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The Art of Monarchy

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

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Great George last quarter 18th century

RCIN 441144

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This badge – a huge bejewelled pendant figure of St George and the Dragon – was apparently converted for use as part of the Garter insignia of George III. 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 badge 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 bearing a cloth-mounted Garter Star, with metallic thread in place of silver of jewels.

This ‘Great George’ is identifiable with one of those listed in Queen Charlotte’s bedroom at Buckingham House in 1819, when an inventory was made of the King’s jewels discovered there after the Queen’s death. There is no other provenance for the piece and it has been little worn, as later sovereigns have preferred other, lighter badges. The stone setting may be of the late eighteenth century and of continental, possibly Viennese, manufacture, while the reverse may be English. The magnificence of the badge reflects the glory of the Order of the Garter: a fellowship of leading men and women in the realm whose appointment to the Order is based on their allegiance to, and often friendship with, the sovereign.