Orders of Chivalry

The Orders of Chivalry are a means whereby the Sovereign may bestow an honour on his or her subjects, either as a mark of personal favour or at the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Originally the fusion of knightly and religious ideals, brought together by the Crusades, the Orders of Chivalry were founded by European kings as a means of binding their great nobles to the royal cause as Companions of the King'.

In Great Britain the older Orders of Chivalry (Garter, Thistle, Bath, St Michael and St George, the Royal Victorian and the British Empire) all carry the honour of knighthood.

The Orders of the Bath, St Michael and St George, the Royal Victorian and the British Empire also have 'classes' within their Orders that consist not only of knighthoods, but also companions or members. The precise rank of honour of the person within the Order is reflected by his or her post-nominal letters.

The Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle both have only one class of knighthood.

The Order of the Bath has two classes of knighthood: Knights and Dames Grand Cross, and Knights and Dames Commander. The Order also has Companions (not a knighthood).

The Order of St Michael and St George also has two classes of knighthood: Knights and Dames Grand Cross, and Knights and Dames Commander. The Order also has Companions (not a knighthood).

The Royal Victorian Order also has two classes of knighthood: Knights and Dames Grand Cross, and Knights and Dames Commander. The Order also has three lesser classes: Commanders, Lieutenants and Members (which are not knighthoods).

The Order of the British Empire also has two classes of knighthood: Knights and Dames Grand Cross, and Knights and Dames Commander. The Order also has three lesser classes: Commanders, Officers and Members (which are not knighthoods).

There are two further Orders of Chivalry, which are not Orders of Knighthood and do not confer the titles of Sir or Dame. These are the Order of Merit and the Companions of Honour. Both have only one class.

Holders of the Orders of Chivalry are ranked in the Table of Precedence. Knights of the Garter (if not already holding senior rank such as a peerage) rank immediately after Barons' eldest sons, and Knights of the other Orders of Chivalry are placed after Baronets (in Scotland, however, Knights of the Thistle customarily follow Knights of the Garter). Holders of the Order of Merit and Companions of Honour carry no personal precedence by virtue of these honours.

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