The Queen began her busy week at Windsor today, joined by senior members of the Royal Family for the annual Order of the Garter service.
Hundreds of spectators saw the Garter Knights process through the grounds of Windsor Castle wearing their blue velvet robes and black velvet hats with white plumes.
The Queen was accompanied by numerous members of her family, all of whom are members of the order. She was preceded in the procession by The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge, while ahead of them were King Felipe VI of Spain, along with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who were installed in the Chapel as supernumerary, or stranger, Knights of the Garter prior to the ceremony.
They were joined by their wives, Queen Letizia and Queen Maxima for the service, respectively. The Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Wessex observed the procession together.
Ahead of the European Kings came The Duke of York and Earl of Wessex, Princess Anne, The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, and Princess Alexandra.
The Queen appointed King Felipe to the order during his July 2017 state visit, while Willem-Alexander received the honour during his state visit in October 2018. The two Kings had been invested into the Order earlier in the day at a private investiture ceremony in the Garter throne room at Windsor Castle.
A Lady Companion, Lady Mary Peters, and a Knight Companion, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, The Marquess of Salisbury, were also invested with the order’s insignia.
Following the investiture, The Queen hosted a private lunch for the recipients ahead of the ceremony. They then went onto a service at St George’s with all the Royals processing on foot from the private apartments in the upper quadrangle to St George’s Chapel. The Queen arrived by car.
The annual procession takes place accompanied by a marching band and Officers of the Order, all in grand ceremonial dress.
After the 40-minute service, The Queen travelled back in a carriage with Prince Charles and Camilla to applause from the crowd.
King Felipe and Letizia were in the second carriage with Prince William and Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge. Meanwhile The Duke of York sat with Willem-Alexander and Maxima in the third carriage.
Recipients of the honour are chosen because they have held public office, contributed to national life or served the Sovereign personally. The appointment of Knights of the Garter is in The Queen’s gift and is made without consulting ministers.
The Order of the Garter was established in the 14th century, with St George as its patron saint. It is the oldest national order of knighthood and Britain’s most senior order of chivalry. It is also one of the most exclusive – only 24 knights are allowed at any given time, along with the British monarch and The Prince of Wales.
You can learn more about the order’s history here.
Other members of the Order include former prime minister Sir John Major, 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.
The Queen is Sovereign of the order and a number of other British and foreign Royals are additional Knights of the order, including Philip, Charles and William.