According to legend, the king conceived of the idea of the Order during a tournament held at Windsor in 1344. The tournament was a particularly grand one, with knights from all over Europe participating, and the tournament and the Order founding are considered one of the high water marks of the Age of Chivalry. The Order’s motto, honi soit qui mal y pense (shame on he who thinks evil of it) is said to come from an incident in which a noblewoman’s garter slipped off her leg while she was dancing near the king. Edward picked it up and uttered the motto to the snickering courtiers.
There were 26 Founder Knights of the Order, including the Prince of Wales. For some years after the founding, women were appointed Ladies of the Garter; this practice was discontinued by Henry VII and later resurrected by Edward VII. Today, membership in the Order is limited to the monarch, the Prince of Wales, 24 companion members, and several supernumerary members. Only the monarch can grant membership; new Knights are announced on April 23, St. George’s Day. New knights are installed at the annual meeting of the Order at Windsor Castle during Royal Ascot week, in June.