Just in the airport about to come back from a wonderful conference in Perth, on which more later.... But I want to honour my proposal of blogging some poems on the Garter. This is an extract from George Peele's 1593 Honour of the Garter, in which the poet experiences a vision of Edward III and rehearses without embarrassment the traditional story about Edward, the lady and her garter. It's a full-on version of Elizabethan triumphalism.
Note that at the end of this section, Peele describes Kings and Queens wearing garters around their arms. We certainly have evidence of this practice for women in a couple of C15 effigies, but here it seems to be men as well as women doing it.
Yet was the welkin cleare, nor smoke nor dust
Anoyd myne eyes: I gazd, and as I looked,
Me thought this hoste of ayrie armed men,
Girt Windsore Castle rounde. Anon I saw
Vnder a Canapie of Crymson bysse,
Spangled with gold and set with siluer bels,
That sweetlie chimed, and luld me halfe a sleepe,
A goodly king in robes most richly dight.
The vpper, like a Romaine Palliament,
In deede a Chapperon, for such it was;
And looking neerer, loe vpon his legge,
An auncient badge of honour I espyed.
A Garter brightly glistring in mine eye,
A worthy ornament. Then I cald to minde,
What Princely Edward, of that name the third,
King Edward for his great atchiuements famed,
What he began; The order of S. George,
That at this day is honoured through the world.
The order of the Garter so ycleepd.
A great effect, grown of a slender cause,
Graced by a King, and fauoured of his feeres,
Famed by his followers, worthy Kings and Queenes,
That to this day are Soueraignes of the same.
The manner how this matter grew at first.
Was thus. The King disposed on a time
To reuell after he had shaken Fraunce,
(O had he brauely helde it to the last)
And deckt his Lyons with their flowre de Lyce,
Disposed to reuell: Some say otherwise,
Found on the ground by Fortune as he went
A Ladies Garter: But the Queenes I troe
Lost in a daunce, and tooke it vp himselfe.
It was a silken Ribban weaued of blewe.
His Lords and standers by, seeing the King
Stoope for this Garter, smiled: as who would say,
Our office that had beene, or somwhat els.
King Edward vvistlie looking on them all,
With Princely hands hauing that Garter ceazd,
From harmelesse hart vvhere honour was engraued,
Bespake in French (a could the language well)
And rife was French those dayes with Englishmen;
They went to schoole to put together Townes,
And spell in Fraunce with Feskues made of Pikes.
Honi Soit Qui mal y pense, quoth he,
Wherewith vpon aduizement, though the cause
Were small, his pleasure and his purpose was
T'aduance that Garter, and to institute
A noble order sacred to S. George:
And Knights to make, whom he would haue be tearmed
Knights of the Garter. This beginning had
This honourable order of our time.
Heereon I thought when I beheld the King,
But swifter then my thought by that I saw,
And words I heard, or seemed to heare at least,
I was instructed in the circumstance:
And found it was King Edward that did march
In robes, like those he ware when with his Lords,
He held S. Gorges royall Feast on earth,
His eldest sonne surnamed the Blacke Prince,
Though black of hue, that surname yet in Fraunce
He wan; For terror to the Frenchmens harts
His countenance was, his Sword an Iron scourge.
He one a cole-black Coorser mounted was,
And in his hand a battel-axe he hent:
His Beuer vp, his Corslet was of Steele,
Varnisht as black as Iett: his bases blacke,
And black fro head to foote, yea horse and hoofe
As black as night; but in a twinck me thought
A chaungd at once his habite and his Steede,
And had a Garter as his father had.
Right rich and costly, with embroyderie
Of Pearle and Gold. I could on it discerne,
The Poesie whereof I spake of yore;
And well I wot since this King Edwards dayes,
Our Kings and Queenes about theyr royall Armes,
Haue in a Garter borne this Poesie.