4.9. The Order of the Garter

The final line of Sir Gawain, “HONY SOYT QUI MAL PENCE”, (probably added by a different hand) is a very slight variant of the motto of the Order of the Garter, “Hony Soit Qui Mal y Pense”.  Additionally, there is a description of robes worn by Sir Gawain at Hautdesert which sound remarkably like the robes of a Knight of the Garter [CARGILL28] … see the description of the Garter robes in the fourteenth century [NORRIS27]


He were a bleaunt of blwe, þat bradde to þe erþe,
His surkot semed hym wel, þat softe watz forred,
And his hode of þat ilke henged on his schulder;
Blande al of blaunner were boþe al aboute.

  --Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1928-1931)

It has often been argued that this implies some connection between the Gawain-Poet and the Order of the Garter, and possibly that his patron was a member of that Order.  The probability of a candidate being associated with a Knight of the Garter might not be too small even though there were a very limited number of these knights, especially in the north west.

James Cottrell was certainly closely associated with several Knights of the Garter, and the Order of Christ was in many ways similar to the Order of the Garter in England.  It had the same chivalrous intentions, the same knightly values, and, of course, had a close relationship with the church.  The Order of Christ was composed of 69 mounted and armed knights together with 9 clerics and 6 sergeants.  The war against the Moors was a very real and continuing issue, but, nevertheless, when the brethren were not out harassing the Moors, one can well imagine them making good use of a Monteiro-Mór and spending much time hunting.  Gaunt himself was a Knight of the Garter, Philippa's grandfather, Henry of Lancaster was one of the original Knights of the Garter.  João was made a knight of the Garter, and so were both of the young princes, Duarte and Henrique.  The Portuguese royal family regarded the honour highly enough to include the motto in their burial masonry, and Philippa imported many English customs into the Portuguese court and society.  Putting it rather flippantly, there must have been times when it was difficult for James Cottrell to move around the castle without tripping over one or two Knights of the Garter.