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the exception always of those, in whom the supreme power of the state was vested; for the latter, whether kings, queens regnant, or princes regent, always exercised this privilege.
About the reign of Henry VIII., the power of conferring knighthood was confined to the commanders of armies, and subsequent to that period, they used only to exercise the privilege for services done in open war.
Knighthood was also conferred under royal commission at different periods; but for several centuries the power of bestowing this source of dignity and honour has been exclusively confined to the sovereign, and the lord lieutenant of Ireland.
Subsequent to the legislative union with Ireland, some disputes arose respecting even the power of the lord lieutenant; but in 1823 his full privilege and right in this matter was established by the unanimous opinion of the judges, to whom the question had been referred by the king in council.
Besides the creation of knights bachelor by the sovereign in person, a practice has in modern times arisen of granting " the style, title, and dignity of a knight of the united kingdom," under letters patent, to persons who were prevented by residence abroad from being personally presented to the monarch. The first instance of this occurred in 1777, the second in 1793, and the third in 1800.
In all legal proceedings it is essential that those who have received knighthood, should be described with the prefix of
Sir,” and the affix of “ knight,” bat in ordinary intercourse by letters the affix is not given to knights bachelor, though the initials desig
nating a knight of an order are always annexed to every member's name.
The origin of the designation knight bachelor, is plausibly derived by some authors from the words “ bas chevalier," indicating the superiority of the knights bannerets, of whom an account will be found under its proper head.
Although, generally speaking, knighthood is conferred for service actually rendered to the state, yet there are certain public officers who (if willing *) are without exception knighted immediately upon entrance on their duties; and there are other functionaries who, by usage, have a sort of claim upon the sovereign for this honour, although all who may have held the offices in question, have neither invariably received nor solicited the distinction.
Among the former class in England are the Vice Chancellor, the puisne justices of the Queen's Bench, the chief and puisne justices of the Common Pleas, the Barons of the Exchequer, the judges of the Bankruptcy Court, the attorney and solicitor general.
Among the latter, are the governors of colonies, such distinguished military and naval officers as are ineligible for the orders of knighthood, consuls, the lord mayor and sheriffs of London, the mayors of cor. porate towns presenting addresses ; together with all who have received permission to accept and wear any great number of foreign orders.
In Ireland the judges, instead of receiving knighthood like the members of the first class above-men
* Strictly speaking, none can refuse an honour which the sovereign is desirous of conferring, but this prerogative of the Crown is more often chronicled than exercised.
tioned, are frequently added to the privy council of that
part of the united kingdom ; thus the prefix of “Right Honourable, and not of “Sir,” is that enjoyed by the attorney-general, and most of the judicial functionaries of Ireland.
THE ORDER OF THE GARTER.
" When first this order was ordained, my lords,
King Henry VI. act iv. sc. 1. Though nearly five centuries have elapsed since the foundation of this Order of Knighthood, its fame, unlike that of similar institutions, has increased instead of diminishing ; so that notwithstanding the influence of long civil wars, and the destructive consequences of two revolutions, time has but exalted that fraternity,
“ Whose vacant seats, by virtue bought,
Ambitious emperors have sought."
It is probable that the Order of the Garter was founded by letters patent, but no record of any
such instrument is preserved on the rolls of Chancery.
The year 1348 is that usually assigned as the date of its institution; but, according to many authorities, there exists almost conclusive evidence that it may claim an earlier origin; the year 1344 is, however, the earliest that can with any show of reason be entitled to this honour, though perhaps the obscurity of its history does not deserve all the regret which has been expended on it.
The cause of its institution and its name have afforded scope for much ingenious discussion; bat few will be inclined to think its distinction in the least degree impaired, whether gallantry or accident may have given rise to an Order of knighthood so universally honoured. The popular tradition, however, states, that Edward III. having at a court festival picked up a lady's garter, he checked the mirth of the bystanders by exclaiming “ Hori scit qui mal y pense;" and that having placed the garter on his own knee, he subsequently determined to establish a fraternity of knights, in order to humble the pride of scoffing observers, while he converted a trivial accident into a source of honour and distinction. The Order has always borne the pame of the tutelar saint of England, as well is that by which it is more colloquially known; for no affair of so great importance as the institution of an order of knighthood, would, in those days, he undertaken, without placing it under the immediate protection of st. George.
At its original foundation, the Order was to con. sist of the King as Sovereign, with the Prince of Wales, and twenty-four others as companions, and the number of twenty-five constituent companions, has never since been increased, though extra knights have been appointed. By the statutes it was declared, that every companion who was elected into the Order should be a gentleman of blood, and a knight without reproach.
In May, 1786, a statute was issued by George III. declaring that in future the Order should consist of the sovereign and twenty-five knights companions, together with such sons of the king or his successors as were elected into the order, the latter not being included within the twenty-five. This change, though it left the constituents' number as before, yet opened the Order to all the sons of George III., without diminishing the means of conferring such vacancies as might occur upon other deserving subjects of the Crown.
In January, 1805, a further modification of the above statute took place, which is important as much for an incidental remark contained in it, as for the change which it immediately effected. The new ordinance declared, “ that the Order shall henceforth consist of the sovereign and twenty-five knights companions, together with such lineal descendants of King George II. as shall have been elected, or may hereafter be elected, into the same ; always excepting the Prince of Wales, who is a constituent part of the original institution.” The correctness of the last sentence in this ordinance is not borne out by an examination of the pre-existing statutes of the Order; and as far as its retrospective action is concerned, it must be looked upon as at variance with the truth; for in no instance (except that of the Black Prince, who was one of the founders of the Order) has any