This year’s Order of the Garter service at Windsor Castle is an especially significant one as the Queen has welcomed King Felipe of Spain and King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands into the fold. The monarchs were appointed in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and formally invested today as Supernumerary, or ‘Stranger’, Knights of the Garter.
Other current “Stranger Knights” are Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, King Juan Carlos of Spain (Felipe’s father, who abdicated), Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands (Willem-Alexander’s mother, who abdicated), Emperor Emeritus Akihito of Japan, and King Harald V of Norway.
A few members of the Royal Family are also members of the Order as Royal Knights – these include the Queen’s four children (the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York, and the Earl of Wessex), her cousins (the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Alexandra), and the Duke of Cambridge. William was invested in 2008 in a nod to his place in the succession. It’s likely that the Duke of Sussex will also eventually be appointed once Charles ascends the throne.
It’s also worth noting that the Queen and Charles are automatically given membership as “ex officio knights” with the ability to admit new members.
There are 24 spots for Knights and Lady Companions, with two new investments celebrated today for Lady Mary Peters and the Marquess of Salisbury. At this point, there is still one vacancy.
Today’s event includes the Queen leading the Knights to St George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle for a service (though in point of fact she arrives by car, and older members have the option of being driven). The rest of the Knights walk in their full get up while members of the public and other guests look on.
This year, the onlookers included a host of royal ladies, not least of whom was Felipe’s wife, Queen Letizia of Spain, and Willem-Alexander’s wife, Queen Maxima of The Netherlands.
They mingled with the Windsor women, including the Duchess of Cornwall, the Countess of Wessex, and the Duchess of Cambridge. This marks Kate’s fifth time attending since marriage (she was also on hand in 2008 when William was invested). She was here in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016, however the event was cancelled in 2017 and it bumped up against her maternity leaves for her children in 2013, 2015, 2018.
Today she chose a white Catherine Walker coat dress with black piping and a black Lock & Co hat. I like the color contrast on this piece, however as you well know I’m not a big fan of the Peter Pan collar, so this is going to come in short of a “win” in my book.
Camilla is wearing Anna Valentine with a hat by Philip Treacy, and Letizia’s dress is by the Spanish label Cherubina.
As for Maximia, I’ve not seen a definitive ID on her ensemble, save that it’s Dutch. She also enjoys a friendly relationship with the House of Windsor, and in fact stood with the BRF during 2015’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
As such, it was nice – and kind of fascinating – to see such powerhouses of modern European royalty interacting with one another. By all appearances, they get along well!
At the close of the service, the wives joined their husbands in carriages to leave the chapel and process back to the Castle. William and Kate shared a carriage with Felipe and Letizia, while Willem-Alexander and Maxima joined Prince Andrew (the Duke of York) in a carriage.
And that’s a wrap. Tomorrow kicks off Royal Ascot, so it’s likely that we’ll again see Camilla, Kate, and Sophie along with the rest of the BRF. In the meantime, you can catch up on last year’s Garter Day with this post, which includes a little more on its history.