The United Kingdom has had nine separate orders of chivalry conferring the dignity of a knighthood as follows;

On top of which there are also plain simple ordinary knights or Knight Bachelor who are just plain 'sir' and who are not members of any of the above orders.

Of the above orders those of St Patrick, the Star of India and the Indian Empire are no longer awarded.

These orders of knighthood should be distinguised with those Orders that part of the British Honours System that carry no title or precedence such as the;

which is to say that their members are not knights, and do not carry the titular appelation of 'sir'.


The details of the nine orders of chivalry are as detailed below.

The Order of the Garter or the Most Noble Order of the Garter, is the oldest of the orders, established in 1348; there is a a single level of award and limited to twenty-five knights, who use the nominal letters KG or LG. It is regarded as the most prestigous of all the orders.

The Order of the Thistle or the Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle was first created in 1687 as the national order of Scotland to complement that of the Garter, which was the national order of England. There is a single level of award whose holders use the nominal letters of KT (male) and LT {female) and it is limited to 16 Knights, all of whom must be Scottish.

The Order of Saint Patrick or the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick was founded in 1783, and intended to be the national order of Ireland. Awards were of a single class and orginally restricted to fifteen in number but increased to twenty-two in 1833. No awards were made after the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, and the order finally lapsed in 1974 with the death of the last surviving recipient Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

The Order of the Bath or the Most Honorable Order of the Bath was created in 1725; it is awarded to state servants only and has three classes;

Knight Grand Cross (GCB)
Knight or Dame (KCB or DCB)
Companion/Commander (CB)

of which only the first two levels confer knighthood.

The Order of the Star of India or the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India was created in 1861 by Queen Victoria and originally constituted of three classes of Knights Grand Commanders, Knights Commanders, and Companions. No appointments to this Order have been made since 14 August 1947 when India gained independence.

The Order of St Michael and St George or the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George was created in 1818, and again has three classes of award;

Knight Grand Cross (GCMG)
Knight or Dame (KCMG or DCMG)
Companion/Commander (CMG)

Only the first two levels confer knighthood and awards are restricted to members of the Diplomatic Service and to those who render service to UK interests overseas.

The Order of the Indian Empire or the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire was instituted by Queen Victoria, on the 31 Dec 1877 for services rendered to the Indian Empire, and consisted of three levels of Grand Commanders, Knights Commanders, and Companions. As with the Order of the Star of India no appointments have been made since 14 August 1947.

The Royal Victorian Order was established on the 21 April 1896, by Queen Victoria as a way of rewarding personal service to her. The Order continues to be regarded as entirely within the Sovereign's personal gift, and appointments are made on their own initiative rather than by ministerial recommendation. There are five levels of award;

Knight Grand Cross (GCVO
Knight or Dame (KCVO or DCVO)
Commander (CVO)
Lieutenant (LVO)
Member (MVO)

only the first two of which confer knighthood.

The Order of the British Empire or the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was created in 1917. It is the most junior of all the orders but the most commonly awarded. There are five separate classes;
Knight Grand Cross (GBE)
Knight or Dame (KBE or DBE)
Companion/Commander (CBE)
Officer (OBE)
Member (MBE)

Again only the first two levels confer a knighthood upon the recipient.


Sources

  • Orders http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/ceremonial/index/orders.htm
  • 1911 Encyclopedia http://42.1911encyclopedia.org/K/KN/KNIGHTHOOD_AND_CHIVALRY.htm
  • British Orders and Decorations http://www.debretts.co.uk/etiquette/orders_and_decorations.html
  • Orders of Chivalry http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page490.asp

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