The Order of the Garter (formally the Most Noble Order of the Garter) is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry (though in precedence inferior to the military Victoria Cross and George Cross) in England and the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.
Appointments are made at the Sovereign's sole discretion. Membership of the Order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living members, or Companions. The order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). New appointments to the Order of the Garter are often announced on St George's Day (23 April), as Saint George is the order's patron saint.
King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter around the time of his claim to the French throne. The year is usually presumed to be 1348; however, the Complete Peerage, under "The Founders of the Order of the Garter", states the order was first instituted on 23 April 1344, listing each founding member as knighted in 1344. The list includes Sir Sanchet D'Abrichecourt, who died on 20 October 1345. Other dates from 1344 to 1351 have also been proposed. The King's wardrobe account shows Garter habits first issued in the autumn of 1348. Also, its original statutes required that each member of the Order already be a knight (what would now be referred to as a knight bachelor) and some of the initial members listed were only knighted that year.
The earliest written mention of the Order is found in Tirant lo Blanch, a chivalric romance written in Catalan mainly by Valencian Joanot Martorell. It was first published in 1490. This book devotes a chapter to the description of the origin of the Order of the Garter.
At the time of its foundation, the Order consisted of King Edward III, together with 25 Founder Knights, listed in ascending order of stall number in St George's Chapel: