Letter to Lord William Paget (from Queen Elizabeth)
In May 1561, Queen Elizabeth dispatched a letter to aging Lord William Paget commanding his presence at the Order of the Garter’s “feast of the glorius martir Siente George” at Windsor Palace. The letter informed him that the Earl of Arundel was appointed as her lieutenant for the event and that he was to serve as one of his assistants. A letter she wrote to him as a teenager provides evidence that Elizabeth’s friendship with Lord Paget dated back many years.
From the beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth cultivated the adoration of her subjects. The celebrations associated with Elizabeth’s coronation were spectacular. Her majestic court engaged in lavish public ceremonies and her Progresses brought the splendor of the court to subjects across her realm. No annual event matched the Garter Feast for St. George’s Day. Resplendent in their Garter robes, the Queen and the knights of the Order would take part in a divine service, procession, and a great banquet.
William Harrison’s “Description of England” in Holinshed’s Chronicles provides a brief contemporary glimpse of the Order of the Garter, which was founded by King Edward III in 1348 upon the accident of his finding a garter lost by his Queen. The Order’s twenty-four knights are chosen “out of his owne realme, & throrowout all Christendome of the best most excellent and renowmed person in all vertues & honours …giving them a Garter garnished with golde & precious stones.” The knights’ elaborate dress included a velvet mantle with an escutcheon of St. George, a red surcoat, a 30-ounce gold collar, and the splendid garter worn on the left leg. These vestments were worn “when they enter into the Chappel of Saint George, or be in the chapter house of their order… In lyke sort they weare also theyr mantelles upon the even of S. George, & go with the Souereine, or his deputie in the same maner of procession from the kings great chamber unto the chapel, or unto the Colledge, … not putting it from them, untill supper be ended.”
Lord William Paget (1505/6–1563) was an excellent administrator, who served under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Queen Mary. He adroitly survived treacherous times such as when on Edward’s death, he provided pivotal support in the Privy Council for Mary instead of Lady Jane Grey. Lord Paget retired from government service when Elizabeth became queen. His last recorded official duties were performed at Windsor palace Order of the Garter ceremonies in response the present letter.
Chrzanowski 1561e *