An exciting find was made during the first week of the St George's Caye Archaeology Project’s 2016 Field Season. It is the first one found at St George's Caye and likely all of Belize. Specifically it is a British Napoleonic shako plate that were attached onto “stove-pipe” hats worn by members of the West India Regiment between 1800-1812.
Mr Tony Barton, a model maker from the UK, features a private of the 5th West India Regiment, and the uniform worn at the time. In past field seasons the St George's Caye Archaeology Project has uncovered many buttons, and many specifically from the 5th West India Regiment. Helmet plates from this period did not have lugs or sliders so small holes were pierced and the badge sewn to the front of the Helmet. Finding intact shako plates is rare.
ELEMENTS OF THE PLATE
According to Mr Barton, the central Garter motif contains King George II's royal cypher of a G.R. (Georgis Rex translated King George) in the center (missing in this find), surmounted by a crown. On each side is a trophy of colors (infantry flags), muskets, drums and trumpets, with the crowned Royal Lion at the bottom. This is the standard design for the Regiments of the Line, but there are several variations on this used by different regiments, sometime incorporating their number, or ancient badge.
The Garter and motto are found on military plates and badges and also on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.
ORDER OF THE GARTER
The Order of the Garter is the Oldest and Highest British Order of Chivalry, founded in 1348 by Edward III. The Order consists of Her Majesty The Queen who is Sovereign of the Order, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and 24 Knights Companions. It is the highest order of chivalry and the third most prestigious honor (inferior only to the Victoria Cross and George Cross) in England and the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint, who is also the saint of soldiers, and the Anglicized name the early settlers gave to Caio Casino between 1764 and 1765.
"Honi soit qui mal y pense" [ɑni swɑ ki mal i pɑns] is imprinted on the Garter, an Anglo-Norman maxim meaning, "Shame on whosoever would think badly of it," or "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it". Its literal translation from Old French is "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.
“SHAME BE TO HIM WHO THINKS BADLY OF IT”
An alternative theory is that 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."
It is thought more likely that as the garter was a small strap used as a device to attach pieces of armor, it might have been thought appropriate to use the garter as a symbol of binding together in common brotherhood. Whilst the motto probably refers to the leading political topic of the 1340's, Edward's claim to the throne of France.
The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint. It is serendipitous how this Shako plate that was found buried in the sand at St George's Caye. St George's Day is celebrated each April 23. Members of the British Forces who were stationed at the British Forces Adventure Training Center on the caye celebrated this day, and perhaps we should continue the tradition and honor St George who watched over the early settlers that became victorious soldiers in the Battle of St George's Caye.
ST GEORGE'S CAYE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
Dr. James Garber, Texas State University, and Dr Lauren Sullivan, University of Massachusetts at Boston, along with the Institute of Archaeology and the St George's Caye Village Council have conduct field studies since 2009 at St George's Caye.