On Monday, Prince William becomes the 1000th member of the Order of the Garter, the world's oldest order of chivalry.

1000 might seem a lot, but the Order of the Garter was established by King Edward III way back in 1348 - which means it's a very exclusive organisation.

The Order of the Garter dates back to a ball held by King Edward III after England's victory over the French at the Battle of Crecy. The 19 year old Joan, Countess of Salisbury (she was known as the "Fair Maid of Kent" and a Frenchman even declared she was the most beautiful woman in England), was there and, as she danced, her garter fell onto the floor. King Edward III picked it up and put it around his own leg as a joke. With this, he ended up founding the Order of the Garter.

Joan also married Edward III's son, the Black Prince, and she gave birth to Richard - who later became King Richard II.

The Order of the Garter is for England only. Scotland has the Order of the Thistle. Ireland's Order of St Patrick has died out and Wales doesn't have one, as it is a Principality and is counted as part of the Kingdom of England.

Here's all you need to know about the Order of the Garter...

Prince William to join Britain's most exclusive club as Knight of the Garter

11th June 2008
Daily Mail

Pomp and ceremony: How Prince William will look on Monday

Of all the medals, orders and honorary decorations he will receive in his lifetime (and there will be plenty), Prince William will never be awarded anything quite like the extraordinary regalia he will wear on Monday.

In fact, with a black ostrich-plumed hat, a red hood, a blue velvet cloak lined with white satin, a silver star, a priceless miniature of St George and the Dragon dangling from a chain of solid gold and a garter strapped just below his left knee, it will probably be the biggest dressing-up exercise this side of his own coronation.

And once he has managed to put all this on, he has to walk at hobbling speed through Windsor Castle for nearly a quarter of a mile in front of thousands of people and the world's media.

But, behind all the flummery, there will be a very serious point to Monday's event.

The Prince will become a knight. And he will not be receiving any old knighthood, either.

The second in line to the throne will be formally invested as a 'Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter'.

What's more, he will become the 1,000th knight of the Garter since Edward III appointed the Black Prince as the first one in 1348.

It will be quite a leap for a young man whose only previous decoration has been a Golden Jubilee Medal.

Monday's ritual will be an important and ancient royal rite of passage.

It will be exactly 40 years since the Prince of Wales was invested as a member of the oldest order of chivalry in the world.

Prince William will join a 660-year-old club which goes to the heart of the English national identity and owes its origins to both King Arthur and St George.

In addition, he will acquire a set of initials which will always take pride of place immediately after his name: KG.

But what does it all mean? Set aside the pomp, and the whole point of 'the Garter' is very simple.

Indeed, it is the same today as it ever was: to demonstrate loyalty and service to the Sovereign.

Historians continue to debate the origins of the Order of the Garter. The popular story is that Edward III was dancing with Joan, Countess of Salisbury when her garter fell to the floor.

Prince William and Kate Middleton at a charity boxing ball this week

The King retrieved it, attached it to his own leg and rebuked his s******ing courtiers with the words: 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' ('Shame on him who thinks evil of it').

Others say the garter was merely a symbol of kinship. Either way, there is no doubt that the King wanted to bolster the English throne with the lustre of legend.

He had already adopted St George as England's patron saint, with St George's Chapel as his church.

In 1348, he sought a band of loyal knights - in the image of King Arthur and his Round Table - to go with it.

So he created one and gave each a symbolic garter. Then, as now, the Order of the Garter is restricted to 24 and, these days, it includes women (known as Lady Companions).

Chosen by the Queen, not the Government, new appointments are always announced on April 23 - St George's Day.

Similarly, the order's heraldic emblem is the Cross of St George. It's all unashamedly English, just as its ancient Caledonian counterpart, the Order of the Thistle, is irredeemably Scottish (Ireland's Order of St Patrick has died out and Wales, as a principality, does not have a national order).

The modern Order of the Garter is a blend of former Prime Ministers (Lady Thatcher; Sir John Major), eminent public figures (among them the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler, and Field Marshals Bramall and Inge) and public-spirited aristocrats (it includes a quartet of Dukes).

In addition to the group of 24, monarchs can also appoint 'royal knights' and foreign monarchs, known as 'extra knights'.

Five days short of his 26th birthday, Prince William will be the youngest by a mile.

In the early days, knights of the Garter were expected to join their Sovereign in battle and, when not at war, to meet up for feasts and jousting.

Today, most knights are too old for jousting, but they still have an appetite.

Every year, on the Monday following the Queen's official birthday, they come for lunch in Windsor Castle, where the seating plan rotates to ensure no one sits next to the same person more than once in a decade.

After lunch, the knights put on their elaborate robes. They then join a spectacular procession through Windsor to St George's Chapel, 'marching' ahead of the Queen.

In deference to their age (many are in their 80s), the pace is gentle.

The prince is spending the next two months with the Royal Navy

Inside the chapel, every knight takes his seat or 'stall' - beneath his own banner - for a service of thanksgiving.

This year, there will be some extra ceremonial because there are new knights to be welcomed.

Before lunch, they will gather in the Garter Throne Room to see a private investiture for three new additions - Prince William plus Lord Luce, the former Lord Chamberlain, and Sir Thomas Dunne, Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire.

The Queen will give each of them a garter, inscribed: 'Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense', which will be attached below the left knee over the trouser leg.

Reciting ancient words of welcome, she will place the blue riband of the order over the knight's shoulder, followed by the velvet robes.

'I fear that knights are not as useful as we once were - we don't joust any more - but it is a tremendous honour,' says Lord Carrington (the former Foreign Secretary).

As Chancellor of the Order, he will stand by the Queen, holding an ancient purse - 'it's empty, I'm afraid' - and announce the new knights.

'It's extraordinary that the order has existed since 1348 and Prince William is only the 1,000th member,' says Lord Butler, adding that all the knights feel 'a special sense of obligation' to the Sovereign.

That was not always the case. To this day, any knight who wrongs the Monarch can be 'degraded'.

This involves having one's banner torn down from St George's Chapel and kicked into the gutter.

The miscreant's arms must be painted over in St George's Hall while the words 'Out upon thee, Traitor' are added next to their name in the Garter register.

There has not been a full-scale degradation since the Duke of Ormonde was kicked out in 1716 for supporting the Jacobite Rebellion, although George V did remove the banners of eight German cousins during World War I.

The Order has always been a source of tension. The Government used to have a say in appointments.

Edward VII and the Cabinet came to blows when the King refused to bestow the Garter on the Shah of Persia, saying a Christian order could not be granted to a non-Christian.

A few years later, when it was suggested Edward VII should make Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey a Garter knight, the King refused on the grounds that, as a baronet, Grey was not posh enough.

Monumental snobbery has been a feature of the Garter through the ages.

The late Duke of Wellington, appointed in 1951 by George VI, complained that the order had become 'full of people who do their own washing up'.

High comedy has often been a feature, too. Before going completely mad, George III was quite a sight at the Garter festivities of 1805.

In a new book on St George's Chapel, royal historian Hugo Vickers recounts how the King became obsessed with watching the 'basting, spicing and browning' of the 162lb piece of beef for the Garter lunch.

Afterwards, the King processed to St George's in a powdered periwig so huge that people laughed.

Inside the chapel, he was observed using a rolled-up order of service to tap the head of the admiral in front of him.

There is, of course, something comic about the highest in the land parading in velvet robes in blazing June sunshine.

Four years ago, while interviewing the Duke of Edinburgh (appointed KG in 1947), I asked him what he thought about Garter Day.

'Rationally, it's lunatic but lots of people enjoy it,' he replied.

Winston Churchill famously turned down a Dukedom and remained plain 'Mr' until 1953, when the new young Queen offered the stubborn old man one title which he could not refuse.

It is the same title Prince William will receive on Monday. It may no longer involve jousting. But being a Knight of the Garter is a rather endearing reminder that the age of chivalry is not entirely dead.