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Order of the Garter

LONDON - Date of the foundation of the Order of the Garter, 600th anniversary of which was celebrated Friday, has been fixed with moral certainty by recent research as on the first Saint George's Day, April 23, 1348.

Latest evidence tends to establish also that the original story about the garter is true.  The garter was dropped at a court ball by the Countess of Salisbury, a lady afterwards more famous in history as Joan, the fair maid of Kent, first English princess of Wales, wife of the Black Prince and Mother of King Richard II.

The story begins in 1337 when King Edward III held historic Feast of the Heron in the Great Hall of Westminster Palace and vowed to conquer France.  In support of the king, a fire-eating but courtly young Lancashire squire named Thomas Holland vowed to use only one eye till he had performed some deed of arms on French soil.  Accordingly he put on an eye cover of white silk, deeply impressing his chosen lady, the fair made of Kent.  This he wore for nine years or more.

Two years later, the English court was settled in Flanders with Edward carrying abortive raids into neighboring French provinces.  Thomas Holland persuaded Joan to marry him and to keep all but the few witnesses of hte ceremony out of the secret.

A year or so later he went off to Prussia in search of military fame.  In his absence Joan's relatives, including her mother and the King, forced her into formal marriage with William Montague, future Earl of Salisbury and special favorite of King Edward.  On his return Holland found he could do nothing to get Joan back but by an odd twist of fortune the King made him steward of William's and Joan's household.

Edward founded in 1344 his Brotherhood of Knights of Saint George, largely as propaganda for his enterprise of conquering France.

While the exeditionary force was engaged in the long siege of Paris, Joan of Kent was summoned by the King to join him and the Queen Phipipa at their camp before Calais and on her arrival gave a magnificent feast in her honour.  Edward was "smitten with the sparkle of fine love" for the glorious young Countess of Salisbury.

By the middle of August, 1347, the English were inside Calais and at some celebration of this final triumph Joan was dancing with or near the King when one of her garters, to her great embarrassment, fell to the floor.  The King stopped, picked up the blue ribbon, and bound it round his own knee.

Rash onlookers ventured insinuating jests to which Edward gave back the just rebuke "Honi soit qui mal y pense," (Evil be to him who evil thinks).  The garter, he declared, should shoon be most highly honoured; and within six months he and his 12 companion knights, one of whom was Salisbury, were wearing at the victory tournaments in England garters of blue silk embroidered with the motto.

Meanwhile Thomas Holland, unable to bear the loss of the lady who was to become the most celebrated in the world of chivalry, appealed to the pope to annul Joan's marriage to Salisbury and restore her to him.  While victory tournaments were being held Edward and Salisbury were told of Holland's sudden action.

Joan declared she would support Holland and Salisbury retorted by putting her under lock and key.  She was still Salisbury's prisoner April 23rd 1348, the first Saint George's day which was also Garter Day, but May 3, the pope ordered her release.

In a papal court Nov. 13, 1349, Holland won back Joan from Salisbury.  He died as her husband and the Earl of Kent in 1360.  Joan survived him to become first wife and tehn widow of the Black Prince and Mother of King Richard II.

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