One of the by-products of the growth of the British Commonwealth has been the gradual evolution of a far-reaching system of public honors. The custom of rewarding public service by granting some distinction or title to the individual is neither new nor characteristically British. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, such honors were generally reserved for persons of great rank and station. In all the countries of Europe it had long been the custom to reward the services of the wealthy and of the nobility by the granting of hereditary titles, or the admission to such select organizations as the Orders of the Garter and the Golden Fleece. It remained for Great Britian to adapt a custom which, in the years before 1800, had hardened into a means for perpetuating class distinctions, to the new political and social realities that faced her during the nineteenth century. So successful was the adaptation that today people in all walks of life, without regard to wealth or position, have the opportunity of winning public recognition for services rendered to the State, to their communities, or to society as a whole. Titles of hereditary nobility are still granted, but the greater part of the honors now available take the form of a distinguishing Order, decoration or medal. It will be the purpose of the Monograph to considef these latter.
In a system so extensive as that of British public honors a considerable degree of complexity has naturally developed. The medieval and the modern exist side by side and each partakes to some degree of the characteristics of the other. The Order of the Garter is still the most exclusive distinction in Europe. But in recent years it has seen admitted to its membership, along with Kings and Princes, a gentleman whose fortune was made manufacturing screws in Birmingham, and another whose political career was made possible by considerable success in the iron and steel industry. At the same time the Garter is the direct ancestor of the Order of the British Empire founded in 1917, one of the most widely bestowed and yet widely respected of the Orders. As the number of individuals eligible for recognition increased it became necessary to classify rigidly the type of service for which certain honors are given. In the armed services, junior officers and enlisted men in line of duty in time of war normally are faced with situations justifying the award of one of the decorations for valor such as the Victoria Cross or the Distinguished Service Order. On the other hand, senior officers, whose activities involve great responsibility and do not normally bring them face to face with the enemy, are recompensed with one of the higher grades of the Orders of Knighthood not usually available to the junior officer. There are also certain decorations, as in the case of the D.S.O., reserved entirely for officers, and others granted only to enlisted men. Both groups are granted for exactly the same type of service. Civilians of all classes, not eligible for a military decoration, can be awarded one of the grades of an Order, or in time of war, the George Cross. Statesmen, diplomats, and colonial administrators all in due time are admitted to one of the Orders which are generally bestowed on men who make their mark in the civil, diplomatic, or colonial Services.
If the functions of an Order and a decoration are to be properly distinguished, one from the other, it will be necessary to review briefly the history and characteristics of each and the conditions which govern their award. The word "Order" is itself misleading. In its beginnings the Order of the Garter was constantly referred to as the "Society of St. George" or the "Fraternity of St. George called the Garter." As late as 1783 when the Order of Howland Wood> was founded it was called the "Society and Brotherhood of the most Illustrious Knights of Howland Wood>." The circumstances surrounding the founding of the Order of the Garter are obscure, but what we know only serves to emphasize its organized and fraternal aspect. An Order was essentially a group of men banded together for a specific purpose. That purpose could be either religious, as in the case of the great Monastic Orders, or military and political, as it was in the cases of most of the Orders of Knighthood founded after 1350. Certainly by the middle of the fourteenth century the Garter existed in a form that was to be the guide for all other Orders subsequently founded in England. The characteristics of an Order as it emerged from the Middle Ages were fourfold: it was a fraternal organization; the number of members was specifically limited by the laws that controlled it; each member was a Knight regardless of his other rank or station; each member wore some distinguishing badge signifying his membership.
In the course of time, the fraternal aspect of the Orders all but disappeared in Europe. The London Times observed editorially in 1913, "It was during the nineteenth century that the strange custom arose of saying that 'a man was wearing his Orders.' The conception of most people in that sometimes prosaic period was that the decoration worn by the members of an Order was the 'Order' itself. The idea had little to disturb it in this country. Nothing was done to remind the members of British Orders that they were in fact associated in a confraternity having rules and a corporate existence of its own .... King Edward VIII reverted to the ideal of Chivalry and authorized those of his subjects, who were properly qualified, to meet in Church in order to take part as members of a Knightly fraternity in a corporate service of thanksgiving and dedication." The subordination of the associational characteristics which the Times complained about can be traced partly to the vital changes in the organization of some Orders and partly to a great increase in their numbers and availability. Until 1815 it was the general rule that no British subject could belong to more than one British Order. Even when the Duke of Wellington was given the Garter in 1813 he had to resign the Bath. With the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, the government was faced with the problem of providing some means of rewarding the large number of officers who had distinguished themselves but whose services were not important enough for them to be considered eligible for admission to membership in one of the four available Orders. The solution of the difficulty that was reached was based partly on previous Continental examples and partly on expediency. The Order of the Bath was divided into three classes. Each class was limited in numbers, but only the first two carried the honor of Knighthood. The change raised the membership of all British Orders, in round figures, from 100 to 800 in the period of a year. But, however revolutionary such a step may have appeared at the time, the next century was to see the foundation of five new Orders of Knighthood, each one with several classes and divisions, three Orders not carrying the honor of Knighthood, all the decorations of valor, and a host of miscellaneous medals for the reward of every conceivable type of public service. Add to these the large number of similar foreign distinctions that at one time or another have become available, and it is not surprising that the old Medieval corporate spirit that originally played so important a part in an Order of Knighthood was completely lost.
In spite of the multiplication of Orders of all kinds, the most important and perhaps the most significant and interesting development in the field of honors in the nineteenth century was the gradual evolution of the decoration given for individual valor. The conditions governing the bestowal of a decoration approached the reverse of those governing an Order. A set of rigid standards was established. All men who could meet those standards became, in theory, eligible to receive the decoration. Strange as it may seem, there was no distinction available for the junior officer or enlisted man before 1845. During the Napoleon ic Wars high-ranking officers were given gold medals for the battles and engagements in which they participated. But these medals were not distinctive decorations since they were granted generally to all officers of a certain rank present in an action. They were the immediate predecessors of the line of campaign medals eventually issued to all ranks throughout the century. The services of the enlisted men were not, except in the abstract, recognized as being worthy of any particular note by the authorities. It was left to the Honorable East India Company to lead the way. In 1837 two decorations were established to be granted for distinguished service and for gallantry to their native troops. It was not until 1845 that the Meritorious Service Medal was instituted—a decoration that was replaced in 1854 by the now famous medal "For Distinguished Conduct in the Field," granted exclusively to non-commissioned officers and men for gallantry in action. The position of the officers was finally recognized when all ranks were made eligible for the Victoria Cross in 1856. The small wars incident to the growth of the Empire and finally the Great War further expanded this list to the point where it can be said that adequate awards are available for each branch of the armed forces. Nor did valor essentially unmilitary in nature go unnoticed. The so-called "Civilian Victoria Cross," the Albert Medal, was established in 1866 for saving life on land and sea. It bears the distinction of being, with the exception of the recently created George Cross, the most sparingly bestowed of all British Decorations.
The distinctions so far discussed have all had one characteristic in common. The majority of them have been made available for services to the State in a civil, diplomatic, or military capacity. For a long time employment in the military or administrative branches of the state was considered the only form of activity that merited public recognition. There was no means of recognizing purely cultural activities and, above all, no means of recognizing services performed by women. Queen Victoria found that there was no decoration she could give to Florence Nightingale for her unselfish devotion to nursing the wounded in the Crimea. She solved the problem by presenting Miss Nightingale with an ornmental jewelled and enamelled brooch. The premier decoration for military nurses, the Royal Red Cross, was not established until 1883. This refusal to provide for women was all the more curious because a very good precedent exists in the Order of the Garter itself. There were Ladies of the Order in the first century and a half of its existence. Titled ladies were moreover recognized by the creation of the court Order of Victoria and Albert, and the Order of the Crown of India. But it needed the upheaval of the World War before the services of women were generally recognized to the extent that provision was made for them in the newly founded Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Companions of Honor. The Arts and Sciences were in exactly a similar position until the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of Merit and the Order of the British Empire were adapted to recognize musicians, sculptors, scientists and literary people.
The multiplication of honors of all kinds caused their distribution to become an increasingly difficult problem. Before 1815, when every proposed recipient was a gentleman of rank, he was generally personally known to the Sovereign, who was thus able to judge his fitness for the distinction. Down to the end of her reign Queen Victoria required her Ministers to submit a brief biography and list of services of each candidate for admission to one of her Orders. But as late as the last decade of the century the New Year's and Birthday Honors Lists occupied only half a page in the London Times, whereas today they occupy one and a half to two pages in the same paper. It is manifestly impossible for the King to know all of even the most distinguished candidates or to make the same demands on his Ministers for information that Queen Victoria made. In fact the growth of the Honors Lists and the increasing control exercised by the Government over the granting of all honors has served to deprive the Sovereign of many of the powers he once exercised in this field. The Prime Minister now bears general responsibility for all the names on the Honor Lists. He is advised on those proposed for the Civil Service by the Permanent Under Secretary to the Treasury. The Defense Departments, the India Office and the Foreign Office have the right of submitting the names of their candidates directly to the King. While the Prime Minister has all but complete control over the honors system he functions, in fact, under many restrictions. The belief that all honors proceed from the Crown makes it almost impossible for him to propose or press an honor which would cast discredit on the Crown. When Charles James Fox once went so far as to promise a Knighthood of the Bath to a friend without consulting the King until the day of the Investiture, George III refused outright to bestow the honor. Queen Victoria had a very high regard for her powers in this respect and in the case of Lord Lansdowne bestowed a Garter over the direct opposition of Mr. Gladstone. Recent cases where the Sovereign's judgment in these matters has been overridden by his first Minister are very rare. It would be too much to say that honors are awarded only to those who deserve them. But in view of the size and complexity of the honors system the number that are bestowed on the undeserving is very small indeed.
The Orders of Knighthood may be divided into three broad groups for the purpose of discussing the circumstances affecting their distribution. The first of these comprises the Orders of the Garter, the Thistle, and Howland Wood>, which may be called the "Great Orders." The Orders of Merit, headed by the Bath, are six in number. The third group, composed of the Order of Merit, the Royal Victoria Order and the Order of the Companions of Honor, stands alone because they are largely free of political control. Of the Great Orders the Garter is the most representative example. In its long career it has been used as an instrument of government and diplomacy. The original Knights were close friends or advisors of Edward III. When strong Kings ruled, it was used as a reward for loyal and unquestioning service. When weak Kings occupied the throne, it was used as a prize to lure the support of strong vassals. As representative government grew and flourished it lubricated the cogs of the Parliamentary machine. Probably no better example of this function of the Order can be found than in a letter from Queen Victoria to Lord Derby in 1852. She wrote, "The Queen is of the opinion that it would be advisable on the whole to give the Garter to Lord Londonderry although the Duke of Northumberland has the best claim. At the same time the Queen would have no objection to bestowing it on Lord Lonsdale if this is desirable in order to facilitate any Ministerial arrangements Lord Derby may have in contemplation." Very frequently the Garter has been used in international diplomacy. The Anglo-French Alliance during the Crimean War was signalized by a full Chapter of the Order held at Windsor for the purpose of giving the Blue Ribbon to the Emperor Napoleon III. When the Shah of Persia visited England early in the reign of Edward VII the King refused to give him the Garter, although the oriental potentate made it quite plain that he wanted it. Some months later, however, when it became plain that the Shah's attitude would have an extremely important effect on the attempts of Britain to develop Persian oil fields the Garter was sent out with a special mission.
Any discussion of the Great Orders would be quite incomplete if it were confined only to diplomacy and high or low politics. The fact is that many men, distinguished and otherwise, have wanted the Garter for very human reasons. A recent biographer of Lord Chesterfield has written "What he wanted at this moment was the Order of the Garter, the premier decoration at the King's disposal, the most illustrious decoration in Christendom. Aside from everything else, it was a gorgeous ornament of dress, in a day when Knights of the Garter and the Bath put on their ribbons and Stars as a part of daily apparel. The broad blue ribbon expanded even a narrow chest; the blazing diamonds of the huge Star overwhelmed the least dazzled beholders with awe and veneration. Ambassador Chesterfield entering a salon without this splendor was relatively a little naked man compared with Ambassador Chesterfield clothed in such insignia. As he put it eventually to Sir Robert Walpole, ‘Iam a man of pleasure and the Blue Ribbon would add two inches to my size.' But primarily, of course, it was the symbolic character of these trappings that gave them their essential value. To be one of twenty-five selected from the entire nobility of England, to be one of an inner circle already 400 years old—the merit lay in this rigid exclusiveness."
Probably the ultimate in frankness was achieved by Lady Ashburton when she remarked in the fifties of the last century, "The Garter is about the only distinction left that those fellows of talent cannot gain. We don't like honors that are earned." The Order had long been a perquisite of the aristocracy, and the aristocracy surrendered its perquisites only under duress. It was Lord Palmerston's cynical judgment that the Knights had been chosen more often for their social standing than their deeds. While there is much truth in Lord Palmerston's remark, it must be remembered that the Order has inevitably reflected the age in which it found itself and the men who made use of it. There has been no British institution which has adapted itself more gracefully to changing circumstances than this Order has in the six hundred years of its existence. No one has ever put himself on record as being insulted when it was offered him, although Lord Shaftesbury very nearly insulted Queen Victoria by refusing it twice because he felt himself unworthy of the honor. While not always put to the best purpose, the Garter is still the most distinguished reward at the King's command for the man who has done his best and accomplished great things for England.
The group of decorations which have been loosely termed the Orders of Merit include all those commonly given to distinguished military and naval men, diplomats, and colonial administrators. Of these the Order of the Bath is most typical. All Orders subsequent to the Bath were organized on similar lines. According to the statutes, most of the members had to hold the rank of Captain in the Navy, Colonel in the Army, or a position of equal responsibility in the civil or colonial services before being admitted to the lowest class of one of these Orders. In practice, in time of peace very few officers receive the third class of the Bath until they are Rear Admirals or Major Generals. Since the outbreak of the present war, however, the Companionship of the Bath has been considered a fitting reward for the commanding officers of ships which have distinguished themselves in action. In the battle of the River Plate leading to the destruction of the Graf Spee, the Captains of the cruisers engaged were made Companions of the Bath while Commodore (later Admiral) Harwood was created Knight Commander in the same Order. It should be noted that the Orders of Merit are very frequently given to foreign officers engaged with British forces. Thus in the last war General Pershing received the Grand Cross of the Bath. Many officers will probably be admitted to various grades of the Orders of the Bath, Star of India and St. Michael and St. George, as a result of widespread American participation in the present war. Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur have already received the Military Grand Cross of the Bath.
Whenever one of the higher grades of an Order is conferred, if the recipient is not already a Knight it is necessary for him to be Knighted. He then has the right to bear the non-hereditary title of "Sir." This ceremony involves the actual physical contact of the sword laid on the shoulder by the Sovereign or his deputy appointed for the purpose. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries deputies were very frequently appointed. An example of this occurred when General Jeffrey Amherst was knighted and invested with the insignia of the Order of the Bath on Staten Island by Major General Monckton, Governor of New York City. Today, however, the recipient of an Order generally waits until he has an opportunity to go to the Palace to receive the insignia and the Knighthood from the Sovereign. When an Order is given to an American it is in the nature of a presentation. Since the Constitution prevents Americans from accepting foreign titles, they are not Knighted, although Congress permits them to accept foreign decorations in time of war. While the distribution of the Orders of Merit is severely standardized, there is one group of decorations over which the Government has very little if any control. The Order of Merit, Companions of Honor, and the Royal Victorian Order are the decorations most frequently given for purely cultural activities. They are the sole gift of the Sovereign, who may, but need not, accept his First Minister's advice in awarding them. The first two of these distinctions carry no title.
The distribution of decorations presents quite a different problem from the distribution of the Orders of Knighthood. While regulations have been drawn up defining the conditions under which a certain decoration will be granted, it is obviously impossible to catalogue specifically just which acts merit recognition and which do not. Each change in the art of war has produced a change in the standards for the award of every decoration. The tremendous sweep of the last war created a situation that the authorities were not prepared to meet. All Britain's previous wars had been small ones by comparison. They had been wars of cavalry and flags. The winner of a Victoria Cross was often the man who saved his regimental standard, or carried a wounded officer from the field under fire. There were no machine gun nests, muddy trenches or millions of participants to complicate matters. In an effort to prevent the wholesale shower of awards during 1914-1918, an allowance list was established for types of ships in the Navy and units of men in the Army. Unfortunately, the arrangement did not always function very well. Admiral Sir Roger Keyes records that "in Gallipoli we were told that these things must be adjusted by scale. Admiral Robeck could only have a certain percentage based on the number of people on the station to be divided in a fixed proportion between officers and men. The opportunities of winning distinction played no part in this ridiculous system of award by scale which those unimaginative people produced. In the Grand Fleet after Jutland where squadrons were similarly treated, it is no exaggeration to say that a squadron which had never been severely engaged received the same number of honors as one that had fought many battles with heavy casualties." It is interesting to note that a very similar system was inaugurated in 1939. The scale fixed for the Navy was one decoration for every 250 men in active service every six months. For shore duty the proportion was one for every 1000 men every six months. If there is any justification for Sir Roger Keyes‘ stringent criticism of the system of award by scale in 1915, it would seem that the same error might have been avoided. It is, no doubt, easy to find fault, particularly where there is no responsibility involved on the part of the critics. However, it is also very easy for a Government Department staffed with people who have had little experience with actual service conditions to reach decisions that are painfully at variance with reality. Unfortunately, it seems that in such cases the advice and comment of the man on the spot is very frequently ignored, as Admiral Keyes found. Decorations are also given to foreign troops associated with the British forces. There has been only one case, however, where the Victoria Cross was bestowed on an American and that was the Unknown Soldier.
An attempt has been made to explain the origin of Orders and decorations in Great Britain and the conditions under which they have been distributed. The story would be incomplete if it were not pointed out that the expansion of the system of public honors has had a very close relation to the forces that in the past three hundred years have made modern England. It was in this period that political end social democracy as it is known today was avolved. At one time admission to a British Order was the privilege of the aristocracy. Today it is the privilege of every British subject. The development of the honors system has so paralleled and mirrored other more important forces that today it exists not as a relic of a feudal past but as one of the living inheritances of England.
Each of the nine Orders of Knighthood was founded when some specific need arose that it could serve. Each was the product of an era, and each was tailored to fit a set of special circumstances. The origin of the Order of the Garter has been the subject of considerable controversy among historians and antiquaries for hundreds of years. All the earliest records of the Order have been lost, so that the evidence that exists is largely indirect. Certainly ideals of romantic chivalry which were so important in the middle of the fourteenth century made it possible for an organization of Knights, ostensibly dedicated to those ideals, to flourish. But the foundations of the Order did not lack practical political implications. There exists a patent granted by Edward III on February 10, 1344 permitting some Knights of the County of Lincoln to meet annually to hold jousts and indulge in other armed sports. The King, recalling that "the deeds of the ancients had exalted military glory and strengthened the throne" and also "that dissensions had often arisen from their not having employment," was pleased to permit the Knights to "meet peaceably without oppression to the populace in said parts or to engage in unlawful assemblies" for the practice of arms. By 1350 he had gathered a similar group of twenty-four Knights and the Prince of Wales around him at Windsor. Although these men were his advisers, his friends, and companions in arms, they were formed into a regular society, with a chapel of their own and a blue garter for their distinguishing badge. There is no absolute historical foundation for the old story that the order was founded because one day, when the Countess of Salisbury's garter broke and dropped to the ground, the King picked it up and, noticing the undertone of gossip among the assembled courtiers, promptly coined that immortal Norman French sentence, "Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense." But on the other hand, there is no evidence that the story is pure fabrication, and it remains our only logical explanation for the motto that was embroidered on the blue Garter of the Knights of the new fraternity.
The Garter was the first example of the insignia of a British Order. The Knights were enjoined by the statutes of the Order to wear it daily. As Ashmole notes, the constant display of the insignia was important because it was worn by the members "as a sign of Brotherhood which from being constantly in sight might stimulate them to observe their oath of loyalty to the Sovereign and of devotion to virtue military as well as civil." Knights of the Garter followed the custom of wearing some part of their insignia as an article of daily apparel as late as the seventies of the last century. The Garter illustrated (Frontispiece) is 22½ inches long, of dark blue velvet decorated with gold embroidery and with the motto in letters of gold. The buckle and tabs are hallmarked. It is now in the possession of the Earl of Halifax K. G., former Viceroy of India, Foreign Minister and at present (1945) British Ambassador to the United States. Although this Garter is very plain, many Knights in the past have had theirs set with precious stones. Frequently, valuable and heavily jewelled Garters have been presented to foreign Sovereigns. King Charles I's Garter was set with 400 diamonds. Since it was the custom of the Knights to wear the Garter daily when knee breeches were popular, they often provided themselves with several additional Garters. Many exist today that are embroidered in plain gold or silver thread on light blue corded silk. The only other device that the original members wore was a blue cloak with an embroidered St. George's cross surrounded by a buckled garter on the left shoulder.
It was not until the reign of Henry VII that the most prominent part of the Garter insignia was instituted. During the second half of the fifteenth century and the early sixteenth century style decreed that gentlemen of quality should wear some form of heavy gold chain with their daily dress. When the famous Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by the Duke of Burgundy in 1469 a gold chain or "collar" was designed as the principal nisignia of the Order. Whether the King of England was moved to copy this part of the Fleece's insignia is not known, but it seems very probable that he was. The Earliest mention of the Garter collar (Plate I) is in a document describing the mission sent to invest the Emperor Maximilian with the insignia of the Order in 1503. When the Emperor was elected a Knight in 1489 no mention was made of the collar. It must have been added, then, between the years 1490 and 1502. According to the statutes it is composed of twenty-four heraldic Tudor roses enamelled red and white, each surrounded by a buckled garter and linked together with twenty-four "lover's knots" of gold, the whole weighing thirty ounces of twenty-two carat gold. In actual practice there seems to have been considerable variation in the weight of the collar. That belonging to Charles I was weighed by Cromwell's commissioners before melting and was found to be considerably overweight. Today the collars weigh 37 ounces, 6 pennyweights. The collars worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Mary and the present Queen appear from photographs to have been constructed on a much smaller scale than those of the knights and must therefore weigh much less. Unlike the other insignia, the collar cannot be jewelled or ornamented in any way.
The collar supports "The Great George," an enamelled gold equestrian figure of the Order's patron Saint slaying the dragon (Plate I). This figure is now one and three quarters inches in depth but has varied considerably in size and workmanship in the past. Queen Anne gave the Duke of Marlborough a magnificent George set in diamonds. This piece later passed into the hands of the Prince Regent who gave it to the first Duke of Wellington.
In the early days the Great George appears to have been surrounded by a Garter. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth's Minister, Lord Burghley, in the Garter Robes shows one in this form. As the result of changes in men's styles, by the middle of the sixteenth century the collar ceased to be generally worn. In 1519 the Statutes permitted the Knights "in time of war, sickness, long voyage, or other necessary occasions to wear the image of Saint George dependent to a little chain of gold or lace of silk". In 1521 the image was described as being surrounded by a Garter. This became known as the "Lesser George." During the reign of Charles I it was generally worn from a wide blue ribbon. For some unknown reason King Charles stopped wearing it around the neck and, instead, slung the ribbon over the left shoulder, the Lesser George, or Badge resting low under the right arm. The Badge has been worn in this way ever since. Today it rests on the right hip. Like the other insignia, the form of the Badge has varied over the centuries. The statutes decree that it shall be made of plain gold. The one illustrated (Plate II), belonging to the Earl of Halifax, is plain, and measures two and seven-eighths inches in depth. Many have been set with precious stones and have been considerably larger. In the days when the Badge was more frequently worn, the Knights had several made for themselves at their jewelers to suit their individual tastes. The Royal Family has a number of very fine Badges that are frequently displayed in photographs of some of the older members. Before leaving the Lesser George it should be pointed out that the four-inch blue ribbon from which it is suspended is a very important part of the insignia. In fact "The Blue Ribbon" is a common synonym for the Garter. The shade of blue has changed a number of times. The Stuarts wore one that was very light. The Hanoverian dynasty changed to one that was very dark. The late King George V changed the color again to what may be described as a very deep sky blue.
One of the most attractive pieces of the Garter insignia is the Star (Plate III). The Star is an outgrowth of the St. George's Cross and Garter worn on the robes of the original Knights. King Charles I surrounded his Cross and Garter with embroidered silver rays. In time this device was embroidered on the outer coat of the Knights. By 1800 the Knights had their Stars executed in silver, but they were still sewn on. In time the Star grew smaller in size and today it is pinned on. While the Stars of most of the British Orders are of standard make at the present time, the Stars of the Garter seldom are the same size or shape. The Star illustrated on Plate IV is the second that the Earl of Halifax has had. When it was given to him he returned the original piece to the Sovereign. This Star is very old and is not of the usual chipped silver construction that is so characteristic of the Stars of other Orders. The variation that is so typical of the Garter Star can be partially explained by the fact that all the insignia are returned on the death of the Knight. This has not always been the case, however. There were numerous instances in the sixteenth century where the Knights willed their collars to their heirs or to a friend. Eventually the Chancellor of the Order laid successful claim to the insignia, apparently for his own profit. In 1825 the Chancellor had to forfeit the insignia to the Crown but he was granted £100 for each set to reimburse him for his loss. Finally, in 1838, he was deprived of even this fee. Today the Collar, Great George, and Garter go to the Central Chancery, while the heir of the deceased Knight delivers the Star and Badge to the King. All the insignia are subsequently reissued. Considerable obscurity, at present, surrounds the insignia now worn by the Knights. It is not known how old the various pieces are, whether any record has been kept of the Knights who formerly wore each piece, just what degree of age and wear is necessary before a piece is worn out or what the incidence of loss is. The author suspects that considerable information could be made available on this aspect of the Order.
The Order of the Garter is remarkable in that its organization has been maintained for six hundred years without a break. It never died out to be revived with pretences of antiquity years later. It is as closely associated with the Monarchy as St. Edward's Crown itself.
In 1687 King James II decided to give the Kingdom of Scotland an Order that would be comparable to the Garter in England. He adopted the strange expedient of "reviving" a non-existent Order supposedly founded by a former King of Scotland in 787 and gave it the name of Scotland's national flower with St. Andrew for a patron Saint. Inasmuch as the original group of Knights were largely supporters of the Stuart cause, the Order suffered an eclipse after the Revolution of 1688. It was actually revived by Queen Anne in 1703. Lord Dartmouth summed the matter up as only an Englishman could. "It was revived in the reign of Queen Anne" he wrote, "with some new regulations, and they styled themselves Knights of the most ancient Order of St. Andrew, though nobody ever heard of a Knight of St. Andrew till the time of King James II. All the pretense for antiquity is some old pictures of the Kings of Scotland with medals of Saint Andrew hung with gold chains around their necks,—and everybody knows that gold chains and medals were worn formerly for ornaments by persons of quality and are still given to Ambassadors. But Charles II used to tell a story of a Scotchman that desired a grant for an old mill because he understood that they had some privileges and were more esteemed than the new."
Whatever the motives behind the pretense of antiquity the Order of the Thistle was soon held in high esteem. It is probably the most exclusive Order in Europe. From its foundation until 1821 the Knights numbered only twelve. In the latter year four extra Knights were added incident to the Coronation of George IV. In 1827 the number of members was fixed at sixteen where it remains today. The magnificent Chapel of the Order, in Saint Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, is of modern origin and was finished just before the last War. One of the most interesting installations of Knights was held in July 1937 when Her Majesty the Queen was installed as the first Lady of the Order.
The Thistle has served its purpose well. It is a very much prized distinction in Scotland, where the little differences that distinguish the Scot from the Englishman are preserved with a fierce pride that would astonish the foreigner. In recent years the Order has been given to several gentlemen who, to paraphrase Lord Palmerston, are as distinguished for their deeds as for their ancestors. The motto of the Order is "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" (Nobody attacks me with impunity).
The insignia of the Thistle were designed on lines similar to the Garter insignia. The gold collar, one and two-tenths inches in depth, is composed of sixteen thistles interlaced with four sprigs of rue enamelled in colors. Like other collars it is fastened to the deep green mantles of the Order with white ribbons. The original statutes of the Order provided that pendant to the Collar "is to hang the St. Andrew in gold, enamelled, with his gown green, and the surcoat of purple having before him the cross of his martyrdom enamelled white, or if of diamonds, consisting of the number of thirteen, just the cross and the feet of Saint Andrew resting on a ground of green." In February, 1714, it was further provided that "the Image of St. Andrew ... be made larger than it now is and have round it rays of gold going out from it making the form of a glory." Provision was made in 1687 to wear this "jewel" from a purple watered silk ribbon over the left shoulder tied under the right arm as the Garter ribbon was worn. Queen Anne changed the color of the ribbon to a rich dark green, and so it remains today. Whenever the jewel was not worn to the ribbon, it was to be replaced by an oval gold medal consisting of a figure of St. Andrew as prescribed for the jewel, but in plain gold, surrounded by a gold band bearing the motto of the Order. In practice, the jewel was seldom worn attached to anything but the collar. Queen Anne wore a very interesting Badge to the Garter ribbon. It had a Saint George and Garter on one side and the St. Andrew on the other. The Star of the Order (Plate V) consists of a Saint Andrew's Cross in silver with silver rays going out from the angles, charged in the center with a thistle of green on a field of gold, surrounded by a circle of green bearing the motto of the Order in gold.
A number of the collars and Badges now in possession of the Knights of the Thistle date back to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many of them represent some of the best workmanship of the early Scottish jewelers. There is a very fine jewelled medal of the Order with the Crown jewels in Edinburgh Castle that is worn by the Sovereign when he takes up residence in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Star illustrated (Plate V) is a magnificent specimen and is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society in New York City. The insignia of the Order are returnable to the King on the death of each Knight.
Following the precedent of Walpole, the Earl of Shelburne, Prime Minister in 1782, felt it necessary to conciliate the more powerful Irish Peers by finding honors and distinctions for them. The limited number of Knights in the Orders of the Garter, the Thistle and the Bath made it inconvenient for these Orders to be used for Lord Shelburne's purposes. The solution of the difficulty was to persuade the King to create a new Irish Order named for the patron Saint of that country. The Order of Saint Patrick, founded by George III in 1783 has filled the position of principal Order in Ireland. The Knights were limited to twenty-two, with the Viceroy acting as Grand Master. The collar of the Order (Plate VI), of pure gold, is composed of seven roses and six harps alternately, each tied together with a knot of gold, the roses being enamelled alternately white leaves within red and red leaves within white, and in the center an Imperial Crown surmounting a harp of gold from which hangs the Badge. The Badge is a large oval having in the center a three-petaled shamrock, or "trefoil," in green, on a red Saint Andrew's cross surrounded by a blue circlet bearing the motto of the Order, the whole surrounded by a wreath of green trefoils. There seems to have been great variation in the size, shape and enamelling of the St. Patrick's Badge. The Badge illustrated on Plate VII is in plain gold and was worn by one of the Knights founders of the order. While the usual Badge is oval, photographs of the Knights taken after 1850 show several circular specimens. That worn by the late Field Marshal Lord Wolseley was circular. When Lady Wolseley requested permission of the officials of the Order to present her husband's Howland Wood> Collar to the Royal United Services Museum along with the rest of his Orders and decorations, permission was refused. She had a copy of the collar made in gilt and it is, in normal times, on display with the magnificent Wolseley collection at the Museum. Lord Wolseley's circular Badge was much larger than the early specimen mentioned above. The Star of Howland Wood> (Plate VIII) is the usual eight-pointed star charged in the center with a representation of the Badge.
In 1831 King William IV caused the Irish Crown jewels to be used to make an unusual set of the insignia of Saint Patrick for the adornment of the Grand Master on special occasions. Each retiring Lord Lieutenant was required to hand the jewelled ornaments over to his successor. The State Insignia consisted of the following pieces: "A large Star of the Order of Saint Patrick composed of fine brilliants, having an emerald shamrock in the center, surrounded by the motto of the Order in diamonds on a blue enamelled ground; a large oval badge of the Order surmounted with the Crown, all composed of fine brilliants with an emerald shamrock on ruby cross; a gold Badge of the Order richly enamelled and set with emeralds and rubies."
The Order of Saint Patrick is in an anomalous position. The very motto, "Quis Separabit?" posed a question Englishmen were unwilling to recognize, and one which numerous Irishmen were all too willing to answer. Many members of the Order have been distinguished men. Yet many were men not too popular with their neighbors in Ireland because they represented the absentee landlord class. When the separation did come the Order lost its Chapel in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. In 1908 it had lost the State insignia of the Order in diamonds, which disappeared from Dublin Castle under mysterious circumstances and have not yet been found. The last Knight to be created, barring two members of the Royal Family, was the Duke of Abercorn in 1922. While the Order was complete as late as 1924, it seems about to lose all its members. There is no information about the Order's future now available.
The Orders of Merit comprise the group of decorations made available for services in the armed forces and in various administrative capacities throughout the Empire. Of these the prototype is "The Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath," an Order of Knighthood that stands second only to the Garter in the general esteem in which it is held. The name of the Order is actually centuries older than the Order itself, as we know it today. When the honor of Knighthood was conferred with special ceremonies by the Sovereign himself the candidate had to submit to many symbolic rituals. One of these was the taking of a bath as a symbol of purity and the washing away of sin. There are records of Knights of the Bath, but not Knights of an Order, being created as early as 1399. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries most of the ritual had been dispensed with, but certain Knights created at coronations and on other occasions were still denominated Knights of the Bath. Portraits of some of these Knights show them wearing an oval gold medal enamelled white and charged with three garlands or crowns of green. But it was not until 1725 that, under the stress of political necessity, the Order was actually created. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, maintained his position by using the honors at his command to purchase political support of many of the great Peers, so wealthy in their own right that money meant little to them. Horace Walpole wrote that "The revival of the Order of the Bath was the measure of Sir Robert Walpole and was an artful bank of thirty-six ribbands to supply a fund of favors in lieu of places. He meant to stave off demands for Garters and intended that the Red should be a step to the Blue." The order was provided with a set of statutes that were more reminiscent of medievalism than of the cynical eighteenth century. Sir Harris Nicolas observed that "in 1725 King George I 'revived' as it was termed, the Order of the Bath, but little of the original institution except the most objectionable parts was retained, that is to say a name which was wholly inappropriate, a Motto and Ensigns that conveyed no obvious meaning and inculcated no moral or patriotic duty; and ceremonies so inconsistent with the feelings of the age that they were never intended to be performed." There is a great deal of truth in this judgment. But, like every other similar institution, the eventual value of the Order was measured not in terms of its founder's intentions but by the uses to which it was subsequently put. In fact the red ribbon of the Bath was not used as a step to the Blue. It presently became the principal military order in its own right.
The Napoleonic Wars ushered the Order into its most glorious period at the end of the eighteenth century. England entered the struggle in 1793. For the next twenty years the Royal Navy piled up one victory upon another. The men responsible for this record were, one by one, admitted to the Order. When Wellington's campaign got under way in Spain the army contributed its share to the ranks of the Order. One result of this extensive and successful series of military and naval operations was a great expansion in the number of members beyond the limits set by the statutes. By 1814 it became evident that there were not enough places in the Order to accept all those whose services merited it. The solution decided on by the authorities was a distinct break in the traditions that had begun with the Garter. On January 2, 1815, a Warrant was issued in which the Prince Regent declared that it was his desire to "commemorate the auspicious termination of the long and arduous contests in which this Empire has been engaged and of marking in an especial manner His gracious sense of the magnificent perseverence and devotion manifested by the officers of His Majesty's forces on sea and land." Therefore he thought it "fit to advance the splendor of the Order of the Bath and extend its limits to the end that those officers who have had the opportunities of signalizing themselves by eminent services during the late war might share the honors of the said Order and that their names may be delivered down to remote posterity accompanied by the marks of the distinction they had so nobly gained." The extension followed the pattern already set by the Order of St. Louis in France. The existing Knights of the Bath were called Knights Grand Cross (G.C.B.). There was a second and larger group called Knights Commanders (K.C.B.). Finally there was a third group numbering some seven hundred called Companions (C.B.) who were not Knights at all. Each group was provided with its own insignia that had only the remotest resemblance to the insignia that had previously been worn. Those few Knights who were civilians retained the old insignia. Provision was made for admission of a small number of distinguished civilians to the revised Order. They became "Civil Knights Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath."
It cannot be said that this complete change in the statutes of a highly respected Order was greeted with enthusiasm except, perhaps, by some of the new members who otherwise would have gone unrewarded. The older Knights felt that their hard won honors were cheapened by an influx of newcomers, many of whom had only the most shadowy claim to the distinction. The most distinguished living sailor, Sir John Jervis, Earl St. Vincent, violently objected to his new designation of G. C. B. and refused to wear the insignia except when in the presence of King George IV. There was agitation in Parliament. Members of the opposition pointed out that by the statutes the Knights were required to maintain a certain number of men at arms, "by which means the Crown might raise an armed band surreptitiously .... Whenever a nation was a military nation there ought to be a military order; but England is not a military nation." The objection was not merely the result of a post-war reaction against all things military. It was a fear as old as representative government in England. There was, however, little danger if only on the grounds of expense. Perhaps the most serious objection could be found in the fact that the new arrangement did not provide any means for the Prince Regent to recognize the achievements of most of the men his "gracious sense" indicated were worthy of distinction. The third class was limited to Majors in the Army and Post Captains in the Navy. There was no provision of any kind made for the thousands of officers and men in lower ranks, either within the Order or outside it.
It cannot be denied that the revision of the Order of the Bath placed that institution under a cloud for a time. Part of the difficulty lay in the fact that many important people had trouble in adjusting themselves to an award that tended to transcend class distinctions. The ultimate wisdom of the newly constituted Order was, however, soon recognized. In 1847 Queen Victoria was able to add a Civil Division of Knights Commanders and Companions without causing any great upheaval. Probably the greatest disability that the Order suffered under during the Queen's reign was the prosaic attitude adopted toward all honors. The impressive ceremonies at one time associated with the Garter, the Thistle and the Bath were allowed to lapse. Promotion in the Order was made more according to seniority and age than merit alone. Significantly Lord Wolseley refused a G. C. B. when it was first offered in 1882 because he feared that acceptance of the honor would damage his career. He felt that he was too young to be promoted in the Order over the heads of senior generals. This practice contrasted unfavorably with the customs followed in Russia and Austria in regard to the Orders of St. George and Maria Theresa. In the case of the Russian Order of St. George the first class was so sparingly granted that in 1914 no living Russian could wear it. However, in the nineteenth century with the multiplication of junior Orders, the Bath began to regain its former position in public estimation. It was left for the late King George V to revive the impressive ceremony of the Installation of the Knights in the renovated Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The attention which the King bestowed on the order was marked. There were few instances when he was seen in uniform not wearing its insignia. The Great War added new lustre. The London Times noted in 1920 that "Even in the late War, when honours lists were criticized for their length, admission to the Order of the Bath was charily granted and membership in its first class is still regarded as the fitting reward for the greatest victories and is highly prized as an honorary distinction by foreign rulers." After a checkered history the Order seems finally to have achieved a lasting and distinguished place in the British honors system.
By the time the Order of the Bath was founded, the insignia of all orders had become fairly well standardized. It was unusual for an Order to be possessed of three different types of badges as was the Garter. Normally there was one Badge, worn from the collar on occasions of ceremony, and from the ribbon of the Order on all others. The insignia of the Bath followed this tradition when it was designed in 1725. But the Badge instead of being designed as some form of a cross, as was most frequently the case in Europe, followed the distinctly English tradition already set by the Garter and the Thistle. The Badge was an oval pierced medal of varying size containing a sceptor between three imperial gold crowns with a rose, thistle and shamrock between, surrounded by a gold band on which the motto of the Order, "Tria Juncta in Uno" appeared in letters of burnished gold. This Badge was retained after 1815 as the Badge of the Civil Division (See Plates XV-XVII). The Star worn by the Knights between 1725 and 1815 was in the conventional form, having four greater and four lesser points, with three imperial crowns of gold in the center surrounded by the motto of the Order in gold letters on a crimson circlet (Plate IX). The collar, a chain of unusual length, is officially described as being made of gold, thirty ounces troy in weight, one and one-eighth inches in depth, composed of nine gold Imperial Crowns, eight gold roses and thistles issuing from a scepter enamelled in colors, tied with seventeen gold knots enamelled white (Plate X).
It was originally intended that the insignia of the new Knights Grand Cross in 1815 should be similar to those of the old Knights with the addition of a laurel wreath around the Badge and around the central device on the Star. But other counsels prevailed with altogether satisfactory results. The Badge of a Military Grand Cross is a gold Maltese Cross three and one-quarter inches square enamelled white, edged in gold, and tipped with small gold balls, and a gold lion "passant guardant," to use the heraldic term, in each of its four angles. In the center there is a device of crowns, scepter, rose, thistle and shamrock, surrounded by a crimson circlet bearing the motto, the whole encircled with a laurel wreath tied with a blue ribbon bearing the motto "Ich Dien." (Plate XI). It is worn over the right shoulder on a crimson sash, four inches in width, and rests on the left hip. The Badge of a Knight Commander is like the Grand Cross, but only two and one-eighth inches square. It is worn around the neck by a two inch crimson ribbon threaded through a heavy gold ring ornamented with oak leaves (Plate XII). This, under conditions of modern formal dress, is very awkward. At one time, however, when large heavy open collars and stocks were common, the Badge of a K. C. B. was not worn at the neck by a miniature ribbon as it is today, but low on the breast suspended from the investiture ribbon (Plate XIII). A Companion wears the same Badge one and three-quarter inches square from a one and one-half inch ribbon threaded through a plain gold ring (Plate XIV). The Badges for the Civil Knights Commanders and Companions (Plate XVII) are the same as those worn by the old Knights but smaller in size. The Badges of the Companions were not worn at the neck until 1917. From 1815 until that year they were worn, medal fashion, attached to the breast. It is common to see Companions' Badges today converted for neck wear.
There was variation in the Badge provided for in the Statutes. Members of the first class who were also Knights of the Garter were directed to wear their Badges suspended from an Imperial Crown. In fact none of the crowns were Imperial, but are Royal in form with the characteristic depressed arch. King George IV, the Duke of Wellington and the Marquess of Anglesey wore them this way, but the practice never became wide spread. King William IV, who regarded himself as Great Master of the Order, wore a badge of this kind. The Duke of Sussex, made Great Master by Queen Victoria, wore a Civil Badge suspended from a crown. In time it became the custom for the Sovereign of the Order and the Great Master to wear the crowned Badges but no others. A portrait of the Prince Consort by Winterhalter shows a large crowned Badge and collar thrown over the robes of the Order in the background. But in modern times King Edward VII, King George V, and the late Duke of Connaught wore a small crowned Badge suspended from the neck. King George V seems to have had at least two such insignia. It should be noted that Lords Roberts and Kitchener, who according to the original statutes could have worn this unique form of Badge, did not do so. To the best of the author's knowledge, the present Earl of Derby K. G., a Civil G. C. B., has not done so either. Without access to complete files of the numerous minor changes in the statutes, it seems likely that the custom was first allowed to lapse until finally the crown was dropped. Nothing is known at present of the history of the crowned Badges now in the possession of the Royal Family.
A completely new set of Stars was also designed for the Order in 1815. The Star of the Civil Knights remained substantially the same. But the Military Knights' Star was charged with a device similar to the Badge except that the cross was entirely of gold and the lions were eliminated (Plate XVIII). Knights Commanders were given a Star of an entirely new and original shape composed of four rays of silver in the form of a cross, with four small rays between and ends squared (Plate XIX). The Military K. C. B.'s wore the Star charged in the center with the device as for the Military G. C. B. but without the gold cross, while the Civil K. C. B.'s central device was exactly the same as that of the Civil G. C. B.
Throughout the eighteenth century it was customary for Knights of an Order to have as many Stars as they needed embroidered to their coats or uniforms. They were apparently not invested with a metallic Star at all. If a Knight wished to have a Star of other materials than silver or gold thread it was generally executed in precious stones or paste. All of Lord Nelson's existing Stars of the Bath are embroidered on his uniforms. Toward the end of the century, however, metallic Stars began to appear. The Star of the K. B. in Plate IX is pierced at the tips of the rays, and each ray hinged, to facilitate sewing. This is also true of Sir John Moore's silver K. B. Star in a collection of the United Services Museum. As a result, one finds early Stars of the British Orders in all sizes and shapes. In spite of the change of fashion, however, after 1815 the Knights of the Bath began to have Stars in tinsel given them when they were invested (Plate XX). Whether these were worn very much is doubtful because they were rather poorly made. Sir William Codrington in describing an Investiture of the Bath in the Crimea to Lord Panmure, the Secretary of State at War, wrote "We had no velvet cushions, but we had a scarlet cloth, one whose everyday occupation is more undignified than carrying the insignia of the Bath. The French, I am glad to see had their real stars given them; it looked a little awkward to see our own officers getting the spangled affair at the same time put into their own hands. We made the best of it, though I must say it looked like a little economy for a great nation at the time." How long this form of economy lasted it is impossible, in the absence of access to official records, to say with accuracy. Inspection of numerous photographs of G. C. B.'s and K. C. B.'s indicates that the change may have come about 1870. After that year, the Stars became standardized in size and in general appearance. The Stars on Plates XXI, XXII show how great a variation from the standard could result. The former is the official issue, while the latter is of private manufacture. There are only two Stars of the Bath that are definitely known to have been set with diamonds. One, the Star of a K. C. B., was given to Sir John Moore by his Staff and is now in the Royal United Services Museum in London. The other was in the possession of the late Viscount Esher, G. C. B. It was sold shortly before the present War, and both its history and present whereabouts are unknown.
The insignia of the Bath are described as being made of gold. This has not been true since the end of Queen Victoria's reign. The Badges and collars are now manufactured in heavy silver gilt. The Badge of the Civil G. C. B. illustrated on Plate XV is in gilt and is hallmarked 1918. The civil Badge illustrated on Plate XVI is at present in the possession of the Earl of Athlone K. G., G. C. B. The Military G. C. B. in Plates XXIII-XXV, presented to a distinguished American military figure by the late King George V in 1918, is of gilt, and this is also true of the Badges of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe and Field Marshal Viscount Allenby. Although according to British law articles of silver and gold should be hallmarked, some insignia bear the required hallmark but an equally large proportion do not. Neither of the insignia mentioned above has any hallmark or maker's identification symbol.
Of the insignia of the Bath only the Collar and Badge attached are returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. The Investment Badges and Stars may be retained by the relatives of the deceased Knights.
Among the most important strategic and colonial possessions acquired by Great Britain as a result of the Napoleonic Wars were the Ionian Islands and the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean. Political necessities made it seem advisable to create an Order for the reward of those natives of the Islands who showed their loyalty to the Crown. In 1818 the Order of St. Michael and St. George was established for this purpose. It was to consist of eight Knights Grand Cross (G. C. M. G.) twelve Knights Commanders (K. C. M. G.) and twenty-four Companions (C. M. G.), called Cavallieri when the members were Maltese. The Governor and Commander in Chief of the Islands was ex-officio Grand Master of the Order and the Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean was an ex-officio Grand Cross. The Order was open to other Englishmen who rendered service in the Mediterranean area. A good deal of comment was caused at the time by the peculiar limitations of the Order. By 1840, however, the use of the Order had expanded enough so that Sir Harris Nicholas, the Chancellor, felt that perhaps it would develop into an Order of Civil Merit in England. While his expectations were partially disappointed in this respect, the Order was greatly expanded during Queen Victoria's Reign in the numbers of its members and the purpose it had to serve. It became the principal award for services in connection with foreign affairs and the fast expanding Empire. It is customary, for example, for all newly appointed Governors General of the Dominions to receive the Grand Cross of the Order. During the Great War it served as a kind of junior Order of the Bath and as such was awarded to many members of the armed forces of Britain and her Allies.
The Chapel of the Order is in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. In normal times the annual services of installation are held there, on St. George's Day, April 23.
The insignia of St. Michael and St. George are the Collar, Badge and Star (See Plate X). The collar is described as being made of gold composed alternately of crowned lions of England, white Maltese crosses, and the cyphers S. M. and S. G. linked together with short, square linked gold chains. In the center there is an Imperial Crown over twowinged lions, each holding a book and seven arrows in his fore-paw, from which is suspended the Badge. The Badge is a seven-limbed cross in white enamel beneath a gold Imperial Crown. In the center, on one side, there is a lively representation of St. Michael assaulting the devil, on the other, one of St. George administering the coup de grace to an expiring dragon, each surrounded by a blue circlet bearing the motto of the Order, "Auspicium Melioris Aevi" in letters of gold. (Plate XXVI, XXVII). When not attached to the Collar, the Badge is worn to a Saxon blue sash four inches in width with a central scarlet stripe over the right shoulder resting on the left hip. The Star of the Order is composed of seven chipped silver rays with a fine ray of gold between, each mounted with a red cross of St. George. The center piece is a representation of St. Michael similar to that on the Badge and surrounded with a circlet containing the motto of the Order. The Knight Commander's Star is composed of four rays of silver with the limbs of a silver cross between them (Plate XXVIII). The center device is similar to that of the Star of the Grand Cross. Knights Commanders and Companions wear their Badges around the neck. The Badge of the Companion was formerly worn on the breast like the C. B. The Badge illustrated on Plate XXVI is that of the Grand Master of the Order at present worn by the Earl of Athlone K. G. It is of gold with the crowned cypher of St. Michael and St. George between the angles of each limb of the cross.
Insignia of this Order made at different stages of its existence are very hard to discover in collections or museums for study. The United Services has a very interesting Star worn by Admiral Sir Graham Moore, one of the original Knights, when he was Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean. It is boldly executed and the rays are smooth silver instead of the conventional cut silver. There seems to have been considerable variation in the over all size of the Badges and Stars. The K. C. M. G. Badge illustrated (Plate XXVII) is ca. 1900 and measures 2 7/8 inches from point to point on the cross or 3 15/16 inches from the top of the crown to the lowest point of the cross, while the Star measures 3 3/16 inches. Early in the reign of King George V, however, the insignia were made much smaller and consequently more pleasing in appearance. There is a K. C. M. G. pair in the collection of the American Numismatic Society which measures 3 1/2 × 2 13/32 inches for the badge and 2 31/32 inches for the Star. Like the insignia of the Bath the insignia of this Order is now made in silver gilt for all classes. None of it has to be returned on the decease of a Knight.
The Great War saw a total mobilization of British manpower and resources on a hitherto unprecedented scale. So many different varieties of services were being rendered that the existing Orders were in danger of being swamped if the demands made on them were granted. The King was faced with the same problem that the Prince Regent had been in 1814, but this time it was urgent before the successful conclusion of hostilities. The solution was not sought in an attempt to adapt one of the existing Orders to meet the new situation. An entirely new Order was established to commemorate the national and Imperial effort inspired by the War and to meet new needs which it seemed likely would be felt after the War was over.
The Order of the British Empire, founded on June 4, 1917, was marked by one unique feature. It made provision for the admittance of women to its ranks. Following the example previously set by the Royal Victorian Order, there were five classes established — Knights and Dames Grand Cross (G. B. E.), Knights and Dames Commanders (K. B. E. and D. B. E.), Commanders (C. B. E.), Officers (O. B. E.) and Members (M. B. E.). In 1918 a Military Division of the Order was established to be conferred on members of the British and Imperial forces for services which did not qualify them for one of the senior Orders but which were nonetheless of great value to the war effort. At first there was no specific limit put on the numbers of each class. By 1920 between seven and eight thousand persons had received the Order and the London Times thundered against it, advocating that either the Order be closed or "that an attempt be made to define more closely the nature and quality of the service for which it is to be conferred." The Order suffered from the same growing pains as the Bath. But it grew to maturity amazingly quickly. Although it is the newest of all British orders it has found a place that probably none of the others could have filled success- fully. The British Empire is used to recognize the contributions of small people throughout the Commonwealth in every conceivable form of activity. The O. B. E. sent to a school teacher or nurse in some remote outpost in Canada or Africa has probably brought as much satisfaction as any Blue Ribbon bestowed with all the rich ceremony and restrained pomp of which the British Crown is such a recognized master. The Badge of the Order is a cross patee in silver gilt enamelled pearl grey and suspended from a gilt Imperial Crown. In the center there are conjoint crowned busts of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary surrounded by an enamelled crimson circlet bearing the motto of the Order, "For God and the Empire." It is worn by Knights and Dames Grand Cross over the right shoulder resting on the left hip from a rose pink sash edged with pearl grey. Knights Commanders wear a smaller Cross at the neck from a similarly colored ribbon while Dames wear theirs from a bow of ribbon on the left side below the shoulder. The Badge for Commanders is the same as for Knights and Dames. The distinction lies in the Commanders not wearing a Star. Officers and members wear a smaller Badge of the same design as the higher ranks in the Order but of silver gilt and frosted silver, respectively, without any enamel. It is worn on the breast, medal fashion, by men and from a bow by women on the left side below the shoulder.
The Star of the G. B. E. is of chipped silver with eight principal points surmounted with the same central device found on the Badge. That worn by Dames is slightly smaller than the Knights'. The K. B. E. Star is smaller, of a diamond shape, with four principal and four lesser points with the same central device found on the Grand Cross Star. The Collar of the Order was established some time in the middle 1920's. It is composed of six medallions of the Royal Arms and six medallions of the cypher of King George V linked together with cables. In the center is the Imperial Crown between two sea lions, from which is suspended the Grand Cross of the Order. The Collar is returnable on the decease of the Knight or upon receiving the first class of a higher Order. This design for the insignia was established for the Order in 1937 to commemorate the reign of King George V and Queen Mary. Between 1917 and 1937 the Badge of the Order was the same as described above except that in the center, surrounded by the crimson circlet and motto there was a seated figure of Britannia very closely resembling that on the bronze penny (Plate XXIX-XXXI). The ribbon of the Order was a dull purple with a narrow scarlet stripe added in the center for the military division. There never has been a difference in design between the insignia of the Civil and Military divisions. Today the latter is distinguished by the addition to the ribbon of a narrow central stripe in pearl grey. The Stars worn for the first twenty years were of the same design with the Britannia centerpiece but of plain fluted silver (Plate XXXII).
The statutes of the British Empire were the first to describe the insignia as being made of silver gilt. While the Collar has to be returned as noted above, there is the provision that members of the Order do not have to return their insignia on promotion to a higher class if it was awarded for services in the Great War. There have been two medals established with the Order that will be discussed in their proper place under decorations of valor.
The Order is still too new for any pertinent information about the insignia to have come to light. Nothing is yet known about the original design of the insignia or the reasons which led to the improvement in design in 1937. There are no variations in size and general construction or other distinctions that have come to the author's notice.
Before the creation of the Order of the British Empire there was no convenient means of rewarding the efforts of many lesser members of the Civil Service in administrative and clerical posts throughout the Empire. King Edward established the Imperial Service Order (I. S. O.) in 1902 to fill this need. Early in the reign of King George V the Order was extended to include women and the application of the Order was considerably broadened. Today it is limited to seven hundred Companions divided between the Home, Indian and Colonial Civil Services. Twenty-five years' service is required before an individual is normally qualified for admission to the Order, although this is reduced to twenty years for service in India and sixteen years in unhealthy hot countries. In outstanding instances the Order can be bestowed before the recipients have satisfied the above time limits. There is also a medal given to those not eligible for the award of the Order.
The Badge of the Order is a silver eight-pointed Star with burnished rays. In the center there is a gold circular plaque bearing the Royal cypher in blue enamel surrounded by the motto "For Faithful Service" and surmounted by a large Imperial Crown enamelled in the proper colors and covering the upper rays of the star (Plate XXXIII). The ribbon is red, blue and red in equal stripes. The Badge for ladies consists of the plaque as above but it is surrounded by a silver laurel wreath. This Badge is worn from a bow on the left shoulder. The first medals of the Order were of the same design as the Badges but were executed in silver and bronze. Latterly this medal has been issued in silver and is circular in form, the obverse bearing the Sovereign's head while the reverse has the name of the recipient engraved thereon.
The Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in the British Realm is in many respects an extraordinarily interesting institution. The Order has very little resemblance to any of the other British Orders, either in its origins or present-day functions. Originally the Knights of St. John were a crusading organization founded in the eleventh century whose efforts were directed toward preserving the holy places in Palestine and relieving Crusaders. In succeeding centuries the Order became a powerful military organization with branches throughout Europe. The headquarters of the Order was first on the Island of Rhodes, and finally on Malta from which place it was driven out by Napoleon. The English branch was chartered by Queen Victoria in 1888. The Order renders services of immense value today. It supports the British Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem and the work of the St. John's Ambulance Association and Brigade. The latter organization, for example, provides for: "(1) The dissemination of instruction in first aid, home nursing and hygiene, (2) The deposit in convenient places of stretchers, (3) The development of ambulance corps for the transport of the sick and wounded." Distinguished persons are admitted to the Order as well as individuals who do good work in the service of the Order. All admissions are sanctioned by the Sovereign after recommendation by the Chapter General and approval by the Grand Prior.
The insignia of the Knights of St. John adhere to the rigid simplicity that marked the Medieval institution. The Badge is a true Maltese cross enamelled white with lions and unicorns passant gardant alternately in the angles. The Star takes the form of a Maltese Cross enamelled white without any embellishments in the angles (Plate XXXIV). The size of the insignia varies with each of the five classes of the Order. Bailiffs and Dames Grand Cross wear the Badge in gold, three and one-quarter inches in diameter, from a black watered silk ribbon over the right shoulder resting on the left hip. The Star, three and five-eighths inches in diameter is worn on the right hip. Knights and Dames of Justice wear a smaller badge in gold around the neck and on the left shoulder respectively. Their Star is gold. Knights and Dames of Grace wear similar insignia but set in silver instead of gold. The classes of Knights of Justice and of Grace are for all practical purposes merged today, but the Knights and Dames of Justice still have certain privileges and are required to have certain genealogical qualifications. The Order is aristocratic in its origins and at one time members had to have as many as sixteen quarterings on their coats of arms. "The term ‘Knights of Justice' originally meant Knights who were noble by birth, while ‘Knights of Grace' were those of non-noble family who were admitted to the Order for their attainments." Chaplains wear the same Badge as the Knights of Justice, slightly smaller, and do not wear the Star. Commanders wear the Badge of the Knights of Grace in the same manner. Officers wear a still smaller Badge on the left breast while Serving Brothers and Sisters have a circular medal bearing the Cross of St. John in silver on a black enamel background.
When the Crown took over the administration of India after the Mutiny, the British Government undertook a host of new responsibilities. One of these was the need of placating the Indian Princes and developing their loyalty to the throne. As an instrument in the policy of securing Princely co-operation as well as to reward the services of many distinguished men in the consolidation of the British position in India, the Order of the Star of India was established in February 1861. Like the other Orders in England it was composed of three classes, Knights Grand Commanders (G. C. S. I.), Knights Commanders (K. C. S. I.) and Companions (C. S. I.), whose total number was to be divided equally between Indians and British Subjects. The usual religious elements which were so marked in the other Orders were, for obvious reasons, not present in the Star of India. The practical twentieth century saw nothing incongruous in giving the Garter to Asiatic rulers but the mid-Victorian mind balked at bestowing a "Grand Cross" on a heathen and subject Prince. It would have been a doubtful political move to endow the new Order with a Cross for a Badge and a patron Saint in view of the importance of native religions in India. But all the other aspects of an Order of Knighthood were established and the Viceroy, pro tem, was Grand Master and Principal Knight Grand Commander. This Order appears to have been the first, after the Garter, to admit women to its ranks. No provision is made in the statutes for women but in fact it has been bestowed on certain Indian Princesses-regnant. As far as is known no other lady except Her Majesty Queen Mary has been admitted.
The insignia of the Star of India are in many respects the most magnificent of any British Order. The Illustrated London News remarked primly in 1861, "A considerable degree of costliness has been, with an appropriateness to Eastern ideas, attached to this decoration, while there is an artistic embellishment about it which tones down the general effect and renders it at once rich and graceful." In view of the prevailing artistic tastes it is indeed remarkable that the design of the insignia has worn as well as it has. The collar, of gold, is composed of red and white roses, the lotus flower of India, and palm branches crossed and tied at their stems, placed alternately and linked with small gold chains. In the center there is an Imperial crown from which is suspended the Badge. It is frequently overlooked that there are two separate Badges for a Knight Grand Commander, both of the same design but executed in somewhat different materials. The investment Badge is an oval onyx cameo of Queen Victoria surrounded by a sky blue enamelled band bearing the motto of the order, "Heavenly Light Our Guide" in diamonds. The band is encircled on its inner and outer edges with pearls and four arabesques in gold are distributed on the top, bottom and each side. The whole is suspended from a five-pointed star of diamonds. It is worn over the right shoulder resting on the left hip from a sash of sky blue with narrow white stripes at each edge. The collar Badge is much larger than the investment Badge and is not so heavily jewelled, the large star being executed in silver and only the motto in diamonds. The Badges of the Knights Commanders and Companions (Plate XXXV) are smaller editions of the Collar Badge and are worn at the neck. Until 1917 Companions wore their Badges on the breast.
The Star of a Knight Grand Commander is in a class by itself and bears not the slightest resemblance to that of any British Order. It is circular, three and one-half inches in diameter, composed of flaming rays of gold. In the center there is a sky blue enamelled ribbon, tied at the ends and bearing the motto of the Order in diamonds, on which rests a five-pointed star in diamonds (See Plate XXXVI). The Star of a Knight Commander is composed of eight points of flaming rays of silver with the motto in diamonds on a blue enamelled ribbon and the central star of silver on a gold background.
All insignia of this order are returnable on the death of a Knight to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. It is rarely possible even to see a Star or a Badge unless it is worn by one of the Knights. In normal times the only public display of the insignia of the Star of India is in the Jewel House of the Tower of London. The Star illustrated is, at the time of writing, in the possession of the Earl of Halifax, K. G.
Queen Victoria founded a second Indian Order on January 1, 1878, to commemorate her assumption of the title of Empress of India. At first the Order of the Indian Empire was composed of companions who wore a very large Badge on the left breast. In 1887, however, the Order was changed to conform with other British Orders. It has three classes and serves as a junior Order to the Star of India. Like the latter, a certain number of places among the members are reserved for officers in the British and Indian Naval, Military and Air Forces.
The Collar of the Order is composed of plain gold elephants, peacocks in pride and lotuses, alternated and connected by gold chains. In the center there is an Imperial Crown of gold from which hangs the Badge. The Badge is in the form of a crowned five-petalled rose enamelled crimson with a green barb between each pair of petals. In the center there is a gold effigy of Queen Victoria surrounded by a purple enamelled band bearing the motto of the order "Imperatricis Auspiciis." (Plate XLII). The Badge is worn, as usual, from a sash officially described as "Imperial purple." In fact, the ribbon of the Indian Empire has always been a deep slate blue. The Badges of the Knights Commanders and Companions are smaller than those of the Knights Grand Commanders and are worn at the neck. That worn by the original companions was the same size as the present Badge of the Grand Commanders and had the word "India" spelled out on the petals. The Star of a Grand Commander is composed of plain and scaled silver rays alternately with gold forming ten principal points with a centerpiece similar to that on the Badge. The Star of the Knight Commander is similar in shape but smaller, with the rays alternately bright and chipped. All of the insignia of this order must be returned on the death of the recipient except the Badge of the Companion.
In addition to the Order of the Indian Empire, Queen Victoria established the Order of the Crown of India (C. I.) on January 1, 1878, for ladies. Today it is bestowed on "Princesses of His Majesty's Royal and Imperial House, the wives, or other female relatives of Indian Princes, and other Indian ladies, and on the wives or other female relatives of any persons who have held, now hold or may hereafter hold the office of Viceroy and Governor General of India, Governors of Madras, Bombay, or Bengal, or of Principal Secretary of State for India, or Commander in Chief in India as the Sovereign may think fit to appoint." Although the Order carries no title or precedence it is a very select one whose numbers have always been extremely limited.
The only insignia of this Order is a jewelled Badge suspended from a bow of sky blue ribbon edged with white worn on the left shoulder. It is oval in shape composed of Queen Victoria's cypher V. R. I. in diamonds, pearls and turquoises, encircled by a border in pearls and surmounted by an Imperial Crown jewelled and enamelled in the proper colors. The Badge illustrated (Plate XXXVII) is worn (1945) by the Countess of Halifax.
A natural consequence of the increasing control exercised by the Prime Minister over honors was a lowering of their value, particularly in the eyes of individuals who became eligible for the higher grades of the Orders. Men whose services made it impossible for them to be considered for anything less than a Grand Cross were frequently those men whose experiences behind the scenes in Government tended to make them somewhat cynical of all such distinctions. At the same time it was becoming obvious by the end of the century that there were many men deserving an award whose services could not be measured by any one of the rigid and limited standards of one of the senior Orders. The solution to these difficulties was first sought in the creation of a new Order organized on a distinctly new basis. Just how much Lord Salisbury had to do with the new arrangement is not known. But early in 1896 he wrote to Sir William Knollys, one of the Private Secretaries, apparently in reply to previous suggestions of Queen Victoria, that ". . . I have directed the Patents and statutes to be drafted in accordance with the Queen's Commands. I think it is wise to keep it entirely in her own hands if she is disposed to bear the expense, which ought not to be very large. People will value it more as an expression of her own feelings; and if many decorations are given to foreigners it will be an advantage that the bestowal of them should be admittedly unconnected with current political controversies." The distinctive change which the new Order, called the Royal Victorian Order, embodies is that it remains the sole gift of the Sovereign. The Prime Minister is unable to nominate anyone for inclusion within its membership. Ordinary members admitted "shall be such persons as . . . having rendered extraordinary, or important or personal service to the Sovereign merit Royal Favour; and the Honorary Members of the several classes consist of those Foreign Princes and persons upon whom the Sovereign may think fit to confer the honor of being received into the Order." This Order was also the first to consist of more than the usual three classes. Two additional lower grades called "Members of the Fourth Class" and "Members of the Fifth Class" were added. There is also a medal of the Order that is conferred for services to the Royal Family on those whose position or accomplishments do not merit admission to the Order itself. The medals are issued in silver gilt, silver and bronze, and, unlike any other medal, those awarded one or more of the Royal Victorian medals may wear them all. Bars, however, are provided for the second award of either the gilt, silver, or bronze medals. The medals may also be worn with the insignia of the Order if the latter is conferred.
In its first two decades the Royal Victorian Order remained in an unclassified status. Queen Victoria bestowed it sparingly on people close to her either personally or officially. King Edward VII was less rigorous in his interpretation of "personal service." With no limitations placed on the numbers in the Order, the King tended to develop the habit of slipping the insignia into the hands of a number of his extraordinarily wide circle of acquaintances great and small. This was never carried to the point where the Order was in the slightest degree cheapened. No one in the world had a sharper appreciation of the value and function of an honor than King Edward. But the fact that he used it in such a completely personal sense may have tended to retard the development of the Order and restrict the service it could render.* Like so many other similar distinctions, the Victorian Order really came into its own during the reign of King George V. In the years following the last war it was widely used to reward the numerous literary and artistic achievements of distinguished men who were attached to the Royal Household in some capacity. It has remained a much more select distinction than the British Empire. As the personal gift of the King and completely disassociated from officialdom, it enjoys a unique prestige. King Edward VIII added the final touch when he opened its ranks to women in 1936, making his Mother, Queen Mary, the first Dame Grand Cross. King George VI made Her Majesty the Queen Grand Master of the Order in 1937.
In 1902 Edward VII founded the "Royal Victorian Chain." This decoration is very difficult to classify. It is only awarded on very special occasions and seems largely restricted to foreign Princes and Rulers and high ranking members of the Royal entourage who have served the King in various nonpolitical capacities for a long time. The chain is not, strictly speaking, a part of the Order. It confers no rank or precedence (Plate XLI).
The Badge of Knights and Dames Grand Cross is a white enamelled Maltese Cross, edged with gold. In the center is the cypher of Queen Victoria, V. R. I., mounted on an enamelled crimson oval surrounded by an oval border bearing the motto VICTORIA in gold, surmounted by an Imperial Crown (Plate XXXVIII). It is worn over the right shoulder resting on the left hip from a dark blue ribbon edged on either side with three narrow stripes, red, white and red. Knights Commanders and Commanders wear a similar Badge, smaller than the Grand Cross, from the collar, while Dames Commanders and all other female members of the Order wear their Badges from a bow below the left shoulder. The Badge established for Members of the Fourth Class is smaller than that of Commanders and is worn on the left breast. Members of the Fifth Class wear the same Badge as that appointed for Members of the Fourth Class but the arms of the cross are of frosted silver (Plate XXXIX). The Grand Cross Star consists of a silver chipped star of eight principal points with a representation of the Badge of the Order in the center (Plate XL). Knights and Dames Commanders wear a Star composed of a Maltese Cross of silver with smaller rays of silver issuing from the center between the arms of the cross. In May 1912 King George V added a Collar to the insignia. The collar is described as "of gold composed of octagonal oblong perforated frames linked together with gold; the pieces shall be edged and ornamented with gold and shall contain upon a blue enamelled ground a gold rose jeweled with a carbuncle. The said frames shall each contain a portion of the inscription 'Victoria Britt. Reg. Def. Fid. Ind. Imp.' in letters of white enamel. In the center of the said collar shall be within a perforated frame of gold an octagonal piece enamelled blue, edged with red and charged with a white sattire on which shall be a gold medallion of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria's effigy from which shall hang the Cross of the Order." The Collar is the only portion of the insignia returnable upon the death of the recipient. The Royal Victorian medals in gilt, silver and bronze are oval and bear on the obverse the portrait of the reigning Sovereign and on the reverse the Royal cypher on an ornamental shield within a wreath of laurel. Early issues were surmounted by a crown. The Royal Victorian Chain is composed of three Tudor roses, two thistles, two shamrocks and two lotus flowers connected by a slender double trace chain all in gold. From the centerpiece of the chain, an enamelled cypher of King Edward VII surrounded by a wreath and surmounted by a crown, a replica of the Grand Cross is suspended. The specimen in the illustration (Plate XLI) is at present (1945) worn by the Earl of Athlone K. G.
Although the insignia of the Victorian Order is described as being made of gold, like a number of the other Orders, it is silver gilt or rather silver with a light gold wash. Each piece is numbered, but the numbers do not seem to bear any relation to the total number of pieces issued. A Star and Badge of a Grand Cross or Knight Commander bear the same number. None of these pieces have been observed by the author to be hallmarked. The entire expense of the Order and its insignia, it is believed, is still borne by the Privy purse.
This judgment is an entirely personal one of the author's based on references in the biographies and memoirs of people who figured in various capacities both personal and official in the Edwardian Court.
It was left to King Edward VII to establish one of the most coveted distinctions in the whole hierarchy of British honors. The Order of Merit was designed to confer special distinction on men in the fields of art, science, literature and, in a very small number of cases, war. It is limited in number to twenty-four with the addition of such distinguished foreigners as the King may see fit to appoint. Like the Victorian Order, its bestowal lies solely in the hands of the Sovereign. Nothing but absolute supremacy and distinction in a particular field makes a man eligible to receive it. The Order carries no title or rank with it but recipients may place the letters O. M. after their names. Removed as it is from all controversy, the Order has been worn proudly by men who have made such individual contributions to the history and development of their times that their names will not be forgotten. The only female member since the founding of the order was Florence Nightingale.
The insignia of the Order is a gold cross pattee, slightly convexed, enamelled red, edged with blue and gold, surmounted by a Tudor Crown. In the center on the obverse are the words "For Merit" on a blue enamelled ground encircled by a band of white enamelled beads and a laurel wreath. The reverse has a similar central device containing the Royal cypher. The Badge of military members has crossed swords between the arms of the cross (Plate XLII). All Badges are suspended from the neck by a ribbon half crimson and half garter blue. The ribbon of the Order alone originally was never worn on the coat by military members because regulations say that men in uniform shall wear the Badge at all times. In practice, of course, they do not. The regulations have been changed to permit using the ribbon with service dress. The insignia may be retained by relatives on the decease of a member.
The Order of the Companions of Honour was founded, with the Order of the British Empire, in June 1917. It is for all practical purposes a junior Order of Merit. It carries no title or precedence and it is limited to fifty members. The Badge consists of a gold medallion depicting an armored knight on horseback beside an oak from a branch of which a shield is suspended containing the Royal Arms. An oval border of blue bearing the motto "In action faithful and in honor clear" surrounds the medallion. The whole is surmounted by a crown (Plate XLII). The ribbon is carmine with borders of gold thread. It is worn at the neck by men and from a bow just below the left shoulder by women.
There are three orders associated only with the Court and given only to ladies. The earliest of these is the Order of Victoria and Albert instituted by Queen Victoria on February 10, 1862. It was conferred as a mark of personal regard and favour on foreign Queens and Princesses, on members of the Royal Family, and on titled persons closely associated with the Queen. It has not been conferred since 1901. In 1944 there were twelve surviving members including Queen Mary and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
The Order of Victoria and Albert was divided into four classes. The insignia of the first two classes is composed of an oval shaped onyx cameo showing the busts of the Queen and the Prince Consort, surrounded by square cut diamonds, surmounted by an Imperial Crown in diamonds and suspended from a white silk bow (Plate XLIII). The Badge of the third class is similar, but surrounded by pearls, while the fourth class is a diamond cypher of the Queen and her husband.
The modern counterparts of this order were created by King George V and King George VI. They are known as "Family Orders." The insignia is composed of an enamelled portrait of either George V or George VI, surrounded by diamonds and surmounted by a crown. The former is suspended from a bow of light blue while the ribbon of the latter is light pink. The Badges of the Order of Victoria and Albert and King George V's Family Order illustrated (Plate XLIV) are at present in the possession of H. R. H. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.
The custom of presenting awards for acts of individual military merit was not established on an organized basis until early in the reign of Queen Victoria. In certain spectacular cases Parliament had ordered special gold medals to be struck and presented to the individuals concerned. But these medals were not "decorations." The Honourable East India Company apparently established the first decorations in 1837. In that year two decorations, the Order of British India and the Indian Order of Merit, were created for the officers and men of the Company's troops in India. These are still in existence. The Order of British India is bestowed on native officers of the Indian Army who have rendered especially long and faithful service. There are two classes of the Order, and an addition in pay is granted to the members. The Badge of the first class consists of an octagonal radiated gold star one and five-eighths inches in diameter with a gold lion on a light blue field in the center surrounded by a dark blue enamel band bearing the legend "Order of British India." The whole central device is encircled by a gold laurel wreath and surmounted by an Imperial Crown. The Badge of the second class is similar but only one and one-half inches in diam- eter. The lion is on a dark blue field and the crown is omitted. These Badges are suspended around the neck by a crimson ribbon. A change in the statute of the Order in 1939 provided that, when the ribbon of the Order was worn alone, the first class should show two thin vertical lines of blue in the center and the second class one line of blue.
The Indian Order of Merit was established "to afford personal reward for personal bravery without reference to any claims founded on mere length of service and general good conduct." It consists of three classes. Admission to the first class is granted only to those who already possess the second and third classes. The third class, as the original warrant states "is to be obtained by any conspicuous act of individual gallantry on the part of any native officer or soldiers in the field, or in the attack or defense of fortified places without distinction of rank or grade." This decoration was in fact the prototype of the famous Victoria Cross and of all other similar awards created later in the century. The Badge of the Order is a burnished star of eight points, one and one-half inches in diameter, with a central device consisting of two crossed swords on a blue enamel ground surrounded by the inscription "Reward for Valor" and a laurel wreath (Plate XLV). The Badge of the first class is executed entirely in gold, that of the second class has the central device in gold and the star of silver, while the third class Badge is of silver. The decoration is suspended from a dark blue ribbon with red edges one and one-half inches wide and is worn on the left breast. In 1939 this Order was divided into a military and a civil division. The Badge of the military division remained as it is described above. The Badge of the civil division is a similar eight-pointed star in silver. The center device is, however, different. In this case the laurel wreath encircles the words "For Bravery" surrounding the Royal cypher in gold on a dark blue ground. The Ribbon is dark red with blue edges. When the Crown undertook the responsibility for governing India directly in 1858 both these decorations were taken over and continue to be two of the principal awards for native Indian soldiers.
The existence of two decorations for the native troops of a great corporation while none was provided for members of the British Army and Navy is difficult to explain. One can surmise, however, that the forty years of peace after the Napoleonic Wars was an important factor in retarding the establishment of similar distinction. What fighting there Was took place in India, as the growing list of medals for Indian campaigns between 1824 and 1845 shows. While British troops took part in these engagements, their number was small and their exploits were not particularly noticed by a nation engrossed in an expanding industrial system.
The first tentative step to remedy the deficiency was taken in 1845 when the Meritorious Service Medal was established "to afford greater encouragement to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers of our Army who may have distinguished themselves or who may have given good, faithful and efficient service." In 1849 the medal was made available to the Royal Marines. It is noticeable that the terms under which the new decoration was to be distributed made no mention of services under fire. The Meritorious Service Medal was, in fact, merely an award for efficient service, and not for gallantry. Significantly, it seems to have fallen into abeyance in the few short years between the date of its foundation and the beginning of the Crimean War, at which time it was replaced. In 1884, however, it was again reinstated, only to drag out an obscure existence until the Great War. At that time the Medal was extended to the Navy and the Royal Air Force. The terms of award were made more rigid. It is available for enlisted personnel in the Navy "for arduous and specially meritorious service either afloat or ashore not in action with the enemy; for a specific act of gallantry in the performance of duty when not in the presence of the enemy." In the Army it may also be given for "saving or attempting to save the life of an officer or soldier or for devotion to duty in the theater of war." While the terms vary slightly for the three services, the intent is the same: to reward conspicuous service not involving actual combat. The Meritorious Service Medal is circular, one and four-tenths inches in diameter, bearing the reigning sovereign's head on the obverse and the inscription "For Meritorious Service" surrounded by a laurel wreath with an Imperial Crown in the apex on the reverse. Victorian specimens have Wyon's diademed head of the young Queen. Army and Navy specimens show the sovereign in the appropriate uniform, while the Air Force medal has the truncated head of the Sovereign as found on the coinage. The original ribbons were crimson for the Army and blue for the Marines. Today the ribbon for the Army and Navy and Marines is crimson with three narrow white stripes placed on either edge and in the center. The Air Force ribbon is half crimson and half blue with the stripes placed as above. Bars are granted in place of a second award to the same individual, but very few have been given.
The years of comparative peace in Europe were finally broken in 1854 by the Crimean War. The British Army was involved on foreign soil on a relatively large scale for the first time since 1815. The fact that there were no awards for gallantry in action available was finally brought home to the Government. In 1854, therefore, one of the most highly prized distinctions now available to the British soldier, the medal "For Distinguished Con- duct in the Field," (D. C. M.), was established as an indication of the "Sovereign's sense of the distinguished service and gallant conduct in the field of the army then serving in the Crimea." The Distinguished Conduct Medal was made available to non-commissioned officers and men. The medal is a circular silver piece one and four-tenths inches in diameter, bearing the legend "For Distinguished Conduct in the Field" in rather unattractively plain lettering on the reverse. The Victorian specimens have, on the obverse, a miscellaneous collection of cannon, muskets, cannon balls, drums, bugles, standards and three Greek helmets thrown in for good measure, all grouped around an oval shield bearing the Royal Arms (Plates XLVI, XLVII). The obverse of Edwardian and Georgian medals (Plate XLVIII) shows the sovereign's bust in Field Marshal's full dress uniform. The ribbon is crimson, dark blue and crimson, in equal stripes. The name of the recipient and sometimes the date of the action are engraved on the edge. This medal was perhaps too freely given during the Great War. Twenty-five thousand were awarded between 1914 and 1918. It is nevertheless very highly prized.
In 1855 a decoration similar to the D. C. M. but called "The Medal For Conspicuous Gallantry" (C. G. M.) was established for the Navy, to be awarded to petty officers, sailors, and non-commissioned officers and privates in the marines who had distinguished themselves in the Crimea in action with the enemy. As a result of the restriction of the award of the medal to the Crimean War it lapsed after 1856, and was not reinstituted until 1874. The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal has always been sparingly bestowed. The standards for its award are not necessarily higher than those for the D. C. M. The opportunities of winning it until the War that began in 1939 were limited because a great deal of the active service of the Navy was not service under fire. From 1914 until 1938 only 110 were distributed. The medal is of silver of the standard size with the effigy of the reigning sovereign on the obverse in naval uniform. Victorian specimens show the diademed youthful head of the Queen. The reverse has the inscription "For Conspicuous Gallantry" surrounded by a laurel wreath and surmounted by an Imperial Crown (Plate XLIX). The first group of these medals were prepared from the dies of the Meritorious Service medal. The legend "Meritorious Service" was erased from the die and "Conspicuous Gallantry" engraved in their place on the face of the medal while the "for" remained in raised letters. New dies were made for those medals issued after 1874, however, and a straight suspender was provided in place of the scrolled ornamental suspenders used on the Crimean issues. From 1855 until 1921 the ribbon for the C. G. M. was blue, white and blue in equal stripes. In the latter year, however, this ribbon was replaced by the ribbon of the old Naval General Service medal, a white ribbon with a narrow blue stripe on either edge.
The institution of the Distinguished Conduct and Conspicuous Gallantry medals only partially filled the need for some sort of distinction for lower commissioned and enlisted grades in the Services. A combination of forces were at work to make this need felt more strongly than ever before. The Crimean war was horribly mismanaged by officers trained in peacetime routines. For the first time military operations were extensively covered by the press. Mr. W. H. Russell of the London Times wrote scathing exposés of the conditions on the Crimean Peninsula that publicized the services of the individual soldier in a way that had never been done before. Public interest was thus directed to both the plight and accomplishments of the junior officer and enlisted men. Hitherto official communiqués had stressed the role of the general and regimental commanding officers rather than the men who did the fighting. The Queen had a woman's appreciation and understanding of the services rendered by her soldiers, many of whom were recently drafted boys of seventeen and eighteen. It was apparently on her own initiative, strongly supported by the Prince Consort, that she took steps to institute a new decoration called the Victoria Cross (V. C.) to reward outstanding individual services performed in combat with the enemy. The preamble to the Royal Warrant of January 29, 1856, establishing the Cross reads in part, "Whereas, We, taking into our Royal consideration that there exists no means of adequately rewarding the individual gallant services either of the officers of the lower grades in our naval and military service, or of warrant and petty officers, seamen and marines in our Navy, and non-commissioned officers and soldiers in our Army; and whereas the third class of our most honorable order of the Bath is limited except in very rare cases, to the higher ranks of both services and the granting of medals ... is only awarded for long service or meritorious conduct, rather than for bravery in action or distinction before an enemy ... and (that) those who by their valor have particularly signalized themselves remain undistinguished from their comrades: Now for the purpose of attaining an end so desirable as that of rewarding individual instances of merit and valor, We ... institute a new naval and military decoration which we are desirous shall be highly prized and eagerly sought after by the officers and men of our naval and military services ... The creation of the Victoria Cross represents the culmination of the trend that began early in the century to provide the small man with some tangible form of public recognition for services involving something more than his own immediate self-interest. After 1856 the principle was firmly established. It only remained for succeeding generations to broaden application to the point where the contributions of civilians and women were considered to be on a par with the military.
The conditions governing the award of the V. C. have been changed slightly from time to time as the immediate circumstances seemed to justify. The original qualification for the decoration was service in the presence of the enemy and ‘‘performance of some signal act of valor or devotion to their country" by members of the armed forces. During the Indian Mutiny a number of civilians who served with the troops were declared eligible for the decoration. Subsequently chaplains, reserve officers and native Indian soldiers were made eligible. In 1858 a new warrant was issued permitting the Cross to be conferred for services "under circumstances of extreme danger, such as the occurrence of a fire on board ship, or of the foundering of a vessel at sea, or under any circumstances in which through courage and devotion displayed, life or public property may be saved." This warrant was hardly in accordance with the spirit of the original one establishing a unique military decoration. Actually only one award was made while it remained in force. This cross was given to Private Timothy O'Hea, 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade, in 1866, for his initiative in extinguishing a bad fire in a railway car loaded with explosives. It is now in the collection of the American Numismatic Society, New York City City (See Plates L, LI). Since these warrants raised doubts about the qualification required for the decoration, a new warrant was issued in 1881 in which the warrant of 1858 was annulled and "conspicuous bravery or devotion to the country in the presence of the enemy" was established as the only type of service for which the V. C. could be granted.
It is not intended here to enter into a discussion of the circumstances under which any of the eleven hundred V. C.'s issued since 1856 were won. But it should be pointed out that in modern war the decoration is harder to win than ever before. The element of personal combat which once justified a decoration for saving the regimental colors, for example, has largely been removed. Not only are the colors left at home but it is to be doubted if saving them would carry as much weight today as it once did. A multiplication of decorations junior to the V. C. and the tremendous increase in the number of fighting personnel have also contributed to making the decoration harder to win. In the case where a large group of men takes part in an action of great gallantry that is so confused as to prevent any one person being selected, regulations have been established to permit award of the Cross to be made by ballot. At one time an act of outstanding individual valor was sufficient to merit the Cross. Today the essential change in conditions of award is indicated by the fact that the act of valor is not enough in itself. It must contribute materially to the success of the engagement in which it occurs.
The Prince Consort is credited with the design for the Victoria Cross. In form it is a bronze cross pattee, one and one-half inches in diameter. In the center there is a British crown, surmounted by a lion passant gardant, with a ribbon inscribed "For Valour" looped beneath it with the ends tucked beneath and over the double raised border. The reverse is plain, with raised edges, and is always engraved with the date of the action which gained the award. On the upper limb there is a pierced semicircular lug through which an oval link passes to attach the cross to a laureated bar by a rigid V. The name and ship or regiment of the recipient is engraved on the reverse of this bar. The decoration is suspended on the left breast by a claret crimson ribbon. The ribbon was once crimson for the Army and blue for the Navy but was changed to the present color during the Great War. When the ribbon alone is worn in uniform a small bronze replica of the Cross is attached to it. A bar for the second award of the Cross is attached to the ribbon in the center when the decoration is worn. Material for the V. C.'s was first obtained from a Russian gun captured in the Crimea. When this gave out, a Chinese gun was used. The V. C. is manufactured by a private firm for the government. It is first cast and then carefully chased by hand to bring out the detail. The toughness of the metal does not lend itself readily to striking. When finished it is lacquered a deep black brown. On older Crosses the original lacquer has long since worn off—a fact which tends to obscure the essential gracefulness of the design. Examination of a few Crosses seems to indicate that the workmanship and chasing on those of modern issue is much finer than on the earlier pieces.
Recipients of the V. C. are, if below the rank of commissioned officer, allowed a pension of £10 per annum with a £5 increase for each additional bar. In the case where a recipient has fallen on hard times the pension may be increased to £75. The decoration cannot be sold during the lifetime of the holder. Until 1902 those Crosses awarded posthumously were not given to the relatives of the deceased. In that year, however, King Edward directed that all posthumous Crosses awarded from 1856 be given to the family representatives of the men who had won them. All holders of the Cross have the right to carry the initials V. C. in large gothic capitals immediately after their name and before the initials of any other Order or decoration.
The long history of the Victoria Cross and the traditions which have been built up around it have contributed to make it the outstanding decoration of its kind today. It stands first among all British Orders and decorations and first among all awards of gallantry. Other nations have paid it the tribute of sincere imitation. It can be safely said that the value of any similar foreign decoration is high in proportion to the success in which it approaches the standards set for the V. C.
The Royal Red Cross (R. R. C.) was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1883. It is "the first example of an English Military Order of Distinction" for women. When the Queen wished to honor Florence Nightingale she was forced to have a special brooch designed for the purpose. The R. R. C., established to recognize the services "rendered by certain persons in nursing the sick and wounded of Our army and navy," filled a definite need. The decoration is conferred, without restrictions as to the rank of the recipient, on British and foreign nurses who have rendered exceptional service in military and navy nursing either in peace or war. During the Great War a second class of the R. R. C. was established and the members were termed "Associates."
The Badge of the first class is a silver gilt cross pattee enamelled crimson, edged in gilt with the words "Faith," "Hope," "Charity," and the date "1883" on each limb of the cross. In the center there is a circular gold plaque bearing the effigy of the reigning sovereign (Plate XLII). The reverse is plain silver gilt with the Royal cypher in place of the sovereign's head. These badges were at one time executed entirely in gold rather than silver gilt. The cross of the second class is frosted silver and the sovereign's head executed in silver. The decoration is worn on the left shoulder from a bow of deep blue ribbon edged with red.
In spite of the numerous awards that had been created, there was a big gap between the only decoration available for officers, the Victoria Cross, and the third class of the Order of the Bath, in which no service could be rewarded by any other means than a brevet promotion. To fill this gap Queen Victoria founded a new military Order called the Distinguished Service Order (D. S. O.) in 1886. The royal warrant stated that it was a "Military Order of distinction" created for the purpose of "rewarding individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in war." The number of members was to be unlimited and, to be eligible, an officer had to be mentioned in dispatches by his Commander in Chief in the field. It is plain that under the terms of its institution the D. S. O. was an Order and not a decoration. That this was the intention of the founder is shown by a large volume of official correspondence on the whole problem in which the creation of a fifth class of the Order of the Bath was discussed. In the course of time, however, the D. S. O. was changed into a decoration for gallantry ranking second only to the V. C. The fact that the Order could be awarded for "meritorious or distinguished service in the field" was a source of great confusion during the Great War. "Meritorious service" meant too many things to too many people. There is no doubt that the Order was given entirely too freely under conditions that approached the scandalous. Staff officers and others whose contribution to the war effort was more decorative than functional were included in its ranks in large numbers. This state of affairs was changed after 1918. Finally under the warrant of February 5, 1931, the qualifications for award were clearly stated to be mention in dispatches "for distinguished services under fire, or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy." As a result, the prestige of the Distinguished Service Order, backed by a fine military tradition, is very high.
The Badge of the D. S. O. is a "gold cross enamelled white and edged gold, having on one side thereof in the center within a wreath of laurel enamelled green, the Imperial Crown in gold, upon a red enamelled ground, and on the reverse, within a similar wreath and on a similar red ground, Our Imperial and Royal cypher V. R. I. (Plate LIII, LIV)." Of course, the cypher V. R. I. has changed under succeeding reigns (Plate LV) and silver gilt is used in place of gold. The cross is one and five-eighths inches in diameter and hangs from its ribbon by a gold laureated bar. A similar bar is fixed to the top of the ribbon, which is one inch wide, red with a narrow blue stripe on either edge. For an act justifying a second award of the Order to the same person a bar is granted to be worn fixed to the ribbon. In the Great War 1914-18 there were 8991 crosses of the Order awarded without bar, 705 with one bar, 71 with two bars and 7 with three bars.
Before the Great War the problem of distributing decorations and medals was simplified by the fact that relatively few individuals were eligible for such distinctions. By 1914 a tightly knit system had been developed that provided one supreme award for military valor open to all ranks in both branches of the service—the Victoria Cross. In addition, there was a series of secondary decorations available for acts not justifying the bestowal of the V. C. The Distinguished Service Order was restricted to officers. Non-commissioned officers and men of the Navy could be awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, and similar ranks in the army, the Medal For Distinguished Conduct in the Field on the same basis that officers received the D. S. O. In 1914 it speedily became apparent that the mobilization of armies on a scale unknown before created a problem that could not be solved by issuing the existing decorations. Such a course could only result in the old distinctions losing much of their value in the eyes of their holders. On the other hand, if the traditional standards for the existing awards were to be rigidly maintained, they would hardly be able to serve the purpose they had in the past. Too sparse a distribution can do just as much harm to the reputation of an Honor as distribution with too liberal a hand. The solution for this dilemma was to create a whole series of new distinctions in each of the categories described above. In every case the new honor was junior to the older one and to be more freely distributed. Finally, by 1918 the activities of the Royal Flying Corps had expanded to the point where a special series of decorations for Air was created.
At the beginning of the War there already existed a naval decoration junior to the D. S. O. but senior to the C. G. M. This was the Conspicuous Service Cross instituted in June 1901 for bestowal on warrant officers and subordinate officers of the Fleet for "distinguished service before the enemy." In October 1914 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were "of the opinion that it would be desirable to enable the said Cross to be granted to commissioned officers" below the rank of Lieutenant Commander "for meritorious or distinguished services in cases where those services may not be considered sufficient to warrant the appointment of such officers to the Distinguished Service Order." The King agreed to the request made by the Lords Commissioners and the scope of the Cross was extended accordingly. At the same time the name was changed to Distinguished Service Cross, but the design remained essentially the same. Both decorations also retained the qualification of mention of the prospective recipient's name in dispatches before he could be nominated for the honor. In 1939 a further change in the regulations took place when Commanders and Lieutenant Commanders in the Navy were also declared eligible for the D. S. C. The Cross has been conferred on the City of Dunkirk for the contributions of her inhabitants to the allied cause 1914-1918.
The D. S. C. is of the same general appearance as the D. S. O. but executed in plain frosted silver. The obverse is convexed, and in the center the Royal cypher is surrounded by a raised border. The reverse is plain. It is suspended by a ribbon of three equal stripes, blue, white and blue threaded through a heavy silver ring (Plate LVI).
A new decoration for petty officers and ratings called the Distinguished Service Medal was also established in October 1914. This medal was to be awarded to such men "as may at any time show themselves to the fore in action, and set an example of bravery and resource under fire without performing acts of such preeminent bravery as would render them eligible for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal."
The design of the D. S. M. is the same as the C. G. M. except that the reverse reads "For Distinguished Service" within the wreath. The ribbon is dark blue with two white stripes separated by a narrow blue stripe in the center (Plate LVII.)
On December 31, 1914, the creation of a military decoration equivalent to the naval D. S. C., to be known as the Military Cross, was announced. Captains, commissioned officers of lower grades and warrant officers of the British and Imperial forces for "distinguished and meritorious services" were eligible. Foreign officers and Air Force officers of equivalent ranks were also eligible. The award of the Cross is made on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for War or by a Commander in Chief in the field. Again, owing to a very liberal interpretation of "distinguished and meritorious services" the Military Cross was given with a great deal of freedom. A total of 41,261 were awarded in the years 1914-18. In an attempt to remedy this state of affairs the qualifications for the decorations were changed to "services in action" in 1918. A further warrant in 1931 provided that it should be awarded to officers not above the substantive rank of major "for gallant and distinguished services in action."
The Military Cross is of a very simple and effective design. It is a plain cross in silver flared at the end of each limb. Resting upon it is a smaller cross with the Royal cypher in the center and Imperial Crowns at the tips of each of its limbs. The ribbon is striped equally, white, purple and white, and is threaded through a plain silver slat bar. Like all other decorations the M. C. has a provision for the award of a bar in place of a second cross to the same person for further services. The bar is worn on the ribbon (Plates LVIII-LIX).
In 1916 an award junior to the Distinguished Conduct Medal was created. This decoration, called the Military Medal, can be awarded on the recommendation of the Commander in Chief in the field to enlisted men, non-commissioned and warrant officers, women and foreign persons "who have shown bravery and devotion under fire." The obverse of the medal shows the sovereign's portrait in Field Marshal's uniform and "on the reverse the words ‘For Bravery in the Field' encircled by a wreath and surmounted by the Royal cypher and a crown." The ribbon is dark blue with three white and two crimson stripes alternating in the center (Plates LX, LXI).
The record of the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force, was so distinguished during the last war that it was deemed advisable to create a special series of air awards in 1918. The result was the creation of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal and Air Force Medal. The Distinguished Flying Cross "shall be granted only to such Officers and Warrant Officers of Our said Forces as shall be recommended to us for an act or acts of valour, courage, or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy." The Air Force Cross is awarded in peace time to such Officers and Warrant Officers "as shall be recommended to us for an act or acts of valour, courage, or devotion to duty whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy, and may also be granted to individuals not belonging to an Air Force who render distinguished service to aviation while actually flying." The Distinguished Flying and Air Force Medals are the counterparts of the two Crosses, but for non-commissioned officers and enlisted men.
The design of the decorations for airmen is excessively ornate and almost defies coherent description. The second paragraph of the Warrant of December 1919 describes the Distinguished Flying Cross as a silver "cross flory terminated in the horizontal and base bars with bombs, the upper bar terminating in a rose surmounted by another cross composed of aeroplane propellers charged in the center with a roundel, within a wreath of laurels a rose winged ensigned by an Imperial Crown, thereon the letters R. A. F. The whole is attached to the clasp and ribbon by two sprigs of laurel." It is worn "on the left breast pendant from a ribbon one inch and one-quarter in width which shall be in color violet and white alternate diagonal stripes of one-eighth inch in width running at an angle of forty-five degrees from left to right (Plates LXII, LXIII)." The Air Force Cross, of silver, consists "of a thunderbolt in the form of a cross the arms conjoined by wings, the base bar terminating with a bomb, surmounted by another cross composed of aeroplane propellers, the four ends enscribed with G. V. R. I. In the center a roundel, thereon a representation of Hermes mounted on a hawk in flight bestowing a wreath. On the reverse the Royal cypher above the date 1918. The whole ensigned by an Imperial Crown and attached to the clasp and ribbon by two sprigs of laurel." The ribbon is similar to that of the previously described Cross but the narrow stripes are red (Plates LXIV, LXV). The Distinguished Flying Medal is an oval silver medal with the Sovereign's head on the face and on the reverse "within a wreath of laurel a representation of Athena Nike seated on an aeroplane, a hawk rising from her right arm above the words ‘For Courage.' The whole ensigned by a bomb attached to the clasp and ribbon by two wings (Plates LXVI, LXVII)." The Air Force Medal is oval likewise, the Sovereign's head on the face, and on the reverse the same device that appears in the center of the Air Force Cross. Both medals are suspended from ribbons similar to the crosses except that the colored stripes are narrower.
One can hardly escape the conclusion that these decorations appear to greater advantage in the cases of issue than on the breasts of the men who so gallantly earn them. The design is so complex that the symbolism is obscured by a mass of detail. In addition, the decorations are oversize and do not go well with the other medals with which they are frequently worn. They are, in short, the most poorly designed decorations of the whole British series.
A medal of the Order of the British Empire was established with the Order in 1917. In 1918 a military and civil division were also provided for the medal. The medal was awarded from 1917 until 1922 for both gallant and meritorious services to 405 persons. Unfortunately this decoration lacked a certain distinction because it was not possible to tell for what class or type of service it had been conferred. In 1922 it was discontinued and replaced by two medals: the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry and the medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service. Both were provided with military and civil divisions. The Empire Gallantry Medal was awarded irrespective of rank, sex or occupation for acts of conspicuous gallantry for which no other decoration appears particularly fitted. From 1922 until 1938 there were only about 100 of these medals awarded. The position of the Empire Gallantry Medal is difficult to evaluate. It has been given very sparingly and only for acts of outstanding merit. Yet the prestige of the decoration has not been particularly high. No attempt, until the present war, seems to have been made to call public attention to the deeds of the winners. In the first few months of the war, however, the E. G. M. emerged from obscurity to take a position in the public eye that seemed second only to the Victoria Cross. The heavy air raids were marked by many acts of unusual devotion to duty that were distinguished by the award of this medal. The ambiguity surrounding the position of the decoration was finally removed in 1940, when it was superseded by the George Cross. All the holders of the Gallantry Medal received the new Cross, ranked with but after the Victoria Cross. The Empire Medal for Meritorious Service was not affected by this change. It is still given for outstanding services of many kinds. The military Division is restricted to grades below that of Warrant Officer, and in the Civil Division to persons not eligible for one of the grades of the Order of the British Empire.
The original medal of the Order was greyed silver with a seated Britannia surrounded by the motto of the Order on the obverse, and the Royal cypher on the reverse. The color of the ribbon was plum (Plate LXVIII). The Gallantry medal is larger and bears a different rendering of Britannia and the motto on the obverse with the addition of the words "For Gallantry" (Plate LXIX). During the reign of King George V the reverse bore the cypher G. R.V. I. within a circle of lions rampant. During the present reign this cypher has been changed to plain G. R. I. and the words "Founded by King George V" added. The medal is suspended from a laureated silver clasp from the distinctive pink ribbon of the Order. A silver laurel spray is worn on the ribbon. When the ribbon alone is worn in uniform a silver rosette was pinned on it to distinguish it from the Order. The Empire Meritorious Service Medal is similar to the Gallantry Medal but the clasp is ornamented with oak leaves and no laurel spray is worn on the ribbon (Plate LXX).
The most recent awards available for services rendered by native troops are the Order of Burma and the Burma Gallantry Medal. The former is the counterpart of the Order of British India. The Badge is one and one-half inches in diameter in the form of rays of gold issuing from a gold medallion charged with a peacock on a blue ground encircled with the words "Order of Burma" and surmounted by an Imperial Crown. It is suspended from a ribbon of dark green, edged with light blue one and one-half inches in width.
The Burma Gallantry Medal is available for any act of conspicuous gallantry performed by Burmese officers, non-commissioned officers, or other ranks. The medal is silver, of the same size as other decorations of a similar nature given to British troops. The face shows the head of the King-Emperor. The reverse is charged with the words "Burma For Gallantry" within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is dark green with a one-quarter inch red stripe in the center.
Probably the least well known of all the British honors are the civilian decorations for gallantry. The obscurity that has surrounded these awards is regrettable. Not only do they represent acts of self-sacrifice which are in no sense inferior to those for which military decorations are bestowed, but the self-sacrifice is rendered in everyday walks of life, often in dirty, unglamorous jobs and seldom with the moral support of a nation engaged in a common organized effort. In every sense, the civil distinctions are united, in the spirit of the service which they represent, with the highest traditions that were so potent a force in the medieval ideal of Knighthood and Chivalry. The Albert Medal may seem to bear little resemblance to the exalted distinction of the Garter, but the ultimate realities underlying both distinctions are not dissimilar.
The Albert Medal, until the creation of the George Cross, stood first among the civil decorations. It "is the civilian's Victoria Cross, foremost among nonmilitary British decorations in saving, or attempting to save life by land or sea." The medal is not, however, purely a life saving decoration, but has a much broader application. It is most frequently given to men whose decisive action in a critical moment prevented a disaster that would have cost many lives. Sir Arnold Wilson and Mr. J. F. H. McEwen in their book Gallantry observe, "The chief criterion used to measure the standard of performance of those whose gallant acts ... have brought their names under consideration for the award of the Albert Medal is that the rescuer must seriously imperil his own life under conditions which make his survival unlikely. In the case of the Albert Medal in gold the act must have placed the recipient's life at the extremest hazard, or the risk must have been incurred more than once on the same occasion." Between 1866 and 1938 there were only 632 awards of the medal.
The original suggestion for the medal appears to have been made to the Queen in December 1864 by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Milner Gibson. Subsequent discussion of the matter permitted a most revealing insight into the official mind. Sir Charles Phipps and General Grey, the Queen's Secretary, were in agreement. They were "both of the opinion that two new principles are involved in this proposition.
"In the first place, up to the present time, all honours and decorations have been awarded by the sovereign for acts performed by persons in the Royal Service, or for acts done in the Royal Service.
"Secondly, the recommendations for such awards have come from the Superior Officer in the particular branch of the Service, to which the recipients of these honours belonged, and the grounds for bestowing them rested upon an official chain of responsibility.
"It is now proposed to give a peculiar decoration to private individuals, for acts of daring, which probably must be attested chiefly by persons of their own class, and whose recommendations would be guarded by no official responsibility.
"It is not impossible that the men who perform these gallant acts may be of irregular habits, and bad moral character."
It is plain from the immediate reaction of these two gentlemen that their objection was basically to an extension of the honors system in any direction that was not in accord with their previous experience. Fortunately, their objections did not prevent the creation of the decoration in December 1866. If the Victoria Cross was the first decoration that transcended ranks and class distinctions, the Albert Medal became the first that was used to reward the common man for acts of great merit regardless of his means of livelihood.
The medal established in 1866 was specifically limited to those who risked their lives to save life at sea. At the suggestion of Sir Stafford Northcote, a second class was established in 1867 "so that there might be a means of rewarding gallant services of different degrees of merit, without making the highest order of reward too common." The decorations then became known as "The Albert Medal of the First Class' and "The Albert Medal of the Second Class." In 1877 a Tyneside colliery disaster aroused the interest of the country and led Lord Beaconsfield to suggest that the medal be extended to include gallant acts in saving life on land. In 1905 the regulations for the award were consolidated and rewritten. It was laid down that the medal of the first class should be "confined to cases of extreme heroic daring" and that the second class should be given in "cases which though falling within cases contemplated by this warrant, are not sufficiently distinguished to deserve the Albert Medal of the First Class." Finally, the designations of the medals were changed in 1917 to "The Albert Medal in Gold" and "The Albert Medal."
While the purpose of the decoration was gradually being expanded beyond the narrow limits of the original conception, the design remained unchanged. The medal in gold for gallantry at sea consists of the letters V and A interlaced with an anchor, all in gold, on a blue enamel ground surrounded by a bronze garter inscribed with "For Saving Life at Sea" in gold letters, the whole surmounted by a bronze representation of the Prince Consort's crown. The Albert Medal is of the same design but executed entirely in bronze (Plates LXXI, LXXII). The medals for gallantry on land are also of similar design but the anchor is omitted, the enamel is crimson and the inscription reads, "For Gallantry in Saving Life on Land." The ribbons for the gold medal for Sea and Land are blue and red, respectively, with four equally spaced white stripes. The Albert Medals have ribbons of the same colors but with only two broad white stripes.
At the time the Albert Medal was founded, a decoration for sea gallantry had already been in existence for some years. This decoration was the Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea, one of the most curious institutions to be found among all British decorations. It is conferred by the President of the Board of Trade in the name of the Sovereign. The authority for the medal is to be found in the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 and 1894. The Board of Trade Medal is thus the only British decoration awarded by Act of Parliament. While it overlaps the Albert Medal in many respects, it has always been a life saving distinction, and has never been broadened in its application. Curiously enough, the records of the award of the medal were so poorly kept that there are none at all before 1887 and a bare outline of names from 1887 to 1921. Since the latter year, a more complete record has been kept. It is now called "The Sea Gallantry Medal."
The medal is issued in gold, silver and bronze for different degrees of gallantry. The obverse bears the head of the reigning Sovereign, the Royal cypher, and the inscription, "Awarded by the Board of Trade for Gallantry in Saving Life." The reverse bears a representation of a man clinging to a spar and beckoning a life boat; a man supporting a rescued seaman; and a woman and child on a rack (Plate LXXIII). The ribbon is scarlet with two white stripes. It was not until 1903 that the medals were reduced in size and made wearable.
In May 1900 Queen Victoria instituted a new decoration to be awarded to any person, irrespective of race, rank or sex, who in any capacity rendered useful services to the public in India. The award, called the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal, is generally given for social services of many kinds. American missionaries have been frequent recipients. There are two classes. The first, in gold, is bestowed by the Sovereign, and the second class, in silver, is given by the Viceroy.
The decoration is an oval badge bearing the Imperial cypher, surrounded by a floral border and surmounted by a crown. On the reverse there is a stylized design of lotus flowers with the words "Kaisar-i-Hind" on a ribbon, the whole surrounded by the motto "For Public Service in India." The medal is suspended from a dark blue ribbon when worn by gentlemen and from a bow of the same color when worn by ladies.
In 1907 a new medal was created to recognize "the many heroic acts performed by miners and quarrymen and others who endanger their lives in saving or endeavoring to save the lives of others from perils in mines or quarries within our Dominions and the territories under our protection and jurisdiction." In 1909 the scope of the award was broadened to include "those who endangered their lives to save others in the cause of industrial employment." The medals were first known as "The Edward Medal of the First Class" and "The Edward Medal of the Second Class." In 1917 the designation was changed to "The Edward Medal in Silver" and "The Edward Medal."
The medals are issued in silver and bronze and are of the usual size, suspended from a dark blue ribbon edged with yellow. The obverse bears the head of the reigning sovereign. The reverse of the miners' medal shows a miner rescuing another miner with the inscription "For Courage." The industrial medal has had two designs. The first one showed a man preventing a beam from falling on an injured workman (Plate LXXIV). In 1911 the design was changed and a female was introduced holding a wreath, with an industrial town in the background. The inscription "For Courage" also appears.
In 1909 a special medal, called The King's Police Medal, was established to reward distinguished service or heroic actions by the men on the Police forces and fire brigades throughout the Empire. These medals are awarded on the recommendation of the Home Secretary. The conditions of award are:
The medal really has two classes: "The King's Police Medal for Gallantry" and "The King's Police Medal." The Gallantry medal is given when the action involved comes under the terms described in section (a) of the conditions listed above. The medal bears the effigy of the reigning Sovereign on the obverse. The reverse has an armed figure of a watchman leaning on a sword, bearing a shield with the inscription "To guard my people." There is a fortified city in the background. In 1933 the words "For Gallantry" were added. The ribbon is dark blue, edged white with a broad white stripe down the center. A thin scarlet thread runs through the center of each white stripe. The design of the Police Medal is the same except that the words "For Distinguished Service" appear on the reverse and there are scarlet stripes in the ribbon.
In December 1909, in connection with changes created in the institution of the Edward Medal, a statement was issued to the press that served to clarify the purpose and relative position of the awards for civil gallantry:
"Before 1907 conspicuous gallantry in civil life could be recognized by the high but rare distinction of the Albert Medal. There were, however, no means of rewarding acts of great courage on land—less conspicuous but perhaps equally meritorious—by decorations appropriate to particular vocations.
"The King was therefore pleased to institute in the first instance the Edward Medal for Gallantry in Mines and Quarries. His Majesty has now extended the qualifications for the medal to acts of gallantry performed in the course of industrial employment other than mines and quarries, and has established the King's Police Medal for merit or courage on the part of members of the police forces and five brigades in the discharge of their duties.
"These medals, with distinct and appropriate designs, will be granted for conduct and service throughout the Empire; and, in conjunction with the Board of Trade medal for saving life at sea, cover the whole range of dangerous employment in civil life.
"The Albert Medal remains the reward for acts of the highest courage and devotion in civil life. His Majesty's purpose in establishing the new medals is to provide recognition for actions of exceptional bravery in dangerous callings, which, owing to the rarity of the award of the Albert Medal, might otherwise go unrecognized."
The War against Nazi Germany created a situation that justified the creation of two new decorations. The Battle of Britain brought the war to the doorstep of every Englishman. While the civilian is eligible for the Victoria Cross, he is not eligible for other military decorations. The available awards, with the single exception of the Empire Medals discussed above, could be conferred for military or civilian services, but the phenomenon of civilians at war was something quite unprovided for. In a speech on September 23, 1940, the King announced the creation of the George Cross and George Medal to be conferred on civilians, both men and women, for acts of great heroism or conspicuous gallantry in circumstances of extreme danger. The immediate object was to recognize acts of gallantry arising out of enemy action, but it is also to be awarded for other brave deeds. The new decorations can also be awarded to members of the armed forces for acts of valor on the home front. "The George Cross will take the place of the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry (E. G. M.). The present holders of the E. G. M. will therefore receive the new cross in substitution for the existing Medal." It ranks immediately after the V. C. The George Medal is junior to the Cross and given for acts which do not merit the award of the senior honor.
The design of the new Cross is marked by an unusual simplicity and severity. It is in plain silver, patterned after the Geneva Cross. In the center there is a modern rendering of Pistrucci's famous design of St. George and the dragon, surrounded by the motto "For Gallantry." In each of the four angles of the Cross appears a minute "G. V. I." The decoration is suspended from a laureated bar through which a Garter blue ribbon has been threaded (Plate LXXV). It is worn by ladies from a bow. The George Medal is in silver 1.42 inches in diameter, with a crowned head of the Sovereign on the obverse. The reverse shows St. George attacking the dragon on the shores of Britain, a design taken from a bookplate designed for the Royal Library at Windsor (Plate LXXVI). It is suspended by a red ribbon with five narrow vertical blue stripes, threaded through a ring.
Members of British Orders and the recipients of most decorations are permitted to carry alphabetical designations after their names indicative of the honor received. These designations and their meanings are listed below alphabetically.
|A. F. C.||— Air Force Cross|
|A. F. M.||— Air Force Medal|
|A. M.||— Albert Medal|
|A. R. R. C.||— Associate, Royal Red Cross|
|C. B.||— Companion of the Order of the Bath|
|C. B. E.||— Commander of the Order of the British Empire|
|C. H.||— Companion of Honor|
|C. G. M.||— Conspicuous Gallantry Medal|
|C. I.||— The Order of the Cross of India|
|C. I. E.||— Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire|
|C. M. G.||— Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George|
|C. S. I.||— Companion of the Order of the Star of India|
|C. V. O.||— Commander of the Royal Victorian Order|
|D. B. E.||— Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire|
|D. C. M.||— Distinguished Conduct Medal|
|D. C. V. O.||— Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order|
|D. F. C.||— Distinguished Flying Cross|
|D. F. M.||— Distinguished Flying Medal|
|D. S. C.||— Distinguished Service Cross|
|D. S. M.||— Distinguished Service Medal|
|D. S. O||— Distinguished Service Order|
|E. G .M||— Empire Gallantry Medal (obsolete)|
|E. M||— Edward Medal|
|G. B. E.||— Knight, or Dame, Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire|
|G. C.||— George Cross|
|G. C. B.||— Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath|
|G. C. I. E.||— Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire|
|G. C. M. G.||— Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George|
|G. C. S. I.||— Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India|
|G. C. V. O.||— Knight or Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order|
|G. M.||— George Medal|
|I. O. M||— Indian Order of Merit|
|I. S. O||— Imperial Service Order|
|K. B.||— Knight of the Order of the Bath 1725-1815, now obsolete|
|K. B. E.||— Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire|
|K. C. B.||— Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath|
|K. C. I. E.||— Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire|
|K. C. M. G.||— Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George|
|K. C. S. I.||— Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India|
|K. C. V. O.||— Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order|
|K. G.||— Knight of the Garter|
|K. P.||— Knight of Howland Wood>|
|K. T.||— Knight of the Thistle|
|M. B. E.||— Member of the Order of the British Empire|
|M. C.||— Military Cross|
|M. M.||— Military Medal|
|M. V. O.||— Member of the Royal Victorian Order, fourth or fifth class|
|O. B. E.||— Officer of the Order of the British Empire|
|O. B. I.||— Order of British India|
|O. M.||— Member of the Order of Merit|
|R. R. C.||— Royal Red Cross|
|S. G. M.||— Sea Gallantry Medal (Board of Trade Medal)|
|V. C.||—Victoria Cross|
British Orders and Decorations have precedence among themselves as follows:
Notes Governing the Principles of Award of Orders, Decorations and Medals of the British Army, and equivalent ranks of Allied Forces issued by the Adjutant General's Office of the A. E. F. in 1918.
In 1918 the Adjutant General's Office of the A. E. F. issued three informative mimeographed pamphlets describing the history and functions of British, French and Italian Orders and Decorations. The list, reproduced below, was taken from the British pamphlet. It is of great value in indicating the conditions governing the award of Honors to the armed forces.
|G. C. B. and G. C. M. G.||No recommendation to be submitted unless specially called for. These orders are reserved for Commanders-in-Chief of British and Allied Forces or for exceptional brilliant and distinguished services of a Commander of a group of Armies.|
|K. C. B.||General Officers with distinguished records. As in certain instances in Allied Armies the highest rank of General Officer is a General of Division, the nature of his appointment and services rendered must determine whether the K. C. B., or K. C. M. G., is the more suitable Order.|
|K. C. M. G.||General Officers as above, but in a lesser degree, or to reward distinguished services of General Officers already in possession of a K. C. B.|
|C. B.||Major-Generals, Brigadier-Generals, Senior Colonels. Exception may be made in special cases in favour of Lieutenant-Colonels who are already in possession of the C. M. G.|
|Note. Under the statutes of the Order of the Bath, a Major is eligible, but the practice of awarding the C. B. to Majors has not been put into effect during this War.|
|C. M. G.||Brigadier-Generals, Colonels, Senior Lieutenant-Colonels. As in the case of the C. B., Majors are eligible for this Order, but the award of the C. M. G. to a Major must necessarily be very exceptional.|
|D. S. O||The statutes of the D. S. O. impose no limitations as to the rank of Officers eligible but it is not usual to award the D. S. O. to a General Officer and except for services of marked gallantry, it should not be awarded to an Officer below the rank of Captain.|
|This decoration can only be awarded for "services in action" which shall be held to mean:—|
|(I) Services under fire.|
|(II) Distinguished individual services in connection with air raids, bombardments or other enemy action which at the time produces conditions equivalent to services in actual combat, and demands the same personal elements of command, initiative or control on the part of individuals and, in a lesser degree only possibly entails the same risks.|
|Military Cross.||Restricted by Royal Warrant to Officers below the rank of Major (Temporary Majors should be excluded if the services for which they are recommended were performed in that rank) and to Warrant Officers, Class I and II. Conditions of award as for D. S. O.|
|D. C. M.||Restricted by Royal Warrant to all below Commissioned rank. Conditions of award as for D. S. O. Women are not eligible.|
|Military Medal.||Can only be granted for gallantry in action, and can only be awarded to Warrant Officers, Class I and II, Non-commissioned officers and men. Women are eligible for "Bravery in the Field."|
|M. S. M.||For meritorious service or devotion to duty or for specific services of gallantry not in action. See Royal Warrant Article 1227. The M. S. M. can be awarded to all below Commissioned rank. Women are not eligible.|
In January 1943 it was announced that the three branches of the armed services had reached an agreement permitting the pooling of the decorations for gallantry. This arrangement was found necessary because of the peculiar conditions under which the present War is being fought. Never before have there been so many actions in which soldiers have been engaged in air operations and flyers in purely land and sea operations. Therefore, Navy and Army personnel are now eligible for honors once granted to the Royal Air Force, while the personnel of the Army and R. A. F. can, when the conditions justify it, win a naval award.
The King decided that the Navy's much coveted Conspicuous Gallantry Medal is in the future to be awarded to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the Army and Air Force for gallantry in land or air operations against the enemy. It takes precedence over the D. F. M. When so awarded, the ribbon will be light blue, with dark blue edges. It should be emphasized that the air awards can be granted to soldiers only for deeds performed in the air while military awards can be granted to R. A. F. personnel only for deeds performed on the ground.
Anyone interested in the insignia of the British Orders would do well to visit the principal exhibitions open to the public in normal times. A complete collection of insignia is to be found in the Jewel House of the Tower of London. The best collection of historical material is available in the Royal United Services Museum, Whitehall. This museum has the orders and decorations of Sir John Moore K.B., Viscounts Wolseley and Allenby, Lord Clyde (Sir Colin Campbell), Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe, Florence Nightingale and many others. There are some interesting pieces in the London Museum and the Imperial War Museum. The insignia of the Garter and the Thistle preserved with the crown jewels of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle are well worth seeing. The Military Museum in the castle has some interesting displays including the group of Field Marshal Lord Lynedoch (Sir Thomas Graham). The Greenwich Maritime Museum has Nelson's foreign awards and his uniforms showing the embroidered stars of the Orders. There are, of course, many interesting pieces still in the hands of the descendants of the men who won them that are not available to the public. The honors of the Duke of Wellington are heirlooms in the family. Although certain British regiments have notable collections of Orders and medals it has never been the good fortune of the author to see them. Unfortunately the most likely repository of information on the insignia, the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, has been kept firmly closed in the face of all inquiries.
Much of the most interesting printed material relating to the Honors System is so scattered that it is impractical to indicate the sources in any but a most general way. Biographies of soldiers, statesmen, administrators, and of the Royal Family generally have invaluable bits of information scattered through them. The revival of the stately ceremonies of the Garter, the Thistle, the Howland Wood> and the Bath after the turn of the century has been responsible for a great deal of instructive editorial comment, as well as factual news accounts, in the London Times, and the Illustrated London News. Not infrequently the principal events of politics and diplomacy in the past 250 years have involved the Orders in a way that throws considerable light on their functions and meaning. The Banks Papers in the British Museum have a great deal of material gathered by Sir Joseph Banks K.B. and (his daughter) Miss Banks, but the author has not had the opportunity to investigate them. A list of standard works consulted, most of which are available in the library of the American Numismatic Society, is appended below. The more general works from which direct quotations were taken for use in the monograph are also included in the list.
ORDER OF THE Howland Wood> STAR, COLLAR AND BADGE
ORDER OF THE Howland Wood> BADGE
ORDER OF THE Howland Wood> STAR
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