2011 Garter Ceremony at Windsor Castle
Guests at the reception hosted by the Officers of Arms
at the Deputy Ranger's Lodge in Windsor Great Park
London on the morning of 13 June 2011 this year did not look promising. It had rained heavily the day before and the overcast sky appeared to indicate that there was more to come for the annual pageant of the Garter Service at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, favored fortress residence of HM Queen Elizabeth II. But by midday the sky was looking far less ominous and by the end of the afternoon, the sun was positively blazing over Berkshire, where Windsor is situated. It turned out to be an excellent day for another classic pageant organized by the College of Arms, the heraldic authority of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
While the officers of the College, often called heralds, are more known for designing, granting and recording armorial bearings to subjects of the British Crown and others, they are the ones responsible for planning and executing the complex pageants that are a feature of the British monarchy.
The author Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, a constitutional commentator on British television and an expert on the history of ceremonies and rituals, has observed that these pageants are rooted in history and designed to project the state’s image of itself. The troops, the uniforms, the music, the solemnity all serve to impress on the public a sense of confidence, strength, and permanence. This is what the College of Arms produces, based on their experience and records going back centuries. In addition to the Garter service, the College organizes the state openings of parliament, state funerals and coronations.
Although the Order of the Garter is ancient (founded in 1348), an annual public procession of the Knights had not occurred at Windsor for many decades until it was revived by King George VI in 1948. Since then it has grown in popularity and today it is one of the highlights of the annual royal program.
People come from far and wide to attend the service in the Chapel, or observe the procession from stands, windows, seats and lawns lining the pathway from the Upper Ward, where the monarch resides, down to the Lower ward, where St. George’s Chapel is situated. Invariably directors and officers of the College of Arms Foundation, Inc., are among those observing the proceedings.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, to use its formal name, was founded by King Edward III to bring together in close companionship 25 of the outstanding military leaders of the kingdom. Ever since it has been the highest honor a British monarch can bestow on a subject. It is not given upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day but rather at the pleasure of The Queen: Knights of the Garter (KGs) and Ladies of the Garter (LGs) are all chosen by her.
In total there are 26 only Knights and Ladies, including the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales. But in addition there are “supernumerary” members of the Order who are all members of the British Royal Family or foreign monarchs.
This year two new KGs were installed – literally led to their designated stalls in the magnificent choir of the Chapel: they were Lord Phillips of Worth Maltravers and Lord Boyce. They join a distinguished group of individuals who include Baroness Thatcher, Sir John Major, the Duke of Westminster, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Lady Soames and Viscount Ridley. In addition to these “ordinary” members there are also the royal ones: The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridges, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Duke of Gloucester, the Princess Royal (Princess Anne), Princess Alexandra and the Duke of Kent.
All the Knights and Ladies have their own stall for their lifetime, adorned with a brass “stall plate” containing their names, titles and armorial bearings. The occupants inevitably change over time but the stall plates remain and now constitute a treasure of heraldic history. Continuing the practice of medieval England, the stall plates are written in French. Thus, “His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales” is rendered “Son Altesse Royale le Prince de Galles.”
There is a celebratory atmosphere after each service: many people will have worked and rehearsed long and hard to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Everyone is so experienced by now that nothing ever does at least not that the public can easily detect, but there is always the fear that this year might be the one it all comes crashing down. Happily, this year was not that year.
In accordance with another tradition, the College of Arms hosted an outdoor reception for friends and supporters at the residence of the Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park.
Curtis M. Estes with Patric Dickinson, LVO, Secretary
of the Order of the Garter and Clarenceux King of Arms
Timothy Duke, Chester Herald
Kazie M. Harvey (left, partly cut off), John C. Harvey,
Vice President of the College of Arms Foundation, Lady Bedingfeld and
John Martin Robinson, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary
John F.V. Cupschalk, Kazie M. Harvey and Sir Henry
Bedingfeld, Norroy & Ulster King of Arms
Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, OBE, Fitzalan Pursuivant
Extraordinary, and Mistress Arundel, wife of Alan Dickins, Arundel
Matthew Dickins with Roland Symons, Honorary Secretary
of the White Lion Society
Mrs. Charles Maier, David Rankin-Hunt, Norfolk Herald
Extraordinary, and Charles Maier, formerly Athabasca Herald of the
Canadian Heraldic Authority
Thomas Woodcock, CVO, Garter Principal King of Arms
Philip Everett, LVO, Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park
Leila Woollam and Peter O'Donoghue, Bluemantle Pursuivant
Flemish Herald Speaks at G&B on 2 March 2011
Dr. Luc Duerloo, a member of the Flemish Heraldic Council and professor of history at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, gave a presentation on the Flemish heraldic authority at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (the G&B) on Wednesday 2 March 2011. The event was co-sponsored by the College of Arms Foundation and the G&B’s Committee on Heraldry. For a synopsis of the talk and illustrations, click here.
Canadian Heraldic Authority: a talk by Bruce Patterson
Bruce Patterson, Deputy Chief Herald of Canada, was the speaker at a meeting of the Committee on Heraldry of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society and the College of Arms Foundation on 31 January, 2011. The venue was the G&B boardroom on West 44th Street in Manhattan.
On this occasion his subject was the work of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, which turns out to be more than merely granting armorial bearings to Canadian subjects. While that is the Authority's primary purpose it also has an educational and a ceremonial role. Heralds appear on Canadian television, or in schools, to educate the public about heraldry. The CHA is part of the Office of the Governor General of Canada and consequently heralds are involved in the ceremonial attendant upon the Governor General - for example, organizing receptions hosted by the Governor General for distinguished visitors such as the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, who visited last July; or for people whose work or service has been recognized by the conferment of a Canadian honor.
Mr. Patterson showed images of the actual office of the CHA, and described the process of granting arms to an applicant. It is very similar to the British system. First there is a petition, then a warrant is issued authorizing the Chief Herald to grant the arms. Then there is a consultation between herald and petitioner resulting in a design which is approved. Letters patent are then produced - the text of which must be both in English and French - with the arms rendered by CHA artists. Mr. Patterson described the great care taken to ensure that the blazon is absolutely correct in both languages.
The presentation was abundantly illustrated with recent Canadian grants of arms. Canadian heraldry has its own style - partly to do with the use of popular national emblems (maple leaf) but also the imaginative use of charges and color. The methodology is British (English or Scottish) but the look and feel of the product is distinctly Canadian.
Mr. Patterson is an effective ambassador for the world of heraldry; he is an engaging speaker and always prepares lavishly illustrated PowerPoint lectures that combine scholarship with humor. This was his fourth lecture to the group since 2003. After the talk, those present enjoyed meeting and talking to the Deputy Chief Herald over a glass of wine.
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