An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades (circa 1099–1291), paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.
Since the 15th century, orders of chivalry, often as dynastic orders, began to be created in a more courtly fashion[clarification needed] that could be created ad hoc. These orders would often retain the notion of being a confraternity, society or other association of members, however, some of them were ultimately purely honorific, consisting of a medal decoration. In fact, these decorations themselves often came to be known informally as orders. These institutions in turn gave rise to the modern-day orders of merit of sovereign states.
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- State orders: order of a sovereign state, rewarding military or civil merits of citizens, legally based on the sovereignty of their states
- Pontifical equestrian orders, conferred by the Pope
- Sovereign orders: the only extant one in this category is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an international sovereign entity
- Dynastic orders of a sovereign royal dynasty, either an active "dynastic state actor", otherwise a "non-national dynastic order", as the head of a formerly reigning royal house operating under iure collationis[clarification needed], typically approved by Papal bulls in the case of older origins
- "Knights of the Cross", comparable to the modern term military orders
- "Knights of Spur", i.e. invested by the Pope or other sovereign, thus somewhat comparable to dynastic orders of knighthood, or later by feudal lords and knights elderly[clarification needed]
- "Knights of Necklace", i.e. purely ornamental
Over time, the above division became no longer sufficient, and heraldic science distinguished orders into: hereditary, military, religious and fees.
In a more generous distribution proposed in The Knights in the Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Late Medieval Europe (1987), the Canadian heraldist D'Arcy Boulton classifies chivalric orders as follows:
- Monarchical orders (i.e. dynastic orders of knighthood)
- Confraternal orders (as seen in military orders)
- Fraternal orders
- Votive orders
- Cliental pseudo-orders
- Honorific orders
Based on Boulton, this article distinguishes:
- Chivalric orders by time of foundation:
- Chivalric orders by religion:
- Chivalric orders by purpose:
- Monarchical chivalric orders: foundation by a monarch who is a fount of honour; either ruling or not
- Confraternal chivalric orders: foundation by a nobleman, either high nobility or low nobility
- Fraternal chivalric orders: founded for a specific purpose only
- Votive chivalric orders: founded for a limited period of time only by members who take a vow
- Honorific chivalric orders: consist only of honorific insignia bestowed on knights on festive occasions, consisting of nothing but the badge
- Self-styled orders: self-proclaimed imitation-orders without statutes or restricted memberships
Another occurrent chronological categorisation is into:
- Military-monastic orders (c.1100–c.1300)
- Monarchical orders (c.1300–c.1580)
- Honorific orders (c.1580–present)
- Late medieval monarchical orders (14th and 15th centuries) are orders of chivalry with the presidency attached to a monarch:
- Order of Montesa founded by James II of Aragon (Spain) in 1317.
- Order of Saint George, founded by Charles I of Hungary in 1325
- Order of the Band, founded by Alfonso XI of Castile in ca. 1330
- Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III of England in 1348
- Order of the Star, founded by John II of France in 1351
- Order of the Knot, founded by Louis I of Naples in 1352.
- Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, founded by Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy in 1362.
- Order of the Ermine, founded by John V, Duke of Brittany in 1381: First order to accept Women.
- Order of the Ship, founded by Charles III of Naples on 1 December 1381
- Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund von Luxembourg in 1408.
- Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430
- Order of the Tower and Sword, founded by Afonso V of Portugal in 1459
- Order of Saint Michael, founded by Louis XI of France in 1469
- Post-medieval foundations of chivalric orders:
- Order of Saint Stephen (1561)
- Order of the Holy Spirit (1578)
- Blood of Jesus Christ (military order) (1608)
- Order of the Thistle (1687)
- Order of the Elephant (1693)
- Order of Saint Louis (1694)
- Order of the Seraphim (1748)
- Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary (1764)
- Order of St. Patrick (1783)
- Order of Saint Joseph (1807)
- Monarchical orders whose monarch no longer reigns but continues to bestow the order:
- Order of the Golden Fleece (Austrian branch)
- Order of St. George (Habsburg-Lorraine)
- Order of the Holy Spirit
- Order of Prince Danilo I of Montenegro
- Order of Saint Peter of Cetinje
- Order of Skanderbeg
- Royal Order of Saint George for the Defense of the Immaculate Conception (Bavaria)
- Order of the Crown (Romania)
- Order of Carol I (Romania)
- Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa (Portugal)
- Order of Saint Michael of the Wing (Portugal)
- Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (Two Sicilies)
- Order of the Eagle of Georgia (Georgia)
- Order of Queen Tamara (Georgia)
- Order of the Crown of Georgia (Georgia)
- Royal Order of the Crown of Hawai'i (Hawai'i)
Confraternal orders are orders of chivalry with the presidency attached to a nobleman:
- Princely orders were founded by noblemen of higher rank. Most of these were founded in imitation of the Order of the Golden Fleece, after 1430:
- Order of Saint Catherine, founded by Humbert II, Dauphin du Viennois in ca. 1335
- Order of Saint Anthony, founded by Albrecht I of Bavaria in 1384
- Society of the Eagle, founded by Albrecht II von Habsburg in 1433
- Society of Our Lady (Order of the Swan), founded by Frederick II, Elector of Brandenburg in 1440
- Order of Saint Hubert, founded by Gerhard V of Jülich and Berg in 1444
- Order of the Crescent, founded by René d'Anjou in 1448
- Society of Saint Jerome, founded by Friedrich II of Wettin in 1450
- Baronial orders, founded by noblemen of lower rank:
- Order of Saint Hubert (Barrois, 1422)
- Noble Order of Saint George of Rougemont, also called Confraternity of Saint-Georges of Burgundy (Franche-Comté, 1440)
Fraternal orders are orders of chivalry that were formed off a vow & for a certain enterprise:
- Compagnie of the Black Swan, founded by 3 princes and 11 knights in Savoy (1350)
- Corps et Ordre du Tiercelet, founded by the vicomte de Thouars and 17 barons in Poitou (1377–1385)
- Ordre de la Pomme d'Or, founded by 14 knights in Auvergne (1394)
- Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier, founded by 44 knights in the Barrois (1416–1422), subsequently converted into the Confraternal order of Saint Hubert (see above)
Votive orders are orders of chivalry, temporarily formed on the basis of a vow. These were courtly chivalric games rather than actual pledges as in the case of the fraternal orders. Three are known from their statutes:
- Emprise de l'Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (Enterprise of the green shield with the white lady), founded by Jean Le Maingre dit Boucicaut and 12 knights in 1399 for the duration of 5 years
- Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron), founded by Jean de Bourbon and 16 knights in 1415 for the duration of 2 years
- Emprise de la gueule de dragon (Enterprise of the Dragon's Mouth), founded by Jean comte de Foix in 1446 for 1 year.
Cliental pseudo-orders are not orders of chivalry and were princes's retinues fashionably termed orders. They are without statutes or restricted memberships:
- Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt (Order of the Broom-Pod), founded by Charles VI of France ca. 1388
- Order of the camail or Porcupine, created by Louis d'Orléans in 1394
- Order of the Dove, Castile, 1390
- Order of the Scale of Castile, ca. 1430
Honorific orders were honorific insignia consisting of nothing but the badge:
- Order of the Stoat and the Ear, founded by Francis I, Duke of Brittany in 1448
- Order of the Golden Spur, a papal order (since the 14th century, flourishes in the 16th century)
Together with the monarchical chivalric orders (see above) these honorific orders are the prime ancestors of the modern-day orders of knighthood (see below) which are orders of merit in character.
The distinction between these orders and decorations is somewhat vague, except that these honorific orders still implied membership in a group. Decorations have no such limitations and are awarded purely to recognize the merit or accomplishments of the recipient. Both orders and decorations often come in multiple classes.
The orders have influenced organizations which are completely separate and distinct from them. Since at least the 18th century, Freemasonry has incorporated symbols and rituals of several medieval military orders in a number of Masonic bodies, most notably, in the "Red Cross of Constantine" (derived from the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George), the "Order of Malta" (derived from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and the "Order of the Temple" (derived from the historical Knights Templar), the latter two featuring prominently in the York Rite.
Most orders created since the late 17th century were no longer societies and fellowships of knights who followed a common mission but were established by monarchs or governments with the specific purpose of bestowing honours on deserving individuals. In most European monarchies, these new orders retained some outward forms from the medieval orders of chivalry (such as rituals and structure) but were in essence orders of merit, mainly distinguished from their republican counterparts by the fact that members were entitled to a title of nobility. While some orders required noble birth (such as the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary, established in 1764), others would confer a title upon appointment (such as the Military Order of Max Joseph, established in 1806) while in yet other orders only the top classes were considered knights (such as in the Order of St Michael and St George, established in 1818). Orders of merit which still confer privileges of knighthood are sometimes referred to as orders of knighthood. As a consequence of being not an order of chivalry but orders of merit or decorations, some republican honours have thus avoided the traditional structure found in medieval orders of chivalry and created new ones instead, e.g. the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, or the Legion of Merit of the United States.
- Order of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the original military orders founded circa 1099, and its definite acceptance in 1103 by King Baldwin I.
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta, one of the original military orders, founded as the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1048, sanctioned by Pope Paschal II February 15, 1113.
- Order of Aviz founded by Afonso I of Portugal in 1146
- Order of Calatrava founded by St. Raymond of Fitero (Spain) in 1164.
- Order of Alcantara founded by Ferdinand II of León (Spain) in 1167.
- Order of Santiago founded Ferdinand II of León (Spain) in 1170.
- Order of Saint James of the Sword founded by Afonso I of Portugal in 1172.
- Order of Montesa founded by James II of Aragon (Spain) in 1317.
- Order of Christ (Portugal), founded by Denis of Portugal in 1319. This order considers itself successor of the Knights Templar.
- Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III of England ca. 1348
- Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, founded by Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy in 1362, ceased to be a national order of Italy when the Kingdom became a Republic in 1946, but continues to be awarded by the heir of the last King.
- Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430
- Order of the Tower and Sword, founded by Afonso V of Portugal in 1459
- Order of the Dannebrog, founded by King Christian V of Denmark in 1671
- Order of the Thistle, founded by King James VII of Scotland in 1687
- Order of the Elephant, founded by King Christian V of Denmark in 1693
- Order of St. Andrew, founded by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1698
- Order of the White Eagle, founded by King Augustus II of Poland in 1705
- Order of the Bath, founded by King George I of Great Britain on 18 May 1725
- Order of the Seraphim, founded by Frederick I of Sweden in 1748.
- Order of the Sword, founded by Frederick I of Sweden in 1748 [Not awarded since 1974].
- Order of the Polar Star, founded by Frederick I of Sweden in 1748.
- Order of St. George the Triumphant, founded by Catherine the Great of the Russian Empire in 1769.
- Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III, founded by Charles III of Spain on 19 September 1771 (became a Spanish order)
- Order of Vasa, founded by Gustav III of Sweden in 1772 (Not awarded since 1974).
- Order of St Patrick, founded by George III of the United Kingdom in 1783 (Not awarded since 1936).
- Order of Charles XIII, founded by Charles XIII of Sweden in 1811.
- Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic, founded by King Ferdinand VII of Spain on 14 March 1815 (became a Spanish order).
- Military William Order, founded by King William I of the Netherlands on 30 April 1815.
- Order of the Netherlands Lion, founded by King William I of the Netherlands on 29 September 1815.
- Order of St Michael and St George, is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III.
- Order of the Southern Cross, founded by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil on December 1, 1822.
- Order of Leopold, founded by King Leopold I of the Belgians on 11 July 1832.
- Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav, founded by King Oscar I of Norway on 21 August 1847.
- Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg), Order founded in 1099 and refounded in 1852.
- Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau, founded by King-Grand Duke William III of Luxembourg in 1858.
- Order of the White Elephant is an order of Thailand. It was established in 1861 by King Rama IV of the Kingdom of Siam.
- Order of Orange-Nassau, founded by the Queen regent Emma of the Netherlands, acting on behalf of her under-age daughter Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands on 4 April 1892.
- Royal Victorian Order, founded by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom on 21 April 1896.
- Order of the Crown, founded by King Leopold II of the Congo Free State on 15 October 1897 (became a Belgian order in 1908).
- Order of Leopold II, founded by King Leopold II of the Congo Free State on 24 August 1900 (became a Belgian order in 1908).
- Order of Michael the Brave, founded by King Ferdinand I of Romania on 26 September 1916.
- Order of the British Empire, founded by King George V of the United Kingdom on 4 June 1917.
- Knightly Order of Vitéz, founded by Miklós Horthy the Regent of Hungary in 1921.
- Order of Skanderbeg, founded by Zog I of Albania in 1925.
- Order of the Sun, founded by Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1947.
- Royal Order of Sahametrei, founded by King Norodom Sihanouk of the Kingdom of Cambodia on September 9, 1948.
- Order of the Knights of Rizal, granted a legislative charter by President of the Philippines Elpidio Quirino on June 14, 1951.
- Order of Canada, founded by Queen Elizabeth II of Canada in 1967.
- Order of Australia, founded by Queen Elizabeth II of Australia in 1975.
- New Zealand Order of Merit, founded by Queen Elizabeth II of New Zealand in 1996.
- Order of Saint Lazarus, founded in 1098 at a leper hospital in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and is one of the lesser known orders.
- Order of Saint Stanislaus, founded by King Stanislaus II Augustus Poniatowski of Poland in 1765
- Ludwigsorden (Order of Louis) of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, founded 1807, abolished 1918
- Order of the Iron Helmet of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) (in present-day Germany), founded 1814, abolished 1866
- Wilhelmsorden (Order of Wilhelm) of Hesse-Kassel, founded 1851, abolished 1875
- Order of the Star of India, founded by Queen Victoria in 1861 and has not been awarded since the independence of India in 1947
- Order of the Indian Empire, founded by Queen Victoria in 1878 and has not been awarded since the independence of India in 1947
- Order of the African Star, founded by King Leopold II of the Congo Free State on 30 December 1888, which became a Belgian order in 1908 and has not been awarded since the independence of Congo in 1960
- Royal Order of the Lion, founded by King Leopold II of the Congo Free State on 9 April 1891, which became a Belgian order in 1908 and has not been awarded since the independence of Congo in 1960
- Order of the Norwegian Lion, founded 1904, abolished 1952
- Order of Pahlavi, founded 1928 by Reza Shah, abolished 1979 after the Iranian Revolution. There were two classes. The first class, the Grand Collar, was worn by the Shah, crown prince, and awarded to heads of state. The second class, the Grand Cordon, was worn by princes and princesses.
Typical insignia and ranks
Following the example set by the French Legion of Honour, founded by Napoleon, most multi-level European orders comprise five ranks or classes. The highest is usually called the Grand Cross, then descending with varying titles. Alternatively, the ranks are referred to by number (for example "1st class" instead of "Grand Cross"). Typical rankings are:
|I||Grand Cross, Commander Grand Cross, Grand Cordon, Grand Collar|
|II||Grand Officer, Commander 1st Class, Grand Commander, Knight Commander, Knight Companion, Commander with Star|
|III||Commander, Commander 2nd Class, Companion|
|IV||Officer, Knight 1st Class, Member 1st Class|
|V||Knight, Knight 2nd Class, Chevalier, Member|
Each of these ranks wear insignia, usually badge (often enamelled) on a ribbon. Typically these insignia are worn from a sash in the case of the senior ranks, around the neck for the middle ranks (see also neck decorations), and on the left chest for the lower grades. Many orders use insignia in the form of a cross, but there may also be stars, and military awards may have crossed swords added onto the insignias. Ladies may wear the badge on a bow on the left chest. In orders following the example set by the French Legion of Honour, the two highest classes also wear a star (or plaque) on the chest. In special cases the senior class may wear the badge on a collar, which is an elaborate chain around the neck.
In certain countries with feudal heritage the higher ranks (usually at least the Grand Cross) may have vestments proper to them, including a robe or mantle and a hat. An example of such a modern-day order is the Order of the British Empire.
The French Legion of Honour democratised the honour systems of orders of chivalry and merit in the sense of formally omitting both the expectations of nobility on admittees while also no further implying the same status on previously non-noble conferees. Yet some orders may still expect noble ancestry on the part of recipients, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and those of the Alliance of the Orders of Saint John of Jerusalem. Others may continue to imply conferral of nobility on any admittee, whether hereditary or personal, such as in some of the cases of dynastic orders conferred by the House of Bavaria or the House of Imperial Russia.
Some organisations claim to be chivalric orders but are actually private membership organisations that have not been created by a state or a reigning monarch. The answer to the question of whether an order is legitimate or not varies from nation to nation, François Velde wrote an "order of knighthood is legitimate if it is defined as legal, recognized and acknowledged as such by a sovereign authority. Within its borders, a sovereign state does as it pleases. Most, if not all, modern states have honorific orders and decorations of some kind, and those are sometimes called orders of knighthood." Exactly what makes one order legitimate and another self-styled or false is a matter of debate with some arguing that any monarch (reigning or not) or even the descendants of such can create an order while others assert that only a government with actual internationally recognized authority has such power (regardless of whether that government is republican or monarchial in nature). Historically, nobility and knights have also formed Orders of Knighthood. The Noble Order of Saint George of Rougemont is a Baronial Order and the Ordre de la Pomme d'Or was founded by 14 knights in Auvergne in 1394.
- "St. George's Chapel: History: Order of the Garter". See the definition of the Order of the Garter as "a society, fellowship and college of knights" there. – St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. 2005. Archived from the original on 15 September 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2006.
- Velde, François Velde (25 February 2004). "Legitimacy and Orders of Knighthood". Heraldica. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "Order of the Garter". Official website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 2009-06-14. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- Vachaudez, Christophe; Walgrave, Jan (2008). Diana Scarisbrick (ed.). Royal jewels : from Charlemagne to the Romanovs. New York: Vendôme Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-86565-193-7.
Louis XI founded the Order of Saint Michael in 1469. Initially, there were thirty-six knights, but their numbers increased to such a point that the order began to lose its prestige. Louis XIV reformed the order on 12 January 1665, reducing the number of knights to one hundred
- "Order of the Thistle". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Monarchy Today: Queen and Public: Honours: Order of St Patrick". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- Definition adapted from www.turkishmedals.net, accessed 2010-02-20. Archived 2012-05-05 at the Wayback Machine
- Pierredon (de) M.: L'Ordre equestre du Saint Sepulchre de Jerusalem. Paris, 1928.
- Anstis, John (1725). Observations introductory to an historical essay upon the Knighthood of the Bath. London: J. Woodman. p. 4.
- The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey (2011). "Order of the Bath". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established as a military order by Letters Patent of George I on 18 May 1725, when the Dean of Westminster was made Dean of the Order in perpetuity and King Henry VII's Chapel designated as the Chapel of the Order.
- Sauer, Werner (1950). Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen des Kurfürstentums Hessen-Kassel (in German). Hamburg: Verlag Kleine Reihe für Freunde der Ordens- und Ehrenzeichenkunde. pp. 19–24.
- Barber, Malcom, & Victor Mallia-Milanes, eds. (2008). The Military Orders, vol. 3, History and Heritage. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. pp. 4–6. ISBN 9780754662907.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Hoegen Dijkhof, Hendrik Johannes (2006). The legitimacy of Orders of St. John: a historical and legal analysis and case study of a para-religious phenomenon. Amsterdam: Hoegen Dijkhof Advocaten (van Universiteit Leiden). pp. 35–41.
- Velde, François Velde (25 February 2004). "Legal Definitions of Orders of Knighthood". Heraldica. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Brett-Crowther, Michael Richard (1990). Orders of Chivalry under the Aegis of the Church. London: Lambeth Diploma of Student in Theology Thesis. pp. 80–90.
- Kurrild-Klitgaard, Peter (2002). Knights of fantasy : an overview, history, and critique of the self-styled "Orders" called "of Saint John" or "of Malta", in Denmark and other Nordic countries. Turku: Digipaino. ISBN 9512922657.
- Thiou, E. (2002). La noble confrérie & les chevaliers de Saint-Georges au Comté de Bourgogne sous l'Ancien régime & la révolution. Mémoire et documents.
- Bossuat, A. (1944). Un ordre de chevalerie auvergnat; l'ordre de la Pomme d'or'. Bidle/in bistoriqia it stienti/iqm dt I'Aupergite, Uiv (1944), 83–98; H. Morel,'Unc associa, 523-4.
- Anstis, John (1752). Observations introductory to an historical essay upon the Knighthood of the Bath. London: James Woodman.
- Burke, John (1725). Statutes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
- D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre Boulton (2000) [February 1987]. The knights of the crown: the monarchical orders of knighthood in later medieval Europe. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 1325–1520. ISBN 0-312-45842-8.
- Kaeuper, Richard W.; Kennedy, Elspeth; De Charny, Geoffroi (December 1996). The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny: Text, Context, and Translation. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1579-6.
- Risk, James C. (1972). The History of the Order of the Bath and its Insignia. London: Spink & Son.
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