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and princely bearing. But like most ancient digni. ties its value has been much deteriorated by the gradual introduction of new titles, the founders of which pay little regard to the rights and privileges of pre-existing orders, when they seek to establish and create a new source of honour and dignity: for it is much easier to give value to novelties, by exalting them above what is ancient, than to dignify a new rank and make room for its introduction by the improvement and elevation of existing titles. To some of these causes, and perhaps to an occasionally lavish distribution of knightly honours, is to be attributed much of the doubt which has been thrown upon the order, and many of the sneers which have been indulged against men, “dubbed with unhacked rapier upon carpet consideration." But all changes in the general constitution of society must naturally be accompanied by modifications in the character and habits of those, upon whom titles of honour are conferred; and though the extinction of chivalry has not wholly destroyed the military character of many of the orders, yet some of them are now appropriated to the reward of civil virtues and the encouragement of devotion to the public service. Men of science and of letters, diplomatists of eminence, and distinguished lawyers now participate in the honour of knighthood, with those naval and military officers whose achievements abroad and at home have procured the approbation of the Crown, and commanded the gratitude of the country.
The orders which at present constitute the knight. age of Great Britain are as follows:-Knights of the Garter, the Thistle, St. Patrick, and the Bath ; Knigbts of St. Michael and St. George, and of the Guelphs of Hanover, together with the Knights Bachelor, each of which will require attention separately. It should be observed, that when knights are elevated to the peerage, (whether they have been knightsbachelor, or knights of orders, they are nevertheless described in legal documents with the addition of "knight," for the higher dignities of the realm do not extinguish or destroy this title.
The term “ Knight of the Shire” might appear to some readers to require examination in this article ; but it is hardly necessary to observe that this title is given to the members of parliament who represent counties, and bears no relation whatever to the fraternities which constitute the orders of knighthood. They first received this name in 1307, being the representatives elected by the freeholders to sit in parliament, and usually enjoying the honour of Knighthood, which was always conferred in early times upon every person who possessed a certain amount of landed property.
“ A soldier by the honour-giving hand
King John, act i. sc. 1. BANNERETS are those who are knighted under the royal standard displayed in open war. A knight banneret became entitled to bear in the field a square banner containing his arms, and to enjoy the full command of such knights, esquires, and soldiers, as he had brought in his train to serve the sovereign in war.
Their origin is traced by some to the latter end of the reign of Henry III., while others date them from Edward the First's reign.
By modern authorities they have been divided into those created in the king's presence under the royal standard, and those otherwise admitted into the order by commanders of armies ; but the latter mode of creation is of a much later date than the former.
The order now, however, only exists in the name, so that even the last occasion upon which the honour was conferred is not precisely ascertained. According to some authorities, at the battle of Edgehill, namely, in 1642, the last banneret was created. Others maintained that when George III. in 1773 knighted five naval officers on board the Barfleur, then bearing the royal standard, these officers became bannerets, and that a similar honour resulted from the knighting of Captain Trollope, on board the Royal Charlotte yacht in 1797. Sir Harris Nicolas, however, considers this opinion as mistaken, since the royal standard was neither displayed in an “army royal,” nor in an “open war," nor were banners delivered to any of these officers.
Although this class of knights therefore is practically lost to us, yet some explanation of the nature of the title was required, on account of its frequent occurrence in the genealogies of those who draw their descent from the rude times when kings par. ticipated in
“ The grappling vigour and rough frown of war.”
Companions to our person, and will fit you
Cymbeline, act v. sc. 5. The Knights BACHELOR are those who have received knighthood from the sovereign without being enrolled in any order, but enjoy all the privileges of knights from the mere imposition of the sword upon the shoulder. In its origin the creation of this class of knights is by far the most ancient, and was in use long before orders of knighthood were instituted. It has been described as “ the ambition of youth, the ornament of manhood, and the pride of age;" a character perhaps more appropriate to its former constitution than to its present condition; but yet not one so totally undeserved, even in these degenerate days, as the majority of readers might be led to suppose, for out of a gross total of 452 knights living in 1841, the following professional classification has been made ; namely, Military officers
128 Members of the legal profession. . 74 Naval officers .
60 Medical and scientific persons
54 Civic functionaries.
52 Officers connected with the court 25 Diplomatic officers.
12 Official persons.
11 Miscellaneous .
Thus we see that the large proportion of the honours of knighthood dedicated to the military and naval service of the country, the discrimination usually exercised in conferring it upon civilians, and the general respect and estimation which its antiquity should engender, are topics wholly forgotten or disbelieved by those who expatiate on the decline of chivalry, or the mis-appropriation of the institutions of our ancestors.
Until the reign of Charles II., every man who held a knight's fee immediately of the Crown, was compelled on coming of age, to receive the order of knighthood or pay a fine for exemption ; but at the general dissolution of military tenures, this practice was abolished.
Till of late years the ceremonies constituting the creation of knights varied considerably, and included investiture, cincture with arms, putting on of golden spurs, &c., but knights bachelor are now created by the accolade, namely, a stroke upon the neck or shoulder, received from the “ honour-giving sword," of the sovereign. As king Henry VI. is made to knight his son by the words,
“ Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight,
And learn this lesson-draw thy sword in right,” so the king always accompanies the accolade with the future title of the person receiving the honour, and bids him « Arise sir John
or arise sir William
Much dispute has arisen among antiquaries respecting the persons formerly in the habit of conferring knighthood. But in England, since the twelfth century, knights only could be created by others who had already participated in that honour, with