Page:Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage.djvu/74

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XXXVI TITLES, ORDERS, AND DEGREES OK PRECEDENCE AND DIGNITY. the British empire ; and the title is bestowed, and willingly accepted, as the reward of merit, or eminence in any pursuit or position. Every gentleman upon being created a baronet is required to record his pedigree in one of the Colleges of Arms. On December 6th, 1782, King George III. j promulgated an order in which every baronet was required to register his pedigree, and to receive a certificate from one of the Colleges of Arms. This order, however, gave such umbrage to a large portion of the then existing baronets, that his Majesty revoked it, but ordained that it should remain in force as to subsequent creations. A baronet's wife is entitled to the prefix of either " Dame" or " Lady." KNIGHTS. Though knights are ranged low upon the lists of precedency, their rank is not only the most ancient, but the most illustrious ; for in former ages all men distinguished by valour or military service became knights, and admittance to the order of knighthood was a valued object. Knighthood is essentially an institution of the days of chivalry. The latter word has itself an affinity with horsemanship, and knights-bachelors all equites aurati (golden-spurred horsemen). The Roman knight was cyues " a horseman," and' his rank was Eques, next below the Senatorial. In other countries, the ranks answering to our knights- bachelors indicate'by their names their original occupation as military equestrians ; hence the German reiter, the French chevalier, &*c. The Germans, however, have another appellation, Knecht,hom which our own word knight is derived The martial kings of the Franks used to give arms, with many solemnities, to their sons, and others, and to gird them with a sword ; and our own King Alfred, when he made his nephew Athel- stane a knight, gave him a scarlet mantle set with precious stones, and a Saxon sword with a " golden scabbard." Further on in the course of time, _ we find the ceremony of installation assuming a solemnly religious character, including previous confession and absolution, vigils in the church, &c. " And after the gospel," according neck, with his benediction ; and thus, after he had heard mass again and received the sacrament, he became a lawful knight." For a long time ecclesiastics claimed the duty and privilege of dubbing knights. William Rufus was knighted by Archbishop Lanfranc ; but this custom was put an end to, and afterwards kings were_ accustomed to send their sons to neigh- bouring courts to receive the honour of knighthood. Thus Henry II. sent to David king of Scots, Malcolm, King of Scots, to Henry II., and Edward I. to the King of Castile, to take of them "military or virile arms," a term used in those ages for the creation of a knight. The gilt spurs, the privilege of using a signet, etc., wereamongthe conditions of knighthood. Not only the King, but the great earls, created knights, as we are told by Matthew Paris : " Here the Earl of Gloucester invested with a militarie girdle his brother Wil- liam," and Gilbert de Clare was also knighted by Simon de Montfort. In fact, any knight could create a new one. But this was afterwards pro- hibited, and the privilege restricted to the Sover- eign, or to some high personage deputed by him. The title of knight was desired and granted as an honourable addition or mark of distinction to the highest dignity, name, and rank ; but this was only when it was received under honourable circumstances like those just described, for the possession of property at one time entitled to knighthood ; and in the reign of Henry III., freeholders with a stated income were COM felled to become knights under a fine. A proclamation was issued that whoever had 15 in land and above "should be dight in his armes," and endowed with knighthood, or be fined. " to the end that England as well as Italie might be strengthened with chivalry." But those knights in virtue of property, simply called milites, held a very different position from the milites gladio cincti, or knights whom the King had created by cincture of sword and belt. The latter class of dignity was highly prized, and it is certain that the obligations of such knighthood tended power- fully to elevate the mind and chasten the morals of those bound thereby, especially when the King^ conferred the dignity with the aid of religious ceremonials, when the Bishop admin- istered the following oath : " Sir, you that desire to receive the order of knighthood, swear, before God, and this holy book, that you will not fight against the King, who now bestoweth the order of knighthood upon you ; you shall also swear to maintain and defend all ladies, gentle- women, widows, and orphans ; and you shall shun no adventure of your person in any way where you shall happen to be." The oath being taken, two lords led him to the King, who drew his sword, and laid it upon his head, saying, " God and St. George make thee a good knight." Seven ladies then gird on his sword, and four knights his spurs, and other customs were observed. These ceremonies were afterwards dispensed with, and he on whom the title was conferred simply knelt down, when the King with a drawn sword slightly tapped him on the shoulder, saying to him in French, "Sois Chevalier au nom de Dieu ; " that is, Be thou a knight in the name of God ; afterwards adding, " Avances, Chevalier " (Arise, Sir Knight). Some contend that knights-bachelors were_ not full knights, but a middle degree between knights and esquires. " There be," says Camden, " who would have bachelors so called, as one would say bos c/tevaliers, that is, knights of low degree ; although others derive their name from the French verb battalier, which means to combat or fight it out." On the other hand, respectable writers have contended that the term "bachelor " indicates the non-descent of the title, as if the knight were unmarried. Passing by these dis,cus- sions, it may be remarked without disparagement that a knight-bachelor is scarcely regarded as the equal of the member of a defined knightly order. The wife of a knight is entitled to the prefix of either " Dame " or " Lady." JUDGES OF COUNTY COURTS Rank, ex officio, and only during their official life, before all Esquires,* and are entitled to the prefix of " His Honour," but neither their wives nor'issue have any defined precedence. ESQUIRES. Amid the superfluity of discussion respecting the origin and meaning of the title of esquire, the obvious and natural conclusion is that, as the derivation is from scntifer (shield-bearer), the esquires were those who bore the shields of princes, nobles, and knights, and, being themselves of respectable quality, imparted some of that re- spectability (further reflected from the great persons whom they attended) to their office. They were frequently the personal friends and com- panions of their patrons. Thence the title became

  • In Ireland, however, by warrant dated Oct 12th,

1885, the Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, the Serjeants- at-Law, and the Judees of the Court of Bankruptcy have precedence over the Judges ol the County Courts.