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Probably of interest to heraldicists, too8 Oct. 2005
Michael K. Smith
- Published on Amazon.com
In one sense, a history of English royal decorations and chivalric orders has zero connection to the experience of American readers. These aren't granted in recognition of military courage or (usually) accomplishment in civilian life, but simply because the recipient was born to the upper classes. The Order of the Garter is about as about as far from democracy as you can get. On the other hand, because the Garter has been around since Edward III established the club in 1348, it has become the most respected and most cherished award that may be made, not only to British citizens but to foreign rulers -- even the emperor of Japan. Vickers has been hanging around the subject since attending his first Garter ceremony at the age of thirteen (as you tells you several times), and has become perhaps the leading nonprofessional authority on orders of knighthood. Edward VII fought several times with his government over the granting of the Garter, though he distributed lesser decorations almost like lunch tips. Some peers have had no interest in or time to spend worrying about such things, while others (notably Earl Mountbatten) "collected orders the way other people collect stamps." As Vickers notes, the present monarch has been notably stingy with honours to her own relatives, which probably is not a bad thing.