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Service of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the mantle of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the mantle of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

June 13, 2016. Windsor Castle.

The year of 2016 will go down in the world’s history as the year, when Queen of the United Kingdom Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th Birthday. This remarkable date could not leave anybody indifferent not only in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, but in the whole world as well. We also had the honour to take part in these festive events, and to immerse into history, related to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. This year we were privileged to participate in the Service of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which took place on June 13, in Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Windsor Castle is situated 34 kilometres west of London in Berkshire County, and it is one of the residencies of the British monarchs. From the time of the castle’s foundation by Wilhelm the Conqueror in 1066 and until now, the Windsor Castle is one of the symbols of the British monarchy. Starting from 1917, the current reigning Royal dynasty bears its name.

The Emblem of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

The Emblem of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

Monday, the 13th of July, turned out to be a cloudy day, and although we had our reserved seats on the Stand, where the guests are usually stationed, we decided not to change our tradition, and went to the Service ahead of time to meet our friends and talk to them, and to photograph ladies’ dresses and hats. The Service of the Most Noble Order of the Garter is not behind the famous Royal Ascot racecourse, which is just a few kilometres away from Windsor, in terms of variety of the ladies’ hats.

As a rule, women wear their best dresses and jewellery to the Service of the Order of the Garter, just as to any other events with the Queen attending, and all of it is done to attract the attention of the Queen.

Their Royal Highnesses Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Their Royal Highnesses Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

From London’s district Belgravia, where we stopped this time, in something over an hour a car brought us to the Windsor Castle, where a queue had already formed. On the Garter Day – this is how this day is called in Great Britain, the Castle opens at 12 o’clock, so that by quarter past two all the ones who were privileged to participate in this event could get in and occupy their seats of honour. After we joined the end of the queue and waited for a little while, we noticed that the queue began to move forward, and so did we. In another twenty minutes, we were on the territory of the Castle. When we were passing through the security zones, we talked to a serving one, who was speaking in perfect Russian. As it turned out, the woman was from Poland, and she showed interest in my Golden Sign of Godliness, which I received from the hands of the Custodian of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, and which I wore on this solemn occasion.

Waiting for the ceremony

Waiting for the ceremony

Since the day was cloudy, we all decided to go first to the royal store and buy umbrellas for ourselves in case it would rain. As it turned out later, we proved to be right, since at two o’clock in the afternoon, fifteen minutes before the procession of the Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a showering rain broke out, and had it not been for the umbrellas, we would have all looked like some wet chickens. According to Annette, the Secretary of the Society of the Friends of Saint George’s, she could not remember a single occasion when it would rain during the ceremony. But the year of 2016 happened to be an abnormal one, and the rain, which had started, did not stop until quarter to three, so the ceremony itself started late and was carried out in a “new fashion.” All the Knights of the Order of the Garter, the Queen, and the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as the other members of the Royal Family arrived for the Service in cars. But even this fact did not stop the attendants from cheering the Queen, the members of the Royal Family, and the Knights of the Order of the Garter. Not only the subjects, but the nature itself in form of the gracious rain, reverently bowed down before the venerable age of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who turned 95 on June 10!

Ticket to the Service of the Most Noble Order of the Garter 2016

Ticket to the Service of the Most Noble Order of the Garter 2016

As always, the attendants of the ceremony were all fascinated with Her Majesty the Queen, and the Duchess of Cambridge Catherine, the wife of Prince William. Her fabulous red dress, and shoes, and hat to match it, did not leave anyone untouched. It will not be too much to say that the Duchess of Cambridge is an icon of style. There is no excess in anything, and everything shows a good taste. No doubt, the Queen had some influence on the style of Duchess Catherine. And this is not an ungrounded conclusion. In 2016, in all royal residences, the exhibitions of Elizabeth II’s dresses and costumes were organized; and everyone who had a chance to visit these exhibitions could see for themselves the exquisite taste of Her Majesty.

This year Queen Elizabeth II knighted two people – Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Sir David Brewer, and Lord Charles Geoffrey Nicholas Kay-Shuttleworth, 5th Baron Shuttleworth.

Queue to Saint George's Chapel

Queue to Saint George’s Chapel

When all the Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter gathered at the Chapel, the fanfare solemnly blared forth, and the Service began with the singing of the British anthem “God Save the Queen,” which was picked up by all those present. After the anthem, Her Majesty thanked the audience and congratulated the newly promoted Knights. After the Queen’s speaking, there was a prayer, followed by the reading of verses 10 through 18 from chapter 6 of the Epistle to Ephesians. After the sermon, the choir of Saint George’s Chapel sang a hymn accompanied by the organ. Then all the attendants of the Service read the Apostles’ Creed in unison, and spoke a thanksgiving prayer in honour of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. After each prayer, hymns were sung, and the Service ended with a concluding prayer and blessings.

According to our custom, after the Service we usually attended the Tea, but this time we decided to change our tradition and visit the Chapel of Saint George, which on that day was open to the guests of the ceremony. Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is the Headquarters of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and it is also the sepulchre of the British monarchs. The ancestors and relatives of the currently reigning Windsor Dynasty are interred here, as well as monarchs and members of the royal families, who ruled Great Britain for many centuries. The most famous Medieval King from the Tudor Dynasty, Henry VIII is also resting here. The founder of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, King Edward III from the House of Plantagenet, is buried here too; also here in the Chapel the ceremonial sword of Edward III is displayed – the one that is used in a knighting ceremony of the new Knights of the Order of the Garter.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the highest Chivalric order in Great Britain, and one of the oldest orders in the world. The Order was established on April 23 of 1348 in the honour of God, the Most Holy Virgin, and Saint Martyr George, England’s heavenly patron, for the purpose of “uniting a certain number of dignified persons for doing the good works and lifting up the morale.”

There are several legends concerning the origin of the Order; the most well known legend is related to Countess of Salisbury. While dancing with the King, she dropped a garter, and people around her started to laugh, but the King picked up the garter and tied it to his own leg, saying, «Honi soit qui mal y pense» (the most accurate translation is, “Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”), which became the Order’s motto.

According to another tradition, back at the end of the 12th century, Saint George appeared to Richard I during his crusade, and instructed him to tie garters to the legs of his knights.

Most of the British orders are common for the whole of the United Kingdom, except the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which is purely English. Its equivalent in Scotland is the Order of the Thistle, which exists since 1687, and the Order of Saint Patrick in Ireland, which existed from 1783 (since Ireland gained its independence, this Order has not been granted, and the last knight died in 1974).

The number of the Knights of the Order is limited: it includes the Order’s Sovereign (the Monarch) and no more than 24 Companions. The Companions can be knights (Knights Companions) and ladies (Ladies Companions). Members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs can be Supernumerary Members of the Order. Membership in the Order is granted personally by the Sovereign (the membership in other British orders of chivalry is usually granted according to the recommendation of the Prime Minister).

When a new member is joining the Order, he pledges to keep all the conditions of the Order, the chief one among them being the protection of the Order’s Sovereign.

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