Honi soit qui mal y pense

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The motto appears on a representation of the garter, surrounding the shield of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
The motto appears in a royal coat of arms of the 17th century on the ceiling of Bath Abbey.
Hand fan of Queen Victoria with motto.
Motto on cannon at Fort Denison, Sydney

"Honi soit qui mal y pense" (UK: /ɒnɪ ˌswɑː kiː mal iː ˈpɒ̃s/, US: /ˌɑni ˌswɑ ki ˌmal i ˈpɑns/)[1] is an Anglo-Norman phrase, loosely meaning: "Shamed be he who thinks ill of it", though more specifically "Evil unto him who thinks evil of it". Archaic spellings include "Honi soit quy mal y pense," and "Hony soyt qe mal y pense," and various other phoneticizations. It is the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter. In Modern French it is rendered as "Honni soit qui mal y pense" (the past participle of the modern verb honnir being honni).[2] It is also written at the end of the manuscript Sir Gawain and the Green Knight but it appears to have been a later addition.[3]

Its literal translation from Old French is "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it."[4] It is sometimes re-interpreted as "Evil be to him who evil thinks."[5]

History and translation[edit]

According to historian Elias Ashmole, the foundation of the Garter occurred when King Edward III of England prepared for the Battle of Crécy and gave "forth his own garter as the signal." Another theory suggests "a trivial mishap at a court function" when King Edward III was dancing with Joan of Kent, his first cousin and daughter-in-law. Her garter slipped down to her ankle causing those around her to snigger at her humiliation.[6] In an act of chivalry Edward placed the garter around his own leg saying, "Honi soit qui mal y pense. Tel qui s'en rit aujourd'hui, s'honorera de la porter."[7]

The two phrases are often translated as follows: "A scoundrel, who thinks badly by it" or "Shame on him who suspects illicit motivation," followed by, "Those who laugh at this today, tomorrow will be proud to wear it." Other translations include: "Spurned be the one who evil thinks", "Shame be to him who thinks ill of it," and "Evil on him who thinks evil."

David Nash Ford observes that although

"Edward III may outwardly have professed the Order of the Garter to be a revival of the Round Table, it is probable that privately its formation was a move to gain support for his dubious claim to the French throne. The motto of the Order is a denunciation of those who think ill of some specific project, and not a mere pious invocation of evil upon evil-thinkers in general. 'Shame be to him who thinks ill of it' was probably directed against anyone who should oppose the King's design on the French Crown."[8]

Heraldic use[edit]

In British heraldry, the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense is used either as a stand alone motto upon a motto scroll, or upon a circular representation of the garter. Knights and Ladies of the Garter are entitled to encircle the shield of their arms with the garter and motto (e.g. The 1st Duke of Marlborough).[9][10][11] The latter usage can also be seen in the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, with the motto of the Royal arms, Dieu et mon droit, being displayed on a scroll beneath the shield. As part of the Royal Arms, the motto is displayed in many public buildings in Britain and colonial era public buildings in various parts of the Commonwealth (such as all Courts of England and Wales). The Royal Arms (and motto) appear on many British government official documents (e.g. the front of current British passports); on packaging and stationery of companies operating under Royal Warrant (e.g. the banner of the Times, which uses the Royal coat of arms of Great Britain circa 1714 to 1800;[12] and are used by other entities so distinguished by the British monarch (e.g. as the official emblem of the Royal Yacht Britannia).[13]

Several military organisations in the Commonwealth incorporate the motto inscribed upon a garter of the order within their badges (or cyphers) and some use Honi soit qui mal y pense as their motto. Corps and regiments using the motto in this fashion are ('*' indicates usage as a motto in addition to inclusion in the badge):

Other uses[edit]

It appears in the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, inscribed on the garter which surrounds the shield, itself supported by a lion and a unicorn.

The phrase appears prominently in Robert Anton Wilson's novel Masks of the Illuminati, including versions involving multi-lingual puns in the manner of Finnegans Wake.

"Honi soit qui mal y pense" appears on several British military cap badges. The phrase is incorporated into the elaborate figure-head of the HMS Victory, Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship at the historic Battle of Trafalgar. Bounty mutineer James Morrison had the motto with a garter tattooed around his left leg, according to William Bligh's Notebook.[30]

It is a motto for many schools and educational institutions; the title of the University of Sydney student newspaper, Honi Soit, is derived from the motto.

The title of a 2013 multi-award winning, short war documentary by Australian Filmmaker, Tom Abood.[31]

Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday makes use of the expression in Heinlein's usual irreverent manner. The Judge, in Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural, utters the phrase to Roy Hobbs while trying to convince him to throw a game by not getting a hit.

It appears in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, Scene V, and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Part 1, Chapter 17.

It appears in the stage directions of Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff, libretto by Arrigo Boito, in Act 3, scene 1, where it is written above the door at the Garter Inn.

It appears on the coat of arms above the lower main gate of the castle of the German city of Tübingen.

It appears in the comments of the source code for the master ignition routine of the Apollo 13 lunar module.[32]

It appears in the lyrics of the 1978 song "Parlez-vous francais" by the Spanish group Baccara.

The phrase is sung in full as the chorus of John Cale's song "Honi Soit (La Première Leçon de Français)" featured on the 1981 album Honi Soit.[33]

Until 1997, "Honi soit qui mal y pense" appeared prominently on Hong Kong banknotes, along with the Royal coat of arms. Hence that phrase, along with "Dieu et mon droit," which also appeared on the colonial currency, could be considered the motto of colonial Hong Kong.

The phrase also appears in the staff used by the Usher of the Black Rod of the Senate of Canada.

The phrase is also incorporated in the coat of arms of the Abbey of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul outside the Walls), Rome, who state it is the motto of the order of the Garter, in French, which was established in Windsor in 1344 or 1344.[34]

The phrase appears at the end of the late 14th-century Middle English alliterative verse Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the best known Arthurian romances..

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] OED
  2. ^ "wordreference.com". wordreference.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  3. ^ Waldron, Ronald Alan, editor (1970). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-8101-0328-3.  OCLC 135649
  4. ^ "Order of the Garter". Encyclopedia Americana XII. New York: Encyclopedia Americana Corp. 1919. p. 300. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Tayler (1866). "Equites Garterii". The Law Glossary: Being a Selection of the Greek, Latin, Saxon, French, Norman, and Italian Sentences, Phrases, and Maxims, Found in the Leading English and American Reports and Elementary Works: With Historical and Explanatory Notes : Alphabetically Arranged, and Translated into English, for the Use of the Members of the Legal Profession, Law Students, Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace, Etc. Etc. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co. p. 183. ISBN 1-886363-12-9. 
  6. ^ Berkshire History - The Order of the Garter
  7. ^ Le château de Windsor
  8. ^ David N. Ford on the Order of the Garter
  9. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1996). "XXXVI Official Heraldic Insignia". Complete Guide to Heraldry (1996 Edition ed.). Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions. pp. 583–84. ISBN 1-85326-365-6. "A Knight of the Garter has: (1) His Garter to encircle the shield..." 
  10. ^ An example of the full heraldic blazon description is provided in "Official Lineages Volume 3, Part 2: The Royal Regiment of Canada". National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Directorate of History and Heritage, Canadian Forces. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012. "[A] garter Azure fimbriated buckled and inscribed HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE in letters Or"  (A blue garter with gold edges, gold buckle and inscription HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE in gold letters.) However, simplified blazons are also used.
  11. ^ Robson, Thomas (1830). The British Herald, or Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume I. Sunderland: Turner & Marwood. p. 401 (CHU-CLA). 
  12. ^ "Scissors for Lefty review in The Times". Scissors for Lefty website. Scissors for Lefty. 5 January 2007. Retrieved 20 Jun 2012.  Banner image for The Times;
  13. ^ "Coats of Arms". Official Website of the British Monarchy. The Royal Household. 2008–09. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "Artillery Heritage". Southern Gunners website. Royal New Zealand Artillery Association. 25 December 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  15. ^ Wilkinson-Latham, Robert (2006). Discovering British Military Badges and Buttons (Third Edition ed.). Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire: Shire Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-7478-0484-2. 
  16. ^ a b c "Welcome". Presenting the Household Cavalry Regiment... Everything You Wanted to Know! website. Peter J Ashman. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "The Grenadier Guards". The Grenadier Guards website. The Grenadier Guards. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment". British Army website. British Army. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – Regimental History". British Army website. British Army. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Corps of Royal Engineers Badges and Emblems". British Army website. British Army. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "Royal Logistic Corps". British Army website. British Army. 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  22. ^ "Royal Army Service Corps & Royal Corps of Transport Association". RASC & RCT Association website. RASC & RCT Association. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  23. ^ "Who we are – The Royal Australian Engineers". The Australian Army website. The Australian Army. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  24. ^ "Royal Australian Army Service Corps". Digger History website. Digger History. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Who we are – The Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps". The Australian Army website. The Australian Army. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "Official Lineages Volume 3, Part 2: The Royal Regiment of Canada". National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Directorate of History and Heritage, Canadian Forces. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  27. ^ "Official Lineages Volume 3, Part 2: The Royal Montreal Regiment". National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Directorate of History and Heritage, Canadian Forces. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  28. ^ "National Defence Website". National Defence. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  29. ^ "Sixth Hauraki Battalion Group". New Zealand Army Reserve Website. New Zealand Army. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  30. ^ "fatefulvoyage.com". fatefulvoyage.com. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  31. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yst3a35IRd0
  32. ^ "Source code for the Apollo 13 lunar module's guidance computer". Ibiblio.org. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  33. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5r4He6gfyU
  34. ^ http://www.abbaziasanpaolo.net/farmacia.php