There were two distinctly different orders of knighthood during our period of study. The first, and more commonly known, where the Military-Monastic Orders such as the Knights Templar and the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The other types are known as a Monarchical-Lay Orders of which there are a subcategories of Monarchical, Confraternal, Fraternal, Votive, Cliental, and Honorific. We won't go in to a description of the Monastic Orders as they are not appropriate to our pursuits.
The following is a very general description of the different types of Monarchical-Lay Orders
Monarchical-Lay Orders of Knighthood
A major change in the character of knighthood occurred in 1291, when Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in Palestine, fell to the Arabs. The remaining chivalric orders had to find a new existential goal, since the Holy Land was lost with little hope of being regained.
The 13th and 14th centuries saw the decline of pure feudalism and the emergence of what would later become the nation-states of modern Europe, centered on increasingly powerful monarchs. The absolute monarch emerged as that force which could unite the clerics, the land lords, and the bourgeois together and integrate them into a stable social order. Thus, the absolute monarchs created the so-called monarchical orders of chivalry. Furthermore, in the 13th and the 14th centuries, there were many lay devotional confraternities, which were lay institutions grouping members for devotional activities, meeting regularly, and having some form of statutes. In addition, princes and lords made a common use in the 14th century of badges and liveries which they distributed to their servants. The following is a general classification of all these monarchical and lay knighthood associations:
Monarchical Orders (these organizations were modelled on lay devotional confraternities, but their presidential office was attached to a crown or dominion, and their main purpose was to foster loyalty to the president). Examples: the Order of the Garter in the U.K., and the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.
Confraternal Orders (these organizations were similar to the monarchical orders, but with an elective presidency). These can be further distinguished into two classes:
- Princely Orders founded by princes. Most were created after the Golden Fleece in 1430. These are similar to the monarchical orders, but the presidency was not hereditary.
- Order of Saint George, founded by Charles I of Hungary in 1325-6
- Order of Saint Catherine, founded ca. 1335 by Humbert, Dauphin du Viennois
- Order of St. Anthony, founded in 1384 by Albrecht I of Bavaria (although this order may not have been knightly)
- Society of the Eagle, founded by Albrecht von Habsburg in 1433
- Selschapp unnser Liuen Frowen (Society of Our Lady, a.k.a. Order of the Swan), founded in 1440 by Friedrich II of Brandenburg
- St. Hubertus Orden (Order of Saint Hubert), founded in 1444 by Gerhard V of Jülich and Berg
- Ordre du Croissant (Order of the Crescent), founded by René d’Anjou in 1448
- Society of St. Jerome, founded in 1450 by Friedrich II of Wettin, Elector of Saxony
- Baronial Orders which were like aristocratic versions of the professional guilds of the time. Examples:
- Order of Saint-Hubert, in Barrois, 1422
- Noble Order of Saint George of Rougemont, Franche-Comté, 1440
Fraternal Orders (these organizations were brotherhoods-in-arms, formed for a specific purpose and a limited duration, binding members with pledges of aid and loyalty.)
- Compagnie of the Black Swan, created by 3 princes and 11 knights in Savoy in 1350
- Corps et Ordre du Tiercelet (a kind of falcon), founded by the vicomte de Thouars and 17 barons in Poitou between 1377 and 1385
- Ordre de la Pomme d'Or, founded by 14 knights in Auvergne in 1394
- Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier, founded by 44 knights in the Barrois in 1416 for 5 years, converted into a Confraternal order of Saint-Hubert in 1422
Votive Orders (these organizations were a form of emprise or association formed for a specific purpose and for a definite term, on the basis of a vow (hence the term Votive); these were chivalric entities without the mutual pledges which characterized fraternal orders.) Only three are known, on the basis of their statutes:
- Emprise de l'Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (Enterprise of the green shield with the white lady), created in 1399 by Jean le Maingre de Boucicaut and 12 knights for 5 years
- Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron) undertaken by Jean de Bourbon and 16 knights for 2 years in 1415
- Enterprise of the Dragon, undertaken by Jean comte de Foix for 1 year.
It is this type of order which we have chosen to portray, as our reason for forming is for a specific purpose, i.e. that of honoring an historic event.
The Cliental Orders (these organizations were not exactly ‘orders’, in that they had no statutes, no limited membership, etc., but they were groups bound by a simple oath of allegiance to a prince who bestowed a badge or insignia.)
- 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
- Order of the Thistle of Scotland
Honorific Orders (these organizations required no specific obligations, and they were usually just an honorific insignia bestowed with knighthood, upon a festive occasion or a pilgrimage.)
- Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, bestowed by the custodian of the Holy Sepulchre to knights who made the pilgrimage, starting in the 15th century. It was formally organized into an order of merit by the Pope in 1868
- Knights of St. Catherine of Mount-Sinai, bestowed in similar conditions from the 12th to the 15th century
- Order of the Golden Spur, a papal order, many times reformed
- Knights of the Bath, in England. The name was used again for an order of merit created in 1725
One of the most famous monarchical orders is the Order of Saint George, founded in 1325 by Charles I of Hungary. Another is the Order of the Sash (Banda), founded in Castile by Alfonso XI in 1330. The English King Edward III formed the Order of the Garter, in 1344, the best known of its kind. The French Ordre de l’Étoile (Order of the Star) was formed in 1351.
Other monarchs or powerful lords followed this tradition. Here follws a partial list of these orders:
- Saint-George, Hungary (1325-ca.1395)
- Sash or Band, Castile (1330-ca.1474)
- Garter, England (1344-present)
- Star, France (1351-ca.1364)
- Knot, Naples (1352-ca.1362)
- Collar or Annunziata, Savoy (1362-present)
- Tress, Austria (1365-ca.1395)
- Golden Shield, founded by Louis de Bourbon (1367-ca.1410)
- Saint George, Aragon (1371-ca.1410)
- Ermine, Brittany (1381-1522)
- Ship, Naples (1381-ca.1386)
- Salamander, Austria (1390-ca.1463),
- Jar, Aragon (1403-1516)
- Dragon (Renversé), Hungary (1408-93)
- Golden Fleece in Burgundy (1430-present)
- Eagle, Austria (1433-93)
- Saint Maurice, Savoy (1434)
- Elephant, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (ca.1457-ca.1523), later revived
- Ermine, Naples (1465-94)
- Saint-Michel, France (1469-1791)
Later Period Honorific Orders of Knighthood
The prestige which continued to surround the monarchical orders made them useful for other purposes, such as honouring individuals or rewarding good behaviour. Many honorific chivalric orders were created in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the following (an asterisk marks those orders which were nobiliary.)
- San Stefano in Tuscany (1561) *
- Saint-Esprit in France (1578) *
- Mont-Carmel in France (1607) *
- Precious Blood in Mantua (1608) *
- Amarantha in Sweden (1645) *
- Constantinian Order of Saint-George in Parma (1669-present) *
- Dannebrog in Denmark (1671, statutes in 1693; 4 ranks in 1808)
- Generosity in Brandenburg (1685; becomes Merit in 1740)
- Thistle in Scotland (1687) *
- Elephant in Denmark (1693; revival) *
- Saint-Louis in France (1693; 3 ranks)
- Saint Michael in Bavaria (1693) *
- Saint Andrew in Russia (1698) *
- Black Eagle in Prussia (1701) *
- Hunt in Württemberg (1702) *
- Noble Passion in Saxony-Weissenfels (1704) *
- Saint Hubert in Bavaria (1708) *
- Eagle of Saint-Michael in Portugal (1711)
- White Eagle in Poland (1713)
- Fidelity in Baden (1715)
- Bath in Great-Britain (1725; 3 classes in 1815)
- Saint Alexander in Russia (1725)
- Saint George in Bavaria (1729; 6 ranks)
- San Gennaro in Sicily (1738) *
- Seraphim in Sweden (1748) *
- North Star in Sweden (1748; 4 ranks)
- Sword in Sweden (1748; 5 ranks)
- Maria Theresa in Austria (1758; 3 ranks)
- Military Merit in France (1759; 3 ranks)
- Military Merit in Württemberg (1759; 3 ranks)
- Charles III in Spain (1771; 5 ranks)
- Vasa in Sweden (1772; 3 ranks)
- Saint-George in Russia (1769; 4 ranks)
- Red Eagle in Prussia (1790; 5 ranks)
- Tower and Sword in Portugal (1808)
As far as the fate of the original military-monastic orders is concerned, the following is known:
- The Order of Saint John (Malta) lost its territorial sovereignty in 1798. Since then, it has retained its statutes (although massively expanding membership in recently created categories) and is dedicated to medical and charitable activities. As a subject of international law, the order enjoys recognition from a number of countries and institutions.
- The Templars were abolished in 1312.
- The Teutonic Knights abandoned their status as order of chivalry in 1929 and became a simple religious order instead.
- The Order of Saint-Lazarus split into two branches, one obeying papal orders and merging with the Savoyard order of Saint-Maurice in 1572, the other falling under the protection of the French crown in 1608 and merging with Notre Dame du Mont Carmel. It was abolished by Louis XVI in July 1791 and not revived when the monarchy was restored in 1814.
- The Savoyard Order was an Italian state order from 1860 to 1946, at which date it ceased to be conferred in Italy; the heir to the Italian royal dynasty continues to confer it in the 21st century.
- The Portuguese Orders (Avis, Santiago, Christ) were all secularized in 1789, and they remained as national orders. Abolished at the fall of the monarchy in 1910, they were recreated as national orders in 1918. Avis currently rewards military services, Christ rewards civilians and foreigners, and Santiago rewards accomplishments in arts and sciences.
- The Spanish Orders (Santiago, Calatrava, Alcantara, Montesa), secularized in the late 15th and 16th centuries, briefly abolished in 1873-74, were abolished in Spanish law in 1934, although this had no effect in canon (Church) law. Their activities were unofficially revived in 1978, and King Juan Carlos I is their Grand Master (a title first used by Alfonso XIII in 1916) and Perpetual Administrator on behalf of the Holy See. They are thus dynastic orders of the royal house of Spain but not Spanish state orders.