Degradation from the Order – Script and Stage Directions

The following ceremony is a reconstruction of the degradation of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, from the Order of the Garter in 1521, during the reign of Henry VIII. The text is taken directly from the actual Instrument of Degradation from the Order used against the Duke of Buckingham, as it appears in Elias Ashmole’s The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Appendix 184. Stage directions are derived from the same source, Chapter 24.

Setting: St. George’s Chapel. Garter King of Arms stands in the quire, vested in Tudor fashion, over which he wears a tabard in the arms of King Henry VIII. A pursuivant on a ladder waits at the Duke of Buckingham’s stall.

Be it known unto all men, That whereas Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, Knight, and Companion of the Noble Order of Saint George, named the Garter, hath lately done and committed High Treason against the King, Soveraign of the said Order of the Garter, in compassing and imagining the destruction of the most Noble person of our said Soveraign Lord the King, contrary to his Oath, Duty, and Allegiance; for which High Treason, the said Edward hath been indicted, arraigned, convicted, and attainted, and for the which detestable Offence and High Treason, the said Edward hath deserved to be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and expelled out of the said Company, and not worthy that his Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements should remain amongst other Noble Ensigns and Atchievements, of other noble, vertuous, and approved Knights of the said Noble Order, nor to have the benefits of the said Noble Order. Where∣fore our Soveraign Lord the King, Soveraign of the said Noble Order of St. George, named the Garter, by the advice of other Knights of the said Noble Order, for his said Offences, and committing of the said High Treason, willeth and commandeth, that the said Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and his Arms, and Ensigns, and Atchievements clearly expelled, and put out from amongst the Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements of the other Noble Knights of the said Order to the intent that all other Noble men, thereby may take Example, hereafter not to commit any such hainous and detestable Treason and Offence as God forbid they should.

God save the King.

Upon the words “put out” the pursuivant should throw the crest, mantling, banner and sword down into the quire. When Garter finishes reading, the heralds kick the achievements out of the quire, through the Chapel, out of the door, across the Lower Ward, and into the Castle ditch. The stall plate is likewise removed.

The script and directions being set, the next step in this project is to decide upon the pronunciation. I’ve been looking into Original Pronunciation (OP) of Elizabethan England, but it appears that the speech patterns had substantially changed in the latter half of the 16th century that I will need to reverse-engineer a pronunciation guide to properly recreate the voice of Sir Thomas Wriothesly, Garter King of Arms at the time of the Duke of Buckingham’s degradation.

Degradation from the Order – Source Documentation

I first learned about the ceremony for degradation from the Order of the Garter by reading The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years by Hubert Chesshyre, Lisa Jefferson, and Peter J. Begent. Loaned to me by Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, the book is a fantastic overview of the Order, and its description of the degradation ceremony is an absolute delight. However, The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years fails to specify the exact wording used, and is vague on when the practice as described was first institutionalized.

Fortunately, its bibliography revealed two fantastic resources. The first is The Statutes of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Edward III and revised in 1522 by Henry VIII. This primary resource for the governance of the Order is useful on its own, and contains a number of surprisingly detailed descriptions of the achievements of the knights to be displayed within Saint George’s Chapel.

The second, The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald, in 1672, was a study commissioned by Charles II as part of his effort to restore the respectability of the monarchy after the Cromwellian interregnum. This document goes beyond the statutes of the Order, and gets into their policies and procedures, traditions and precedents not otherwise written down in a single volume. He devotes an entire chapter to the procedure of degradation from the Order, including “stage directions” for where Garter should stand, and in what manner dressed (“in his Coat of Arms, (usually before Morning Prayer, if the Grand Feast, or Feast of Installation be then held) standing on the highest step ascending to the Brazen Desk, placed in the middle of the Choire in St. George‘s Chappel at Windesor, the Officers of Arms standing about him”), for how and when the pursuivants on ladders should remove the achievements of the degraded knight (“when Garter pronounceth the words, Expelled and put from among the Arms, &c. takes his Crest, and violently casts it down into the Choire, and after that his Banner and Sword,”) and to which locations the officers of arms should spurn said achievements (“out of the West-Door of the Chappel into the Castle Ditch.”)

Ashmole’s work is incredibly thorough, with an appendix of hundreds of extant documents from the Order’s archives reproduced. These include a warrant from Queen Elizabeth to Garter King of Arms, instructing him to remove the achievements of the Duke of Northumberland from Saint George’s Chapel, and the instrument of degradation for the Duke of Buckingham, issued in 1521, which would have been read by Garter in its entirety in the chapel.

With these in hand, I have a solid script for my performance.

Pentathlon spoilers abound – read at your own risk

This is Cormac Mór’s Pentathlon project blog, documenting entries for Caid’s Pentathlon Arts and Sciences Competition in 2019. If you are a potential judge for Pentathlon, or otherwise want to go into Pentathlon with a fresh eye, please avoid this blog.

For those who choose to stay, thank you for sharing this journey with me. I’ve been dreaming of this project list for a long time, and I’m looking forward to its execution.