Col Finlay MacLean & Col Simon Durnford

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The dining area of The Ramada Hotel at Whitfield was packed with Rotarians from clubs within the area of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports who came together at the meeting of Dover’s Rotary Club where the scheduled speakers gave a fascinating talk on the Military Knights of Windsor.

Rotarians from Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea, Romney Marsh, Hythe, Folkestone and Deal were treated to an address by Colonel Finlay Maclean, aided by Colonel Simon Durnford and a Powerpoint presentation, bringing to life the history and contemporary relevance of the Military Knights. To qualify for admission to this select and elite community which numbers just 13 including their Governor and whose members live within the walls of Windsor Castle, candidates have to be married, be under the age of 67, have a distinguished army record of at least 20 years and have no criminal convictions. They must join a waiting list of applicants awaiting a vacancy to arise before being vetted by a selection process, approved by the Sovereign and then admitted with all due ceremony.

Founded by Edward III in 1348 and numbering just 26 the Alms (or Poor) Knights as they were then called have prayed for the Monarch and the members of the Order of the Garter for the entire 669 years of their existence – even during the Commonwealth period when Cromwell evicted all the clergy from St George’s Chapel in Windsor he retained the Alms Knights, the majority of whom had been soldiers. For a brief period there were 7 Naval Knights but in 1892 they were dissolved by Queen Victoria due to their louche behaviour and her reputed view that “there are no gentlemen in the Navy”!

In 1833 a Garter Statute renamed the Alms Knights to The Military Knights. They are often seen in their bright scarlet tail coats, dark blue trousers and distinctive black cocked hats with feathers of red and white in procession on the occasion of State Visits but the highlight of their year is Garter Day on the Monday of Ascot week each June when with the Heralds, the members of the Order of the Garter including many members of the Royal Family, they process to St George’s Chapel in the castle for the annual service for the Order. For part of the year from Remembrance Sunday until Easter Day the uniform worn by the Knights is their undress uniform of blue frock coat. This historic body of people has continued the tradition of uninterrupted worship throughout its history and forms an essential part of the Community of St George and of Windsor Castle.

Introduced by Past President John Wiggell MBE a vote of thanks was proposed by District Governor Nominee and Past President Donald Soppitt – a submariner.