"It's a nice piece of pageantry. . . . Rationally it's lunatic,
but in practice, everyone enjoys it, I think."-HRH Prince Philip,
Duke of Edinburgh
Founded by Edward III in 1348, the Most Noble Order of the Garter
is the highest chivalric honor among the gifts of the Queen of
England and an institution that looks proudly back to its medieval
origins. But what does the annual Garter procession of modern
princes and politicians decked out in velvets and silks have to do
with fourteenth-century institutions? And did the Order, in any
event, actually originate in the wardrobe malfunction of the
traditional story, when Edward held up his mistress's dropped
garter for all to see and declared it to be a mark of honor rather
than shame? Or is this tale of the Order's beginning nothing more
than a vulgar myth?
With steady erudition and not infrequent irreverence, Stephanie
Trigg ranges from medieval romance to Victorian caricature, from
imperial politics to medievalism in contemporary culture, to write
a strikingly original cultural history of the Order of the Garter.
She explores the Order's attempts to reform and modernize itself,
even as it holds onto an ambivalent relationship to its medieval
past. She revisits those moments in British history when the Garter
has taken on new or increased importance and explores a long
tradition of amusement and embarrassment over its formal
processions and elaborate costumes. Revisiting the myth of the
dropped garter itself, she asks what it can tell us about our
desire to seek the hidden sexual history behind so venerable an
Grounded in archival detail and combining historical method with
reception and cultural studies, Shame and Honor untangles
650 years of fact, fiction, ritual, and reinvention.
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