« AnteriorContinuar »
denominated; and they were formerly usually created out of the choicest of such as had not before received the order of knighthood, and this at the coronation or knighting of the prince, and such-like of the greatest solemnities.1 And Selden mentions that Henry VII. sent writs to divers lords and gentlemen to come ad ordinem militia de Balneo suscipiendum, at the making of his second son duke of York, juxta (as the words of the writ are) antiquam consuetudinem in creatione usitatam.
This species of knighthood was also used in foreign countries; for Sacchetti, an Italian writer of the fourteenth century, mentions cavalieri bagnati among the different species of knights. The passage is worthy of insertion here. "In four modes," says Sacchetti, "knights are created, or rather, I ought to say, were formerly created: bathed knights (cavalieri bagnati); knights of the feast (di corredo); knights of the shield; and knights of arms. Bathed knights are created with very great ceremonies; and they must be bathed and washed from every vice. Knights of the feast are those who take knighthood with a dark green dress and a gilded garland. Knights of the shield are those who are made knights by cities or sovereign lords, and go to receive knighthood in armour, with their helmets on their heads. And knights of arms are those that in the commencement of battles, or in battles, are made knights."2 The reader will readily perceive the analogy of the bathed knights and knights of arms with our English orders of knights of the bath and bannerets. Knights of the shield are evidently the same as our ancient knights bachelors; and it appears that they were created in Italy not only by sovereign lords, but by assemblies of the people. As for the knights di
1 Seld. Tit. of Hon. part ii. c. v. § 45.
2 Sacchetti, Novelle, nov. cliii.
corredo, or of the feast, they are probably the same order as the knights of the chamber, mentioned by lord Coke.1 But we must return to the English order of the Bath.
In the year 1725, the knighthood of the Bath was erected by king George I. into a regular military order, to consist of the sovereign and thirty-seven knights. But the order was subjected to a total change by a statute made on the 2d January, 1815. It is thereby ordained, that the order shall be composed of three classes, namely, knights grand crosses, knights commanders, and companions. The statute further provides, that the knights grand crosses, who are not to exceed seventy-two in number, exclusive of the sovereign and princes of the blood royal, shall be composed of officers who have attained the rank of major-general or rear-admiral, and have previously been of the second class in the order, excepting one-sixth, who may be persons who are not in the army or navy; that the second class shall not exceed upon the first institution one hundred and eighty, exclusive of foreign officers holding British commissions, of whom a number, not exceeding ten, may be admitted honorary knights commanders; and the second class may be increased in the event of actions of signal distinction or of future wars; and that the third class, whose number is unlimited, shall not be knights, but shall take precedence of esquires, and must be officers who have received a medal or other badge of honour, or have been specially named in despatches published in the Gazette. The knights grand crosses enjoy the rank and privileges of the ancient knights of the Bath; and the knights commanders have the same rights and privileges as knights bachelors, but take precedence of them. Henry VII.'s chapel in Westminster Abbey is the chapel of the order, 1 2 Inst. 666.
where the knights grand crosses have their stalls and banners, as the knights of the Garter have in St. George's chapel. With regard to the knights of the orders of the Thistle and St. Patrick, it does not appear that they have any definite precedence by law in England, and therefore a few words concerning them shall suffice. The order of the Thistle claims for its founder Achias, an ancient king of Scotland, but was, in fact, instituted by king James II. in 1679, and re-established by queen Anne on the 31st of December, 1703. It is limited to the sovereign and eleven knights, but the number of knights was extended to sixteen by a statute of the year 1827. Its officers are a dean; the lord Lyon, who is the principal king-at-arms of Scotland; and a gentleman-usher of the green rod. The order of St. Patrick was instituted by king George III. in February, 1763. It consists of the sovereign; a grand master, who is the lord-lieutenant of Ireland for the time being ; and fourteen knights; but there are now twenty-two. The officers of the order are, a prelate and a chancellor, who are always the archbishops of Armagh and Dublin; a herald, who is the principal king-at-arms of Ireland, called Ulster; an usher of the black rod ; a secretary; and a genealogist. The better opinion seems to be, that the knights of the Thistle rank immediately before, and the knights of St. Patrick immediately after, the grand crosses of the Bath. The last dignity of the lesser nobility, as they are called by Coke,' is that of knights bachelors, the most ancient order among us; for Blackstone mentions, on the authority of William of Malmesbury, that king Alfred conferred this dignity on his son Athelstan. And there is this peculiarity in knighthood, that though a foreign duke, marquess, earl, or baron, is but an esquire here, yet if he be a knight, he is a knight by our law in England." The reason of this seems to be, that knighthood was a dignity equally recognised throughout Christendom; and lord Coke, to shew the dignity of knighthood, relates, that at the coronation of king Richard II., William Furneval exhibited his petition in the court of the lord high steward of England, setting forth that he held the manor of Farnham, in the county of Bucks, with the hamlet of Cene in the same county, by service to find to the king at his coronation a glove for his right hand, and to support the king's right hand the same day while he held in his hand the virge royal : and it was adjudged that William Furneval, though descended of an honourable family, should be created a knight before he could perform that high service in his own person.” The custom of the ancient Germans was to give their young men a shield and a lance in the great council. This was equivalent to the toga virilis of the Romans. Before this they were not permitted to bear arms, but were accounted as part of the father's household; after it, as a part of the community.” Hence some derive the usage of knighting, which has prevailed all over the * 2 Inst. 667. 7 Rep. Calvin's case, 15, 16. Co. Litt. 16, b. Coke, in Calvin's case, adds, that “if a king of a foreign nation come into England by leave of the king of this realm (as it ought to be), in this case he shall sue and be sued by the name of a king.” p. 16. It would therefore appear, that the king of Hanover would have place here not as duke of Cumberland, but as king. And this is in accordance western world since its reduction by colonies, from those northern heroes. Knights are called in Latin equites aurati: aurati, from the gilt spurs they wore; and equites, because they always served on horseback. They are also called in our law milites, because they formed a part of the royal army in virtue of their feudal tenures; one condition of which was, that every one that held a knight's fee immediately under the crown (which in Edward II.'s time1 amounted to 20/. per annum) was obliged to be knighted, and attend the king in his wars, or fine for his non-compliance. The exertion of this prerogative as an expedient to raise money, in the reign of Charles L, gave great offence, though warranted by law and the recent example of queen Elizabeth: but it was by statute 16 Car. I. c. xx. abolished; and this kind of knighthood has since that time fallen into great disregard.2
2 Inst. 666. “ Knights of St. George, knights bannerets, knights of the chamber (milites camera?), knights bachelors, baronets, esquires, gentlemen, these are the lesser nobility.” Knights of the chamber seem to have been a sort of knights bachelors made in time of peace, in the king's chamber.
The right of conferring knighthood was not originally a flower of the royal prerogative, because the order of knighthood was not a dignity belonging to the constitution of any state, but a military institution pervading the whole of Christendom, and invested with a religious sanction. The order might be conferred by any man that was himself a knight; but Selden says, that it has long since grown to be clear that none gives it with us but the sovereign, or some other by his command or commission.3 Knighthood, which is now conferred merely by stroke of the sword, or letters patent, has fallen into great disrepute; but if ever it should be found convenient to introduce any additional reward for services, or ornament for honour, that dignity, granted with some unusual but ancient solemnity, would probably answer the purpose bettor
1 Stat . de Milit . 1 Ed. II.
j Blackst. Com. b. i c. xii. p. 403, 404.
3 Seld. Tit . of Hon. part u. c. V. $ 34.