Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sir Edmund – Grandest of Knights

The Queen recently held a memorial service to commemorate the life of Sir Edmund Hillary a Knight of the Garter, the most prestigious of Knighthoods available.

It seems that not all Knighthoods are created equal with Sir Edmunds being one of the grandest.

It all gets a big complicated for me to follow without putting in a few hours of research, which I don’t have time for at the moment. But to the best of my understanding…

…within the UK honours system there are ten different orders of chivalry. Each of these orders gives recognition (“honours”) for exceptional service and/or achievement. Honours are split into classes ("orders") and are graded to distinguish different degrees of achievement or service. There are minimal criteria to determine these levels; various honours committees meet to discuss the candidates and decide which ones deserve which type of award and at what level. Since their decisions are inevitably subjective, the twice-yearly honours lists often provoke criticism from those who feel strongly about particular cases. The six most notable orders and those that can grant a Knighthood as an honour are as follows.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter
• Motto: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks this evil)
• Date created: 1348
• Level: Knight/Lady of the Garter
• Post nominal letters: KG/LG
• Remarks: Limited to 25 Knights
The Order of the Garter is the oldest and most prestigious of the meritorious orders. The Order was founded by Edward III in the 14th century. The origins of its name and motto are obscure. The chapel of the order is St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle
• Motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity)
• Date created: 1687
• Level: Knight/Lady of the Thistle
• Post nominal letters: KT/LT
The Order of the Thistle has ancient roots, but was only established on a statutory basis by James II in 1687. It is limited to 16 Knights (women were admitted in 1987), all of whom must be Scottish.

The Royal Victorian Order
• Date created: 1896
• Levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (Post Nominal Letters: GCVO) Knight/Dame Commander (Post Nominal Letters: KCVO/DCVO) Commander (Post Nominal Letters: CVO) Lieutenant (Post Nominal Letters: LVO) Member (Post Nominal Letters: MVO)
Given for services to The Queen and other members of the Royal Family. There is also a medal, the Royal Victorian Medal, with three grades, gold, silver and bronze. The chapel of the order is The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath
• Motto: Tria Juncta in uno (Three joined in one)
• Date Created: 1725
• Levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (Post Nominal Letters: GCB) Knight/Dame Commander (Post Nominal Letters: KCB/DCB) Companion (Post Nominal Letters: CB)
The Order of the Bath is another order with ancient roots. It takes it name from the ceremonial bathing that preceded investiture in medieval times. The order was formally established in 1725 and is awarded to state servants (including members of the Armed Forces). It has a military division and a civil division. The chapel of the Order is in Westminster Abbey.

The Order of St Michael and St George
• Motto: Auspicium Melioris Aevi (Token of a better age)
• Date Created: 1818
• Levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (Post Nominal Letters: GCMG) Knight/Dame Commander (Post Nominal Letters: KCMG/DCMG) Companion (Post Nominal Letters: CMG)
This order was created in the early part of the 19th century to reward service in Malta and the Ionian islands. It has since evolved to encompass any members of the Diplomatic Service and those who render service to UK interests overseas. The chapel of the order is in St Paul's cathedral.

The Order of the British Empire
• Motto: For God and the Empire
• Date Created: 1917
• Levels: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (Post Nominal Letters: GBE) Knight/Dame Commander (Post Nominal Letters: KBE/DBE) Commander (Post Nominal Letters: CBE) Officer (Post Nominal Letters: OBE) Member (Post Nominal Letters: MBE)
This order was instituted by George V to recognise all levels of service to the country during the first 'total' war. It has evolved to embrace service and achievement in all fields. The Order has a military division and a civil division. The chapel of the order is in St Paul's Cathedral. The British Empire Medal has not been used in the United Kingdom since 1993.

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