Knights of the Garter for Robert Dudley and Thomas Howard 4th Duke of Norfolk

"When first this order was ordain'd, my lords,
Knights of the garter were of noble birth,
Valiant and virtuous, full of haughty courage,
Such as were grown to credit by the wars;
Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress,
But always resolute in most extremes.
He then that is not furnish'd in this sort
Doth but usurp the sacred name of knight,
Profaning this most honourable order,
And should, if I were worthy to be judge,
Be quite degraded, like a hedge-born swain
That doth presume to boast of gentle blood
." (Henry VI, Pt.I, 4.1 by William Shakespeare)

On April 23, 1559, Robert Dudley (not yet Earl of Leicester) and Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk became Knights of the Garter during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

History of Order of the Garter
King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter as "a society, fellowship and college of knights." The foundation year is believed to be 1348. However, according to "The Founders of the Order of the Garter" which states the order was first instituted on 23 April 1344, listing each founding member as knighted in 1344. Other dates from 1344 to 1351 have also been proposed. The King's wardrobe account shows Garter habits first issued in the autumn of 1348; its original statutes required that each member already be a knight (what would now be referred to as a knight bachelor) and some of the initial members were only knighted that year. The concept was followed over the next century or so with other European monarchs founding their own prestigious orders of chivalry. The Order of the Garter remains the oldest and most prestigious.

Various legends account for the origin of the Order. The most popular legend involves the "Countess of Salisbury" (probably either Edward's future daughter-in-law Joan of Kent or her former mother-in-law, Catherine Montacute, Countess of Salisbury). While she was dancing with or near King Edward at Eltham Palace, her garter is said to have slipped from her leg. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and tied it to his leg, exclaiming, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," ("Shamed be the person who thinks evil of it."), the phrase that has become the motto of the Order.

According to another legend, King Richard I was inspired in the 12th century by St George the Martyr while fighting in the Crusades to tie garters around the legs of his knights, who subsequently won the battle. King Edward supposedly recalled the event in the 14th century when he founded the Order. Another explanation is that the motto refers to Edward's claim to the French throne, and the Order of the Garter was created to help pursue this claim. The use of the garter as an emblem may have derived from straps used to fasten armour.

Medieval scholars have pointed to a connection between the Order of the Garter and the Middle English poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". In "Gawain", a girdle, very similar in its erotic undertones to the garter, plays a prominent role. A rough version of the Order's motto also appears in the text. It translates from Old French as "Accursed be a cowardly and covetous heart."
While the author of the poem remains disputed, there seems to be a connection between two of the top candidates and the Order of the Garter. Scholar J.P. Oakden has suggested that it is someone related to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and, more importantly, a member of the Order. Another competing theory is that the work was written for Enguerrand de Coucy, seventh Sire de Coucy. Sire de Coucy was married to King Edward III's daughter, Isabella, and was given admittance to the Order of the Garter on their wedding day.

Robert Dudley was counted among Princess Elizabeth's special friends by Philip II's envoy to the English court a week before Queen Mary's death. On 18 November 1558, the morning after Elizabeth's accession, he witnessed the surrender of the Great Seal to her at Hatfield. He became Master of the Horse on the same day. This was an important court position entailing close attendance on the sovereign. It suited him, as he was an excellent horseman and showed great professional interest in royal transport and accommodation, horse breeding, and the supply of horses for all occasions. Dudley was also entrusted with organizing and overseeing a large part of the Queen's coronation festivities.
In April 1559 Dudley was elected a Knight of the Garter in the good company of England's only duke and an earl, causing great wonder. The ambassador of the neutral Republic of Venice, by his office the most detached of the foreign envoys, soon wrote home: "My Lord Robert Dudley is ... very intimate with Her Majesty. On this subject I ought to report the opinion of many but I doubt whether my letters may not miscarry or be read, wherefore it is better to keep silence than to speak ill." Philip II had already been informed shortly before Dudley's decoration:

Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does whatever he likes with affairs and it is even said that her majesty visits him in his chamber day and night. People talk of this so freely that they go so far as to say that his wife has a malady in one of her breasts and the Queen is only waiting for her to die to marry Lord Robert ... Matters have reached such a pass ... that ... it would ... be well to approach Lord Robert on your Majesty's behalf ... Your Majesty would do well to attract and confirm him in his friendship.

Within a month the Spanish ambassador, Count de Feria, counted Robert Dudley among those three persons who "rule everything". Visiting foreigners of princely rank were bidding for his goodwill. He acted as official host on state occasions and was himself a frequent guest at ambassadorial dinners. By the autumn of 1559 several foreign princes were vying for the Queen's hand; their impatient envoys came under the impression that Elizabeth was fooling them, "keeping Lord Robert's enemies and the country engaged with words until this wicked deed of killing his wife is consummated." "Lord Robert", the new Spanish ambassador de Quadra was convinced, was the man "in whom it is easy to recognize the king that is to be ... she will marry none but the favoured Robert." Many of the nobility would not brook Dudley's new prominence, as they could not "put up with his being King." The Duke of Norfolk threatened that Dudley "would not die in his bed", while the Imperial envoy wondered why he had "not been slain long ere this" and hoped he would soon "meet with the reward he so richly merits." Plans to kill the favourite abounded; one plot that remained a secret at the time was hatched by the Swedish ambassador.
Dudley took to wearing a light coat of mail under his clothes. Among all classes, in England and abroad, gossip got under way that the Queen had children by Dudley—such rumours never quite ended for the rest of her life.

Thomas Howard 4th Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal (10 March 1536 – 2 June 1572) was an English nobleman. Norfolk was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I of England through her mother's family and was trusted with public office despite his family's history and (although he claimed to be a Protestant) his prior support for Catholicism. He was Earl Marshal of England and Queen's Lieutenant in the North from February to July 1560 and was commander of the English army in Scotland in support of the Lords of the Congregation opposing Mary of Guise. He agreed the Treaty of Berwick (1560) by which the Congregation invited English assistance.

Queen Elizabeth imprisoned him in 1569 for scheming to wed Mary, Queen of Scots.
Following his release, he participated in the Ridolfi plot with King Philip II of Spain to put Mary on the English throne and restore Catholicism in England, though the strength of the evidence for his participation in the Ridolfi plot is doubted by some. He was executed for treason in 1572. He is buried at St Peter ad Vincula within the walls of the Tower of London.
Norfolk's lands and titles were forfeit, although much of the estate was later restored to his sons. The title of Duke of Norfolk was restored, four generations later, to Thomas Howard.

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