Order of the Bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath
Order of bath star.jpg
Civil Knight Grand Cross Star of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath: "Rays of silver issuing from a centre and charged with three Imperial Crowns, one and two, within a circle gules whereon inscribed the motto of the Order in gold"[1]
Awarded by Sovereign of the United Kingdom
TypeOrder of chivalry
Established18 May 1725; 294 years ago (18 May 1725)
MottoTRIA JUNCTA IN UNO ("three joined in one")
and Ich dien (Military Division)
Awarded forService, at the monarch's faith
StatusCurrently constituted
FounderGeorge I of Great Britain
SovereignQueen Elizabeth II
Great MasterPrince Charles
GradesKnight/Dame Grand Cross (GCB)
Knight/Dame Commander (KCB/DCB)
Companion (CB)
Former gradesKnight Companion (KB)
Precedence
Next (higher)Order of St Patrick
Next (lower)Order of the Star of India
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.svg
Ribbon bar of the Order of the Bath
Coat of arms of the British monarch as sovereign of the Order of the Bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (formerly the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath)[2] is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725.[3] The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing (as a symbol of purification) as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath".[4] George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order".[5] He did not (as is commonly believed) revive the Order of the Bath,[6] since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.[7][8]

The Order consists of the Sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth II), the Great Master (currently Charles, Prince of Wales,[9] and three Classes of members:[10]

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

Members belong to either the Civil or the Military Division.[11] Prior to 1815, the order had only a single class, Knight Companion (KB), which no longer exists.[12] Recipients of the Order are now usually senior military officers or senior civil servants.[13][14] Commonwealth citizens who are not subjects of the Queen and foreign nationals may be made Honorary Members.[15]

The Order of the Bath is the fourth-most senior of the British Orders of Chivalry, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick (dormant).[16]

History

Knights of the Bath

A painting by Edmund Leighton depicting an investiture of a fictional knight receiving the accolade

In the Middle Ages, knighthood was often conferred with elaborate ceremonies. These usually involved the knight-to-be taking a bath (possibly symbolic of spiritual purification)[17] during which he was instructed in the duties of knighthood by more senior knights. He was then put to bed to dry. Clothed in a special robe, he was led with music to the chapel where he spent the night in a vigil. At dawn he made confession and attended Mass, then retired to his bed to sleep until it was fully daylight. He was then brought before the King, who after instructing two senior knights to buckle the spurs to the knight-elect's heels, fastened a belt around his waist, then struck him on the neck (with either a hand or a sword), thus making him a knight.[18] It was this accolade which was the essential act in creating a knight, and a simpler ceremony developed, conferring knighthood merely by striking or touching the knight-to-be on the shoulder with a sword,[19] or "dubbing" him, as is still done today. In the early medieval period the difference seems to have been that the full ceremonies were used for men from more prominent families.[17]

From the coronation of Henry IV in 1399 the full ceremonies were restricted to major royal occasions such as coronations, investitures of the Prince of Wales or Royal dukes, and royal weddings,[20] and the knights so created became known as Knights of the Bath.[17] Knights Bachelor continued to be created with the simpler form of ceremony. The last occasion on which Knights of the Bath were created was the coronation of Charles II in 1661.[21]

From at least 1625,[22] and possibly from the reign of James I, Knights of the Bath were using the motto Tria juncta in uno (Latin for "Three joined in one"), and wearing as a badge three crowns within a plain gold oval.[23] These were both subsequently adopted by the Order of the Bath; a similar design of badge is still worn by members of the Civil Division. Their symbolism however is not entirely clear. The 'three joined in one' may be a reference to the kingdoms of England, Scotland and either France or Ireland, which were held (or claimed in the case of France) by English and, later, British monarchs. This would correspond to the three crowns in the badge.[24] Another explanation of the motto is that it refers to the Holy Trinity.[13] Nicolas quotes a source (although he is sceptical of it) who claims that prior to James I the motto was Tria numina juncta in uno (three powers/gods joined in one), but from the reign of James I the word numina was dropped and the motto understood to mean Tria [regna] juncta in uno (three kingdoms joined in one).[25]

Foundation of the order

The prime mover in the establishment of the Order of the Bath was John Anstis, Garter King of Arms, England's highest heraldic officer. Sir Anthony Wagner, a recent holder of the office of Garter, wrote of Anstis's motivations:

It was Martin Leake's[26] opinion that the trouble and opposition Anstis met with in establishing himself as Garter so embittered him against the heralds that when at last in 1718 he succeeded, he made it his prime object to aggrandise himself and his office at their expense. It is clear at least that he set out to make himself indispensable to the Earl Marshal, which was not hard, their political principles being congruous and their friendship already established, but also to Sir Robert Walpole and the Whig ministry, which can by no means have been easy, considering his known attachment to the Pretender and the circumstances under which he came into office ... The main object of Anstis's next move, the revival or institution of the Order of the Bath was probably that which it in fact secured, of ingratiating him with the all-powerful Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.[27]

Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister, who used the Order of the Bath as a source of political patronage

The use of honours in the early eighteenth century differed considerably from the modern honours system in which hundreds, if not thousands, of people each year receive honours on the basis of deserving accomplishments. The only honours available at that time were hereditary (not life) peerages and baronetcies, knighthoods and the Order of the Garter (or the Order of the Thistle for Scots), none of which were awarded in large numbers (the Garter and the Thistle are limited to 24 and 16 living members respectively.) The political environment was also significantly different from today:

The Sovereign still exercised a power to be reckoned with in the eighteenth century. The Court remained the centre of the political world. The King was limited in that he had to choose Ministers who could command a majority in Parliament, but the choice remained his. The leader of an administration still had to command the King's personal confidence and approval. A strong following in Parliament depended on being able to supply places, pensions, and other marks of Royal favour to the government's supporters.[28]

The attraction of the new Order for Walpole was that it would provide a source of such favours to strengthen his political position. He made sure that most of the 36 new honorees were peers and MPs who would provide him with useful connections.[29][30] George I having agreed to Walpole's proposal, Anstis was commissioned to draft statutes for the Order of the Bath. As noted above, he adopted the motto and badge used by the Knights of the Bath, as well as the colour of the riband and mantle, and the ceremony for creating a knight. The rest of the statutes were mostly based on those of the Order of the Garter, of which he was an officer (as Garter King of Arms).[31] The Order was founded by letters patent under the Great Seal dated 18 May 1725, and the statutes issued the following week.[32][33]

The Order initially consisted of the Sovereign, a Prince of the blood Royal as Principal Knight, a Great Master and thirty-five Knights Companion.[34] Seven officers (see below) were attached to the Order. These provided yet another opportunity for political patronage, as they were to be sinecures at the disposal of the Great Master, supported by fees from the knights. Despite the fact that the Bath was represented as a military Order, only a few military officers were among the initial appointments (see List of Knights Companion of the Order of the Bath). They may be broken down into categories as follows (note that some are classified in more than one category):[35]

  • Members of the House of Commons: 14
  • The Royal Household or sinecures: 11
  • Diplomats: 4
  • The Walpole family, including the Prime Minister: 3
  • Naval and Army Officers: 3
  • Irish Peers: 2
  • Country gentlemen with Court Appointments: 2
Admiral Lord Rodney (appointed a Knight Companion in 1780) wearing the riband and star of the Order
Sir Alexander Milne (1808–1896) was concurrently KCB (civil division) and GCB (military division); he is pictured wearing both sets of insignia.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Callaghan wearing the insignia of a military Companion of the Order

The majority of the new Knights Companions were knighted by the King and invested with their ribands and badges on 27 May 1725.[36] Although the statutes set out the full medieval ceremony which was to be used for creating knights, this was not performed, and indeed was possibly never intended to be, as the original statutes contained a provision[37] allowing the Great Master to dispense Knights Companion from these requirements. The original knights were dispensed from all the medieval ceremonies with the exception of the Installation, which was performed in the Order's Chapel, the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey, on 17 June. This precedent was followed until 1812, after which the Installation was also dispensed with, until its revival in the twentieth century.[38] The ceremonies however remained part of the Statutes until 1847.[39]

Although the initial appointments to the Order were largely political, from the 1770s appointments to the Order were increasingly made for naval, military or diplomatic achievements. This is partly due to the conflicts Britain was engaged in over this period.[21][40] The Peninsular War resulted in so many deserving candidates for the Bath that a statute was issued allowing the appointment of Extra Knights in time of war, who were to be additional to the numerical limits imposed by the statutes, and whose number was not subject to any restrictions.[41] Another statute, this one issued some 80 years earlier, had also added a military note to the Order. Each knight was required, under certain circumstances, to supply and support four men-at-arms for a period not exceeding 42 days in any year, to serve in any part of Great Britain.[42] This company was to be captained by the Great Master, who had to supply four trumpeters, and was also to appoint eight officers for this body, however the statute was never invoked.[36]

Restructuring in 1815

In January 1815, after the end of the Peninsular War, the Prince Regent (later George IV) expanded the Order of the Bath "to the end that those Officers who have had the opportunities of signalising themselves by eminent services during the late war may share in the honours of the said Order, and that their names may be delivered down to remote posterity, accompanied by the marks of distinction which they have so nobly earned."[12]

The Order was now to consist of three classes: Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, and Companions. The existing Knights Companion (of which there were 60)[43] became Knight Grand Cross; this class was limited to 72 members, of which twelve could be appointed for civil or diplomatic services. The military members had to be of the rank of at least Major-General or Rear Admiral. The Knights Commander were limited to 180, exclusive of foreign nationals holding British commissions, up to ten of whom could be appointed as honorary Knights Commander. They had to be of the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or Post-Captain. The number of Companions was not specified, but they had to have received a medal or been mentioned in despatches since the start of the war in 1803. A list of about 500 names was subsequently published.[44] Two further officers were appointed, an "Officer of arms attendant on the Knights Commanders and Companions", and a "Secretary appertaining to the Knights Commanders and Companions"[12] The large increase in numbers caused some complaints that such an expansion would reduce the prestige of the Order.[13]

The Victorian era

In 1847, Queen Victoria issued new statutes eliminating all references to an exclusively military Order. As well as removing the word 'Military' from the full name of the Order, this opened up the grades of Knight Commander and Companion to civil appointments, and the Military and Civil Divisions of the Order were established. New numerical limits were imposed, and the opportunity also taken to regularise the 1815 expansion of the Order.[45][46] The 1847 statutes also abolished all the medieval ritual, however they did introduce a formal Investiture ceremony, conducted by the Sovereign wearing the Mantle and insignia of the Order, attended by the Officers and as many GCBs as possible, in their Mantles.[47]

In 1859 a further edition of the Statutes was issued; the changes related mainly to the costs associated with the Order. Prior to this date it had been the policy that the insignia (which were provided by the Crown) were to be returned on the death of the holder; the exception had been foreigners who had been awarded honorary membership. In addition foreigners had usually been provided with stars made of silver and diamonds, whereas ordinary members had only embroidered stars. The decision was made to award silver stars to all members, and only require the return of the Collar. The Crown had also been paying the fees due to the officers of the Order for members who had been appointed for the services in the recent war. The fees were abolished and replaced with a salary of approximately the same average value. The offices of Genealogist and Messenger were abolished, and those of Registrar and Secretary combined.[48]

The 20th century

Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Johns in his dress uniform, wearing the star, ribbon, and badge of a military Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

In 1910, after his accession to the throne, George V ordered the revival of the Installation ceremony,[21] perhaps prompted by the first Installation ceremony of the more junior Order of St Michael and St George, held a few years earlier,[49] and the building of a new chapel for the Order of the Thistle in 1911.[50] The Installation ceremony took place on 22 July 1913 in the Henry VII Chapel,[51][52] and Installations have been held at regular intervals since.

Prior to the 1913 Installation it was necessary to adapt the chapel to accommodate the larger number of members. An appeal was made to the members of the Order, and following the Installation a surplus remained. A Committee was formed from the Officers to administer the 'Bath Chapel Fund', and over time this committee has come to consider other matters than purely financial ones.[53]

Another revision of the statutes of the Order was undertaken in 1925, to consolidate the 41 additional statutes which had been issued since the 1859 revision.[54]

Women were admitted to the Order in 1971.[21] In the 1971 New Year Honours, Jean Nunn became the first woman admitted to the order.[55] In 1975, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, an aunt of Elizabeth II, became the first (and to date only) woman to reach the highest rank, Dame Grand Cross.[21] Princess Alice (née Douglas-Montagu-Scott) was a direct descendant of the Order's first Great Master,[56] and her husband, who had died the previous year, had also held that office.

Other Languages
беларуская: Ордэн Лазні
български: Орден на банята
català: Orde del Bany
čeština: Řád lázně
Cymraeg: Urdd y Baddon
eesti: Bathi ordu
español: Orden del Baño
فارسی: نشان حمام
français: Ordre du Bain
한국어: 바스 훈장
Bahasa Indonesia: Order of the Bath
latviešu: Pirts ordenis
Bahasa Melayu: Order of the Bath
Nederlands: Orde van het Bad
日本語: バス勲章
português: Ordem do Banho
română: Ordinul Bath
русский: Орден Бани
Simple English: Order of the Bath
slovenščina: Red kopeli
svenska: Bathorden
Türkçe: Banyo Nişanı
українська: Орден Лазні
中文: 巴斯勳章