A BRIEF HISTORY OF HERALDRY by Joseph C. Wolf
The fascinating history of THE ANCIENT AND MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER
For his outstanding services to his country Mr Churchill was offered the Dukedom of London.
He declined it.
In 1953, the young Queen Elizabeth II pressed Churchill to accept the highest honour she could bestow - one which was within her personal gift - she pressed him to become a Knight of The Most Noble Order of The Garter.
Secretary's further notes. January 1998.
The number of visitors to these heraldry pages is extraordinary - as are the further enquiries they generate.The following notes may assist.
*The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle is 200 years older than The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Garter.
Members dress in a magnificent green mantle with majestic heraldic badges, and the Order has a Green Rod (equivalent to Black Rod) which is carried in procession to St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
James VII of Scotland and II of England reintroduced the Order in 1687 to reward his catholic supporters. Strangely - even today - the members of the Order are always Catholics - which - as Magnus Linklater points out - is wrong.
The Honours Award System in the United Kingdom mystifies foreigners and nearly all English people! It is the cause of great satisfaction to many worthy recipients . . . and endless ribaldry and complaints by others.
The Most Noble Orders of both The Thistle, and The Garter are - like so many British traditions, the product of centuries of evolution. Their history is rather disreputable. Their existence at the end of the 20th century is a wondrous paradox.
They originated from the inability (or unwillingness) of Kings and Queens to honour their debts to their subjects with either money or land.
As always, scheming courtiers around the throne, playing on people's vanity and their desire to bask in the reflected glory of the Monarch, solved the Monarch's debt problems by creating a very pompous sounding titles and then, by limiting the award of them to a small number of people, satisfied all concerned.
was knighted in 1664 in this manner as the origin and meaning of his Motto fiel pero desdichado reveals. But why it is in Spanish?
Courtiers know that the British people, with their incurable class consciousness, will always fall for this sort of trick, and how the recipients will then do everything they can to elevate themselves further.
These two Orders of Chivalry have had long periods when they were just worthless flummery with royalty devaluing them by installing unworthy recipients - nearly always their own relatives!
Happily today things are much improved for no Monarch would install a new Knight without seeking confidential confirmation from the leading politicians and clergymen of all persuasions. But the bestowal owes nothing to them, nor can they suggest to the Monarch that a Knighthood of the Order be granted. Still today the Monarch's decision as to who shall be, and who shall not be, one of the 24 Knights of the Order - is absolute.
After Churchill declined to The Dukedom of London, his new young Queen, in almost the first act in her reign, expressed her own - and the nation's - desire to honour Churchill. By knighting him and making him a member of The Most Noble Order of the Garter she conferred upon him the highest distinction that is possible for any Englishman to receive.
Churchill, who desired no honours, had said to his beloved wife Clementine when asked what memorial he would like said, "Oh, nothing - . . . then after a moments thought said " . . . perhaps just a Park for the children to play in".
Upon the news breaking that he was to be knighted he replied to a surprised friend "I only accepted, because I think she is so splendid" . . . yet another of his far sighted assessments - proved by the passage of time.
Thus evolves English history, usage, and customs.
These two anarchic - but very colourful and historic ceremonies - are at one and the same time both delightfully absurd in their flummery, and of great national value - the latter, because - if only awarded to persons whose contribution to the betterment of the people has been (in national opinion) outstanding - it becomes a legitimate Badge of Highest Merit, and something to which young people can properly aspire.
Without such panoply and grandeur, the young of our nation would have no connection with their long history and no beacon to enlighten the future.
The 1998 Christmas Lecture THE REFORM OF THE HONOURS SYSTEM by Mr John B.J.Lidstone, an expert on the British Honours system.
"When the Order of the British Empire was founded by George V in 1917, Lloyd George is said to have asked Gregory what he could ask for an OBE, Gregory's reply was "about £100 a time".
Between 1917 and 1922 when Lloyd George resigned, 25,000 people had received the OBE. A nice little earner. Lloyd George is estimated to have amassed in his private bank account over £1.5 million pounds from the sales of honours. (Value £150 million plus today)." . . . . . . . . .
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