’s wardrobe account shows Garter habits first issued in the autumn of 1348. Also, its original statutes required that each member of the Order already be a knight (what would now be referred to as a knight bachelor) and some of the initial members listed were only knighted that year. The foundation is likely to have been inspired by the Spanish Order of the Band, established in about 1330.
The earliest written mention of the Order is found in Tirant lo Blanch, a chivalric romance written in Catalan mainly by Valencian Joanot Martorell. It was first published in 1490. This book devotes a chapter to the description of the origin of the Order of the Garter.
Various legends account for the origin of the Order. The most popular involves the “Countess of Salisbury”, whose garter is said to have slipped from her leg while she was dancing at a court ball at Calais. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and returned it to her, exclaiming, “Honi soit qui mal y pense!” (‘Shame on him who thinks ill of it!’), the phrase that has become the motto of the Order. However, the earliest written version of this story dates from the 1460s, and it seems to have been conceived as a retrospective explanation for the adoption of what was then seen as an item of female underclothing as the symbol of a band of knights. In fact, at the time of the Order’s establishment in the mid-14th century, the garter was predominantly an item of male attire.
According to another legend, King Richard I was inspired in the 12th century by St George the Martyr while fighting in the Crusades to tie garters around the legs of his knights, who subsequently won the battle. King Edward supposedly recalled the event in the 14th century when he founded the Order. This story is recounted in a letter to the Annual Register in 1774:
In Rastel’s Chronicle, I. vi. under the life of Edward III is the following curious passage: “About the 19 yere [sic] of this kinge, he made a solempne feest at Wyndesore, and a greate justes and turnament, where he devysed, and perfyted substanegally, the order of the knyghtes of the garter; howe be it some afferme that this order began fyrst by kynge Rycharde, Cure de Lyon, at the sege of the citye of Acres; where, in his great necessyte, there were but 26 knyghtes that fyrmely and surely abode by the kynge; where he caused all them to were thonges of blew leyther about theyr legges. And afterwarde they were called the knyghtes of the blew thonge.” I am obliged for this passage to John Fenn, Esq; a curious and ingenious gentleman of East-Dereham, in Norfolk, who is in possession of the most rare book whence it is taken. Hence some affirm, that the origin of the garter is to be dated from Richard I* and that it owes its pomp and splendor to Edward III.
Winstanley, in his Life of Edward III says that the original book of the institution deduces the invention from King Richard the First.
The motto in fact refers to Edward’s claim to the French throne, and the Order of the Garter was created to help pursue this claim. The use of the garter as an emblem may have derived from straps used to fasten armour, and may have been chosen because it held overtones of a tight-knit “band” or “bond” of knightly “supporters” of Edward’s cause.
There is a connection between the Order of the Garter and the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (late 14th century). The motto is inscribed, as hony soyt qui mal pence, at the end of the text in the sole surviving manuscript in the British Library, albeit in a later hand. In the poem, a girdle, very similar in its erotic undertones to the garter, plays a prominent role. A rough equivalent of the Order’s motto has been identified in Gawain’s exclamation corsed worth cowarddyse and couetyse boþe (“cursed be both cowardice and coveting”, v. 2374). While the author of that poem remains disputed, there seems to be a connection between two of the top candidates and the Order of the Garter, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Enguerrand de Coucy, seventh Sire de Coucy. De Coucy was married to King Edward III’s daughter, Isabella, and was given admittance to the Order of the Garter on their wedding day.”
Soon after the founding of the Order, women were appointed “Ladies of the Garter”, but were not made companions. King Henry VII discontinued the practice in 1488; his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the last Lady of the Garter before Queen Alexandra. Except for female sovereigns, the next Lady of the Garter named was Queen Alexandra, by her husband King Edward VII. King George V also made his consort, Queen Mary, a Lady of the Garter and King George VI subsequently did the same for his wife, Queen Elizabeth. Throughout the 20th century, women continued to be associated with the Order, but save for foreign female monarchs, they were not made companions. In 1987, however, it became possible to install “Ladies Companion of the Garter” under a statute of Queen Elizabeth II.
First, a Story:
What do you call a knight that’s afraid to fight ? Sir Render.
Second, a Song:
Monty Python (also collectively known as the Pythons) were a British surreal comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed from the television series into something larger in scope and influence, including touring stage shows, films, albums, books and musicals. The Pythons’ influence on comedy has been compared to the Beatles’ influence on music. Regarded as an enduring icon of 1970s pop culture, their sketch show has been referred to as being “an important moment in the evolution of television comedy”.
Broadcast by the BBC between 1969 and 1974, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was conceived, written and performed by its members Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Loosely structured as a sketch show, but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach aided by Gilliam’s animation, it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content. A self-contained comedy team responsible for both writing and performing their work, the Pythons had creative control which allowed them to experiment with form and content, discarding rules of television comedy. Following their television work, they began making films, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983). Their influence on British comedy has been apparent for years, while in North America, it has coloured the work of cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. “Pythonesque” has entered the English lexicon as a result.
At the 41st British Academy Film Awards in 1988, Monty Python received the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema. In 1998, they were awarded the AFI Star Award by the American Film Institute. Many sketches from their TV show and films are well-known and widely quoted. Both Holy Grail and Life of Brian are frequently ranked in lists of greatest comedy films. In a 2005 poll of over 300 comics, comedy writers, producers and directors throughout the English-speaking world to find “The Comedian’s Comedian”, three of the six Pythons members were voted to be among the top 50 greatest comedians ever: Cleese at No. 2, Idle at No. 21, and Palin at No. 30.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1975 British comedy film reflecting the Arthurian legend, written and performed by the Monty Python comedy group (Chapman, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones and Palin), directed by Gilliam and Jones. It was conceived during the hiatus between the third and fourth series of their BBC television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
While the group’s first film, And Now for Something Completely Different, was a compilation of sketches from the first two television series, Holy Grail is a new story that parodies the legend of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. Thirty years later, Idle used the film as the basis for the musical Spamalot.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail grossed more than any other British film exhibited in the US in 1975. In the US, it was selected as the second-best comedy of all time in the ABC special Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time. In the UK, readers of Total Film magazine in 2000 ranked it the fifth-greatest comedy film of all time; a similar poll of Channel 4 viewers in 2006 placed it sixth (per Wikipedia).
Here is the Monty Python gang singing “Camelot – Knights of the Round Table” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I’ve always supported myself. I like the sense of knowing exactly where I stand financially, but there is a side of me that longs for a knight in shining armor.” – Barbara Feldon
Further to the Roller Skates Smile, Sandy Weames of Campbell River, BC, writes:
“The last time I roller skated was in 2004 and ended up on the Cement. It was painful to sit for about two weeks. But I loved it as a youth and loved watching Roller Derby. LOL”
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky