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Elizabeth I and the Order of the Garter

Raymond B. Waddington
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 97-113
DOI: 10.2307/2541800
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2541800
Page Count: 17
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Elizabeth I and the Order of the Garter
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Abstract

In 1987, Elizabeth II amended the statutes of the Order of the Garter to permit the admission of Ladies Companions, "... to do away with sex discrimination." The Order had been established in the 1340s; membership was limited to only certain males: twenty-four knights, the king, and his eldest son. The statutes did not give women an official place in the Order, but from its inception they appear to have had an associate role and to have participated in its ceremonies. Richard II encouraged participation of women in the Order; Henry VII was the last monarch to include women; thereafter, Henry VIII allowed the custom to fall into abeyance. When Elizabeth II assumed the throne, a power vacuum was created by the incapacity of her largely female Privy Chamber. Elizabeth I had to find a strategy for establishing her authority over the realm, the court, and the absolutely male bastion of prestige within the court. Her solution can be inferred from an analysis of the most notable features of her tenure as sovereign of the Order of the Garter. These are ceremonial, historical, and behavioral-her personal style of presidency.

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