The panels between the windows were painted by Thomas Highmore, Sergeant-Painter to King William III, Queen Anne and King George I. Highmore painted the panels in 1710 as part of the improvements ordered by Queen Anne. They are matching pairs, facing each other across the Chapel. Each panel is headed by a pair of gilded cherubs, linking the Tudor woodwork above with the painted cherubs below.

Painting - The Chapel Royal The general design is the same in every case, but with a central plaque on which a different device appears in each pair. The overall design is: at the top, the star of the Order of the Garter, the nation's premier order of chivalry. It is also the oldest of the great orders of Christendom, having been founded by King Edward III in 1348. The central device of the star is the cross of St. George, England's Patron Saint, surrounded by a representation of the Garter itself, with its medieval French motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense”. Beneath the Garter star is the royal crown, surmounting the plaque and at the bottom of the panel is the Latin motto “semper eadem”.

In the case of the first pair (adjacent to the Royal pew), the device on the plaque is made up of the plant badges of the three kingdoms -the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland and the Shamrock of Ireland.

On the second pair, the device on the plaque is the Royal cypher A.R. (Anna Regina). The form is known as a 'reversed cypher', being symmetrical in form, and is unusual in British Royal heraldry. It was possibly another borrowing, this time from Anne's contemporary, King Louis XIV of France.

On the third pair, the Royal arms are again featured, as they appear above the Royal Pew. The fourth pair displays the crest from the Royal arms: a lion, crowned with the Royal crown.

The fifth pair - that is, the pair between the last windows and the east wall, displays an unusual device. It is the heraldic badge, consisting of a Tudor rose impaled with a pomegranate, and surmounted by a crown which belonged to Queen Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife. For the majority of Queen Catherine's reign, the Chapel belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, so it is not known why this badge was erected.

When the Chapel was remodelled by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century, the organ loft was built behind the last window on the right, over the vestry door. The original stone window frame was covered over by a thin layer of plaster, on which was painted a trompe-l'oeil window. It is not recorded which of the two artists, Thomas Highmore or Sir James Thornhill, was responsible for the work. Highmore was an expert in trompe-l'oeil, but the octagonal caissons in the thickness of the window-frame are badly drawn, and carelessly painted. It is for this reason that it is postulated that an assistant was probably responsible for the trompe-l'oeil window.

All photographs of the Chapel Royal or taken in the Chapel Royal are with the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen

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Photography by Richard Champness
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