from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
This book is in the public domain. The text was duplicated from the book using Optical Character Recognition software and errors may be present.
Order of the Garter - The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in medieval England, and presently bestowed on recipients in any of the Commonwealth realms; it is the pinnacle of the honours system in the United Kingdom. Membership in the order is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than twenty-four members, or Companions; the order also comprises Supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs).
The order's emblem, depicted on insignia, is a garter with the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Old French: "shame upon him who thinks evil upon it") in gold lettering. Members of the order wear such a garter on ceremonial occasions.
Most British honours encompass the whole United Kingdom, but the top-most three each pertain to one constituent nation. The Order of the Garter, pertaining to England, is senior in age and precedence; The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle pertains to Scotland; and the now-dormant The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick pertains to Ireland. New appointments are always announced on St George's Day, 23 April, Saint George being the patron saint of England.