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Edward III and the Countess of Salisbury

This actually happened.   Or so the legend goes.

In England, the highest and most ancient order of knighthood is the "Order of the Garter."

The story of its origin is that some time around 1340, King Edward III was at a formal ball, dancing with the Countess of Salisbury.   During the dance, she dropped her garter, right in the middle of the dance floor.   King Edward picked up the garter and put it onto his own leg, looked around at the others present, and said, "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Shame on him who thinks evil of it), and then gave it back to her.   A rather gallant gesture.

Margaret Murray points out (God of the Witches, 1931) that it would have taken more than a dropped garter to embarrass a woman in the 14th Century.   This garter was probably a ritual one, signifying that its owner was a leader among the non-Christian (Pagan) population.   In other words, the Countess of Salisbury was a High Priestess of witchcraft!   To drop the garter before the high dignitaries of the Church who were present could certainly have caused some real embarrassment.   Edward's action was smart thinking; in placing the garter on his own leg, he not only saved face for the Countess but proclaimed himself willing to be a leader of the Pagan population of England as well as the Christian.

        - from Witchcraft From the Inside by Raymond Buckland (2001)