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The glittering rewards of chivalry –  rarely seen diamond-studded Royal regalia from the Order of the Garter go on public view


THEY are priceless regalia, worn by Knights Companion and Ladies Companion of Britain’s most senior Order of Chivalry, the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Returned to the Sovereign on the death of the knight, they are rarely displayed in public other than during the annual Garter Day procession at Windsor Castle.

But two rare Stars of the Order of the Garter – worn pinned to the left breast – and a unique Garter band are to be exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London this week.

The late Queen Elizabeth II shows off her star at Windsor for the ceremony of the Order of the Garter in 1986

The late Queen Elizabeth II shows off her star at Windsor for the ceremony of the Order of the Garter in 1986

The Coronation of King Edward VII on June 26 1902 - with Garter regalia on full view

The Coronation of King Edward VII on June 26 1902 – with Garter regalia on full view

Regalia from the Orders of the Garter, the Bath, and Saint Patrick and the Thistle shown in rows from the top

Regalia from the Orders of the Garter, the Bath, and Saint Patrick and the Thistle shown in rows from the top

Two of the insignias – the Star and Garter band – were given to the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, Robert, Viscount Castlereagh by King George III in 1814 after he fought in the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. 

The blue silk and diamond Garter band was worn (around the leg) by the 6th Marquess of Londonderry at the 1902 Coronation of Edward VII at Westminster Abbey.

It was later borrowed by his great-nephew Sir Winston Churchill for his own investiture into the Order of the Garter in 1953.

The other Star, which is made of gold and silver, with diamonds, rubies and enamel, was given to the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry by Queen Victoria, on the death of Wellington in 1853.

Peter Lauritzen, who is married to The Hon Rose Keppel, great-granddaughter of the 6th Marquess, and lives at the ancestral home Mt Stewart, said: ‘I do not know how rare the diamond Garter Stars are.

‘But I suspect the Garter Band is very rare, if not unique. Stars and Garter bands of the Order of the Garter have to be returned to the Sovereign on the Knight’s death, unless the King allows the insignia to be made exceptionally in diamonds.

‘The Prince Regent – later King George IV – was Castlereagh’s close personal friend and would have made him the offer to have the Star made in diamonds.’

The exhibition, which opens on February 22, also features the Beetle Wing Dress, which was worn by actress Ellen Terry for her performance as Lady Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre in London.

Winston Churchill pictured in his robes as a Knight of the Garter.

Winston Churchill pictured in his robes as a Knight of the Garter. 

The Beetle Wing Dress worn by actress Ellen Terry for her performance as Lady Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre in 1899

The Beetle Wing Dress worn by actress Ellen Terry for her performance as Lady Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre in 1899

Artist John Singer Sargent attended the opening night on December 29, 1888, and was inspired to paint her portrait the following year.

The dress, which was created in velvet, silk damask, cotton, metal and glass, was designed by costumier Alice Comyns-Carr, created by dressmaker Ada Nettleship, and is in her former home Smallhythe Place, now owned by the National Trust.

Sargent and Fashion is on at Tate Britain until July 7



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