Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Ordersof Knighthood

Orders of Knighthood were probably due in the first instance to the growth of the kingly power during the early feudal period. The band of chosen followers (comites, gesithas, thegnas) whom the military leader gathered around himself may be regarded as the germ out of which grew the notion of a body of men united by a common ideal of heroic devotion and martial enterprise. In process of time different rules, badges, and forms of admission as oaths, etc., would naturally become attached to each separate order. Their growtii was greatly stimulated by the Crusades, which added religious ardour to military enthusiasm and gave to knighthood (q.v.) an almost sacred character. [Chivalry.] It was then that the great orders of the Templars (q.v.), Hospitallers (q.v.), and Teutonic Knights (q.v.) came into existence. Amongst orders of an early date which still survive may be mentioned the Italian order of St. Lazarus (said to have been instituted before 1000), the Bavarian order of St. George (introduced from Palestine in the 12th century), the Spanish orders of Calatrava (1147), St. James of Compostello (1175), and Alcantara (q.v.), the Portuguese order of St. Benedict of Aviz (1143), and the Swedish order of the Seraphim (? 1280). A full description of the various British orders is given under separate headings. [Bath, Garter, Golden Fleece, St. George, St. Patrick, Thistle, Star op India, etc.] In France all orders have been abolished excepting the Legion of Honour (q.v.). The Continental orders which now occupy the highest rank include the Austro-Hungarian orders of St. Stephen (1764), established by Maria Theresa as the national order of Hungary, and the Iron Crown, founded 1805 and revived by Francis I. in 1816; the Prussian Black Eagle (1701), founded by Frederick I., and the Italian Annunziata, founded 1362, and remodelled by Victor Emmanuel II. in 1869. The three highest orders are the Garter, Golden Fleece, and Annunziata, holding the first, second, and third rank respectively. The Chinese order of the Imperial Dragon was established in 1862. Japan has two military orders, the Eastern Sun (1874) and the Chrysanthemum (1876).