12 June 2013

Flashback: The Garter Service

June is always a busy month for the Queen, and it includes one particularly packed week: usually Trooping the Colour on Saturday, Garter Day on Monday, and Royal Ascot beginning on Tuesday. Garter Day is the annual meeting of the Order of the Garter at Windsor Castle, an event full of color and steeped in tradition - with a few jewels for added interest.

Started by Edward III in 1348, the Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest order of chivalry in Britain. It is the most senior order, with members personally chosen by the sovereign and limited to just 24 knights, plus additional royal knights and ladies (both from the British royal family and selected foreign sovereigns), making it quite an exclusive club.

Garter Day at Windsor Castle starts with the Queen investing any new Companions with their insignia (appointments, if there are any, are announced on St. George's Day, April 23) followed by lunch. They then walk to St. George's Chapel in an impressive procession for a service, and return afterwards via car and carriage. They are outfitted in their full Garter gear for the occasion, including the Mantle, Bonnet, Collar and Great George - this is usually the only time in the year when we see the mantle and bonnet in use.

The Queen also wears formal evening jewelry for the event. Bracelets and evening watches are present, though they are hard to see thanks to the mantle (ditto for any necklaces, which if present are covered). But earrings are allowed to shine bright, and those are the focus of our jewel flashback.
Unsurprisingly, the Queen picks jewels that match one of the colors of the Garter ensemble: white (pearls and diamonds), red (rubies), or blue (sapphires). Past choices have included:
For the past few years, she's alternated the colorful options, using sapphires one year, rubies the next, and so on: George VI Sapphire Earrings (2007), Queen Mary's Ruby Cluster Earrings (2008), Dubai Looped Sapphire Demi-Parure Earrings (2009), Queen Victoria's Crown Ruby Earrings (2010, 2012), Sapphire Tassel Demi-Parure Earrings (2011).

Garter Day In Depth

Photos: PA/Getty Images/Corbis/Reuters