"Trigg's combination of chronological and thematic approaches results in a dynamic study. Rather than a merely biographical or celebratory work, this history of a medieval chivalric order offers a history of medievalism itself, which ingeniously reveals how the slipperiness of the Order's motto allows it to function as a touchstone for each epoch's world view. The motto recalls a moment whose meaning was transformed by a king's words, but the words themselves would take on new and varied meanings in the centuries to come. And like the Order's motto, Stephanie Trigg's book urges us to be aware of what our attitudes towards medieval alterity reveal about ourselves."—Times Literary Supplement"It's a nice piece of pageantry. . . . Rationally it's lunatic, but in practice, everyone enjoys it, I think."—HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
"Because of its theoretical expansiveness, Trigg's invaluable contribution to the history of the Garter should prove of interest to scholars with a wide range of interests, and demonstrates that the still-developing fields of ritual criticism and medievalism studies have much to offer one another."—Comitatus
Founded by Edward III in 1348, the Most Noble Order of the Garter is the highest chivalric honor among the gifts of the Queen of England and an institution that looks proudly back to its medieval origins. But what does the annual Garter procession of modern princes and politicians decked out in velvets and silks have to do with fourteenth-century institutions? And did the Order, in any event, actually originate in the wardrobe malfunction of the traditional story, when Edward held up his mistress's dropped garter for all to see and declared it to be a mark of honor rather than shame? Or is this tale of the Order's beginning nothing more than a vulgar myth?
With steady erudition and not infrequent irreverence, Stephanie Trigg ranges from medieval romance to Victorian caricature, from imperial politics to medievalism in contemporary culture, to write a strikingly original cultural history of the Order of the Garter. She explores the Order's attempts to reform and modernize itself, even as it holds onto an ambivalent relationship to its medieval past. She revisits those moments in British history when the Garter has taken on new or increased importance and explores a long tradition of amusement and embarrassment over its formal processions and elaborate costumes. Revisiting the myth of the dropped garter itself, she asks what it can tell us about our desire to seek the hidden sexual history behind so venerable an institution.
Grounded in archival detail and combining historical method with reception and cultural studies, Shame and Honor untangles 650 years of fact, fiction, ritual, and reinvention.
Stephanie Trigg is Professor of English at the University of Melbourne.