This is the first scholarly study of the political role of the Order of the Garter during the late middle ages. It evaluates the relationship between the practical objectives served by the institution and its status as a chivalric elite. Focusing on the years between the Garter's inception in1348 and the deposition of Henry VI in 1461, the study considers the Order's conception, companionship and collective activities, and places them against the political backdrop of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Hugh Collins highlights the potential of the fraternity as an instrument ofpolitical patronage, and attributes its success in this area to the important balance achieved in the Garter's constitution and fellowship between pragmatic considerations and knightly ideas. His examination of the interdependence of these two facets thus reveals the extent to which politicalsociety in the late middle ages founded its ambitions and aspirations on the cult of chivalry.