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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

English

Garter star second half 18th century

RCIN 441147

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The Order of the Garter is the senior and oldest British Order of Chivalry, founded by Edward III in 1348.

The Order, consisting of the Sovereign, Prince of Wales and twenty-four knights, honours those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally. Appointments are in the gift of Her Majesty The Queen and are announced on St George’s Day.

This richly jewelled Garter Star was part of the Garter insignia of George III, but may date back to the late seventeenth century. The periodic feasts and services of the Order of the Garter were moments when the Knights gathered together with their monarch, who was (and remains) Sovereign of the Order, to pledge their loyalty. Garter services are traditionally held in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, seat of the Order. This magnificent star would have clearly distinguished the King from other members of the Order on these occasions.

For George III the Order of the Garter was of considerable importance: he was appointed to the Order by his grandfather, George II, when aged only 11. He seldom appeared in public without an indication of the Order on his attire. Even when visiting farm labourers at Windsor he would wear a jacket adorned with a cloth-mounted Garter Star, glinting with metallic thread.

This Garter Star was originally described in the inventory of the King’s jewellery of 1819, as ‘A very large Brilliant Star’, and was worn by George III. In 1844, it was recorded by John Bridge of Rundell and Bridge, the royal jewellers, that the star, which consisted of 838 brilliants and was valued at £2,500, ‘may have been made in Queen Anne’s time’. It was described as ‘a star which Queen Anne had provided for Prince George of Denmark, but which had never been worn by him’. The Lady Anne (as she then was) had married Prince George of Denmark on 28 July 1683. It was a happy match, as well as an arranged one, intended to develop an Anglo-Danish alliance to contain Dutch maritime power. George was given many honours, in order to uphold his position and strengthen ties between his own and his adopted country, including the Order of the Garter, which he received in 1684. On Charles II’s death he acted as chief mourner at his funeral, and was soon afterwards appointed to the Privy Council by James II. Prince George died in 1708; none of their children survived early childhood.