Felipe of Spain and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands are guests of honour at the Order of the Garter ceremony as The Queen, Charles and William don their famous velvet robes for one of the grandest Royal events of the year

  • The Queen has welcomed King Felipe of Spain and King William-Alexander of the Netherlands to Windsor
  • The pair attended the annual Order of the Garter ceremony to officially become ‘Stranger’ Knights
  • Honour is bestowed upon foreign royals but does not count towards the limit of 24 members of the Order 
  • The ceremony is part of a 700-year tradition and honours those who have demonstrated great public service
  • Lady Mary Peters and the Marquess of Salisbury were also officially invested with the Order today
  • The Queen was joined by senior Royals including Prince Charles and William but Harry is not a member yet 

King Felipe VI of Spain and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands have been welcomed to Windsor by The Queen today as they receive a special honour reserved only for foreign royals at the prestigious annual Order of the Garter service. 

Her Majesty welcomed the royals and their wives Queen Letizia of Spain and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands to Windsor Castle, where she officially invested them as Supernumerary, or ‘Stranger’, Knights of the Garter.  

Felipe was appointed by the Queen during his July 2017 state visit while Willem-Alexander received the honour during his state visit in October 2018, with today’s ceremony cementing their awards at one of the grandest events on the Royal calendar. 

The Order of the Garter is a a 700-year tradition founded by Edward III in 1348, and recognises contributions of great public service from those honoured – usually Lords and Ladies of the UK.

Although the Order has a limit of 24 members, excluding The Queen and Prince Charles, foreign royals have been given honorary ‘Stranger Knight’ status since 1813, with controversial recipients over the years including Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany before World War I. 

Two official appointments made today are Lady Companion, Lady Mary Peters, and Knight Companion, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil the Marquess of Salisbury, who are both being invested with the Order’s insignia by The Queen at Windsor Castle.  

Hundreds of people have lined the streets to see a procession led by The Queen and members of the Garter to Windsor Castle for a service at St George’s Chapel. 

The Queen was pictured being taken to Windsor Castle by car today for the annual Order of the Garter service – one of the grandest events in the Royal calendar. The monarch was joined by several senior royals and wore her traditional velvet robes and feathered cap

King Felipe of Spain, left, and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, right, were both made ‘Stranger Knights’ of the Garter today by The Queen which is an honour reserved for foreign royals

The Spanish and Dutch monarchs joined British royals Prince Edward, front row, right, and Prince Andrew, front row, left, and Prince Charles and Prince William, back row, for the pomp and ceremony in Windsor today

Princess Anne, left, was also among the senior royals as she joined her siblings in donning their fine velvet robes for the occasion in front of crowds of hundreds

Among the female royals dressed in their finest today were (from left) Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Queen Letizia of Spain, the Duchess of Cornwall, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the Duchess of Cambridge

Prince Charles is another member of the Order, as first in line to the throne, while his eldest son Prince William is a member of another ‘extra’ group that does not count towards the official membership – the Royal Knights. This group is reserved for senior members of the Royal Family and is usually not bestowed on a Prince or Princess until they turn 40, although William was given the title early because of his position in the line of succession 

Dame Mary Peters, pictured, was appointed Lady Companion of the Order today while the Marquess of Salisbury was made a Knight Companion, bringing the total membership up to 23

Queen Elizabeth II, centre, today formally bestowed the honour of Supernumerary Knight of the Garter upon King Felipe of Spain, left, at Windsor castle. The title grants honorary membership of the Order of the Garter and is bestowed upon foreign royals. King Felipe was accompanied by his wife, Queen Letizia, right

Also given the title of Supernumerary Knight, or ‘Stranger’ Knight, was King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, pictured with The Queen and his wife Queen Maxima at Windsor Castle. Both foreign kings were granted the titles previously after state visits in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and today have officially been invested with the Order 

Argentine-born Maxima, 48, and Letizia, 46, stood chatting with the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Countess of Wessex outside the chapel before the procession began.

Camilla, 71, wore a pale pink Anna Valentine coat dress with a Philip Treacy hat, Kate, 37, was in a stunning Catherine Walker coat and Lock & Co hat, while Sophie, 54, sported a Suzannah dress and Jane Taylor hat.

They stood smiling, Maxima in particular beaming, as their husbands walked by in the procession.

Further down the hill, Felipe, 51, waved merrily at Spanish journalists as the procession neared the chapel.

The Queen, accompanied by Princess Alexandra, travelled by car to the chapel, a few hundred yards down the hill from her apartments, behind the knights’ procession.

Hundreds of spectators watched the Garter Knights walking through the grounds of the castle in the summer sunshine, wearing their blue velvet robes and black velvet hats with white plumes made from ostrich feathers.

The Queen was joined by Prince Charles, the Duke of Cambridge and other senior royals in St George’s Chapel for the service.

The Queen, pictured being driven to the ceremony in Windsor today after enjoying a lunch with her family and the foreign royals

King Felipe of Spain, left, and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, right, smiled and waved to the crowds as they walked through Windsor with the British royals to the castle

The royals both foreign and domestic enjoyed walking in bright sunshine for the prestigious event, with the Order of the Garter the oldest and most senior order of chivalry in Britain 



Smiling Sophie Wessex, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the Duchess of Cambridge at the Order of the Garter, Windsor

Prince William, pictured walking with his father, was invested with the Order aged just 26 due to his position in the line of succession. His brother Prince Harry is not yet a member of the Royal Knights and may have to wait until he is 40, the same age his uncles Prince Edward and Prince Andrew were when they were allowed to join by The Queen

The procession led the royals through the streets of Windsor to St George’s Chapel in the castle, with the Household Calvary on hand to march alongside them

King Felipe, centre, and King Willem-Alexander, second right, have carried on a family tradition in being named Stranger Knights, with Felipe’s father Juan Carlos admitted to the Order in 1988 and King Willem-Alexander’s mother Princess Beatrix named a Stranger Knight in 1989

Lady Mary Peters, pictured in Windsor, who is a former Olympic gold medal-winning pentathlete for Britain, was admitted to the Order following her service as Lord Lieutenant of Belfast 

King Felipe VI and Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands were installed in the chapel as supernumerary, or stranger, Knights of the Garter.

Felipe was appointed by the Queen during his July 2017 state visit while Willem-Alexander received the honour during his state visit in October 2018.

Earlier in the day there was a private Investiture in the Garter throne room at Windsor Castle, where a new Lady Companion, former Olympic athlete Lady Mary Peters, and a Knight Companion, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, were invested with the Order’s insignia by the Queen.

Knights of the Garter are chosen personally by the Sovereign to honour those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

Lady Mary is a former Lord Lieutenant of Belfast while the Marquess of Salisbury is a former leader of the House of Lords. 

Stranger Knights is a second order bestowed upon foreign royals, with the title not counting towards the official limit of 24 members. The last time a foreign monarch was invested was King Harald of Norway in 2001, with royals often keeping the honour during their reign and then the title being passed on to their successor. 

Another order of ‘extra’ members who are not part of the official limit are the Royal Knights and Ladies, which includes Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince Charles, the Princess Royal and Prince William.

Prince Harry is not a member of this group yet, with experts previously noting William was handed the honour at a young age most likely due to his place in the line of succession.

The Queen’s sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were not invested as Royal Knights until they were 40 meaning Harry, 34, may face waiting a few more years before he can attend.

Prince Philip, who effectively retired from official public duties last August, did not attend today’s ceremony. He last took part in 2016, after the Queen was forced to cancel the 2017 Order of the Garter for the first time since 1984 because a snap General Election meant it clashed with the State Opening of Parliament.

Lady Mary and the Marquess of Salisbury’s appointments brings the current number of members to 23, leaving one vacancy. 

Foreign royals have been receiving Stranger Knight status since 1813, when Emperor Alexander I of Russia was invested with Order status.

Other foreign royals who are currently Stranger Knights are Queen Margrethe of Denmark, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, former King Juan Carlos of Spain, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Harald of Norway and former Emperor Akihito of Japan.


The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to Queen Letizia of Spain and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Order of the Garter service, left. Pictured right, visiting royal Letizia is entertained by Sophie, Countess of Wessex, outside St George’s Chapel 

Pictured are King Felipe and King Willem-Alexander with the British royals. Foreign royals have been receiving Stranger Knight status since 1813, when Emperor Alexander I of Russia was invested with Order status


Prince William was also accompanied by his wife The Duchess of Cambridge to the event, with Kate pictured smiling broadly as she spoke to the Duchess of Cornwall

Queen Letizia of Spain was pictured in conversation with the Duchess of Cornwall, right, at the service in Windsor as several senior Royals turned out in their finery for the occasion

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Windsor today, pictured, to watch a procession through the streets with the Household Cavalry marching to the castle ahead of a service at St George’s Chapel

The Household Cavalry Guards were dressed in their finest and holding their ceremonial swords as they led a procession through the streets of Windsor, pictured

The Order of the Garter is a 700-year-old tradition started by King Edward III as a group of ‘honourable knights’ inspired by the legend of King Arthur. Today its 24 members – usually Lords and Ladies, are recognised for their services to the public. Pictured is the Household Cavalry marching in Windsor

During the First World War, two Royal Knights and six Stranger Knights, all monarchs or princes of enemy nations and including Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor, and Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, were struck off the roll of the Order or had their appointments annulled in 1915. 

Emperor Hirohito of Japan was also removed from the Order during World War II in 1941, but it was restored to his great pleasure after he made a state visit to the UK in 1971, 26 years after the country was defeated by the Allies  

The Queen and Prince Charles, as sovereign and heir, are automatically given membership of the Order and are considered ‘ex officio knights’ with the power to admit new members.

The Garter is open to British and Commonwealth citizens, with former Prime Minister Sir John Major and Lord Sainsbury numbered among the current members.

Field Marshall, the Lord Bramall, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, the Duke of Abercorn, the Duke of Westminster and Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former Director-General of MI5, are also Knights of the Garter. 

The appointment of Knights of the Garter is in the Queen’s gift and is made without consulting ministers.

Recipients of the honour are chosen because they have held public office, contributed to national life or served the sovereign personally.

Other members of the order include Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, a past president of the Supreme Court, and Admiral Lord Boyce, a former head of the UK’s armed forces.

What is the Order of the Garter? How King Edward III was so inspired by tales of King Arthur he set up his own group of knights almost 700 years ago

In medieval times, King Edward III was so inspired by tales of King Arthur and the chivalry of the Knights of the Round Table that he set up his own group of honourable knights, called the Order of the Garter.

Nearly 700 years later, the Order is the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain. The Knights, now both male and female, used to be limited to aristocracy, but today they are chosen from a variety of backgrounds, in recognition for their public service.

The patron saint of the Order is St George (patron saint of soldiers and also of England) and if there are vacancies in the Order, appointments are announced on St George’s Day (23 April).


The Order of the Garter is a 700-year-old tradition which recognises great public service. Membership is limited to a maximum of 24 and is usually Lords and Ladies with The Queen, left in 2018, naming members as she sees fit. An ‘extra’ group of members who do not count towards the official limit are Royal Knights, including Prince William, far right last year, while Prince Charles, second right in 2018, is an automatic member as first in line to the throne

The spiritual home of the Order is St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Every knight is required to display a banner of his arms in the Chapel, together with a helmet, crest and sword and an enamelled stallplate.

These ‘achievements’ are taken down on the knight’s death and the insignia are returned to the Sovereign. The stallplates remain as a memorial and these now form one of the finest collections of heraldry in the world.

Knights of the Garter are chosen personally by the Sovereign to honour those who have held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

As sovereign and heir, The Queen and Prince Charles are automatically given membership of the Order and are considered ‘ex officio knights’. The Prince of Wales is known as a Royal Knight Companion of the Garter.

The sovereign, known as the Sovereign of the Garter, is the only one with the power to admit new members.

The Garter is open to British and Commonwealth citizens. Notable former members include Sir Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Field Marshall, the Lord Bramall, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, the Duke of Abercorn, the Duke of Westminster and Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former Director-General of MI5, are among the current Knights and Ladies of the Garter.

There are also two orders of ‘extra’ knights. Members of the Royal Knights and Ladies include Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince Charles, the Princess Royal and Prince William.

A second order, the Stranger Knights and Ladies, is bestowed on foreign rulers such as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Harald V of Norway.

Although new additions are named on St. George’s Day, the 23 April, the initiation ceremony takes place in Junmantle during the traditional Garter Procession, which sees members parade through Windsor.

The annual iconic Garter Day procession, where The Queen and the Knights process in grand velvet robes, glistening insignia and plumed hats, is one of the most traditional ceremonies in the Queen’s calendar.

Every June, a grand procession of the knights takes place at Windsor Castle, accompanied by a marching band and Officers of the Order, all in grand ceremonial dress.

The day begins with The Queen formally investing any new Companions with the Order’s insignia in the Throne Room of the Castle. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh entertain the members and officers at a lunch, and then all process on foot to a service in St. George’s Chapel.

There is a short service where any new Companions are installed. The Sovereign and other members of the Order then return to the Upper Ward of the castle in carriages and cars.

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