Infinite Days: “Evil be he who thinketh evil”

 

“Evil be he who thinketh evil.”

This quote not only serves as the motto of The Order of the Garter, in Rebecca Maizel’s Infinite Days, it’s tattooed on Lenah’s shoulder by a knight of the original Order. 

King Edward III wearing the insignia of The Order of the Garter (near his right hand)

The Order was first established in 1348 (or 1344 depending on the source) by King Edward III as a British Order of Chivalry and consisted of the king and 25 knights. The idea was to reestablish King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table. In Maizel’s novel, King Edward’s most trusted knight was Rhode Lewin, Lenah’s maker and lover. 

Maizel writes: 

The amazing part of Rhode’s tale is that King Edward accepted Rhode. Imagine discovering that your favorite knight, your number one, decided to join the ranks of the devil. When Rhode returned and told his lord what he had done, Rhode said, ‘Evil be he who thinketh evil,’ and thus the phrase was born. 

  

In reality, Wikipedia lists these possible origins of the motto: 

 The most popular legend involves the Countess of Salisbury …. While she was dancing with or near King Edward at Eltham Palace, her garter is said to have slipped from her leg. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and tied it to his leg, exclaiming, “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” (“Shamed be the person who thinks evil of it … According to another legend, King Richard I was inspired in the 12th century by St George the Martyr while fighting in the Crusades to tie garters around the legs of his knights, who subsequently won the battle. King Edward supposedly recalled the event in the 14th century when he founded the Order. 

Today, it honors men and women who have held public office, contributed to national life or served the sovereign personally. There are also “supernumerary” knights and ladies, which are usually members of the British royal family and foreign monarchs. 

New appointments to the Order of the Garter are always announced on April 23, St George’s Day, Saint George being the patron saint of England. 

If you’re really curious, here’s video of “Garter Day 2010” which took place at Windsor Castle in June: 

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