Posts tagged ‘orders of chivalry’

Heraldic privileges of the Knights of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia

Order of the Eagle of GeorgiaInsignia of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia
(source: Georgian Heraldry blog)

Recently, I was honored to be admitted into the Order of the Eagle of Georgia and the Seamless Tunic of our Lord Jesus Christ (or Order of the Eagle of Georgia for short).

Naturally, as a heraldic enthusiast, my first question was “what are my heraldic privileges?”. The reason for the question was to understand how I can incorporate the Order (and my rank therein) into my achievement of arms. I know that some Orders allow their knights to place their shields atop the cross of the Order (such as the Order of St. John, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, etc.) while others allow a full ribbon or collar.

For reference, these are the ranks within the Order:

  • Grand Collar
  • Grand Cross
  • Grand Officer
  • Knight Commander
  • Knight

Unfortunately, no immediate answer was found nor was much published on the official site of the Royal House of Georgia and of the dynastic orders. Many were assuming/guessing but, nothing definitive while more than one person said that there weren’t any official heraldic rules instituted within the Order.

However, I felt that it couldn’t be the case. Especially considering that the Order has an office of Herald of the Order occupied by none other than José María de Montells y Galán, Viscount Portadei and one of the top heraldic experts in Spain. This prompted me to do further research.

In the end, I did find the information I needed by either inferring it or seeing it mentioned explicitly.

First of all, let’s cover the specific privileges of the various ranks of the Order of the Eagle:

  • Knights Grand Collar and Knights Grand Cross may encircle their arms with the Collar of the Order
  • Knights Grand Officer may use a circular ribbon 3/4 around their arms
  • Knights Commander and Knights may drape the medal of the Order beneath their arms

This was finally validated after a series of email exchanges with the Royal House of Georgia where it was also confirmed to me that there is a Georgian College of Arms!


Order of the Eagle of Georgia - Grand CollarGrand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia
(source: Official site of the Royal House of Georgia)

However, these privileges are not automatic.

As the Royal House mentioned to me in our email exchanges, the privilege is granted after a knight petitions the Grand Master in writing and the authorization is given, also in writing. This is the outline of the process:

  1. A formal request for the authorization to display the insignia of the Order with one’s arms needs to be submitted to the College of Arms. The petition includes the blazon of the arms along with any supporting documentation and other information available, as well as an image.
  2. The College of Arms reviews the petition and performs an investigation to confirm that the arms of the petitioner are unique and not claimed by any other knight of the Order and meet the criteria of the College.
  3. If the arms are found to meet the criteria of the College and, in their opinion, the petitioner is the legal owner of the arms the knight is invited to request to have his arms officially registered and confirmed with the College.
  4. Once the process of registration with the Georgian College of Arms is completed, then and only then is the written authorization to display the insignia granted. A signed document with this permission is mailed to the knight and a duplicate is kept in the Royal Archives.


The official site of the Royal House of Georgia is

Orders of Chivalry

The phrase “order of chivalry” harkens back to a time of knights, dragons, fair maidens needing to be saved and magical swords. To some extent, it’s true!

Orders of Chivalry where created at the time of the Crusades to organize the warriors around a specific cause, most famous of all the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (or Knights Templar). Though these orders originally had an exclusively military character, they later became a form of recognition by a sovereign or the Pope.

Most of those orders created at the time of the crusades have ceased to exist. Others have merged into others and less than a handful have survived. Of the remaining orders, the oldest ones are the Most Noble Order of Garter in England, the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Anunciation of the House of Savoy and, of course, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta founded in the 11th century.

At that time, many orders were formed much like fraternities or organizations are today that had a common goal. However, the type of formation is no longer valid for the acquisition of the term “Order of Chivalry”. The basic requirement for the term is for a “fons honorum” or “fountain of honor”, the right to create such titles or orders by virtue of their office or position; this is typically the sovereign of a nation, when still in power. The fons honorum is held to remain even after the sovereign has lost the throne and stays with the royal house, if the order is considered a dynastic order.

What is a dynastic order you ask? It is an order granted by the head of a royal house to those who the head considers meritorious in some fashion. This ability to confer membership into the order remains with the family, even if the family is no longer in power. Examples of these dynastic orders are the Order of Saint Michael of the Wing and the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

I won’t be going into all the orders out there and even less get into the various disputes over which orders are “true” and which are “pseudo-chivalric”. Sometimes those discussions are anything but chivalrous. In any case, a great resource is the International Committe for Orders of Chivalry, though be aware that they are in no way an official body and there really isn’t one. Each country decides which orders to accept as valid and which not. Each country has it’s own rules and can be as accepting as Sweden (where they are all accepted as valid) all the way to France where only a handful are. Another great informational source is the website Chivalric Orders maintained by Guy Stair Sainty.

Before ending this post, I would like to make a point that some of the orders though under a monarch have an exclusively religious character such as Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Other times, there may be more than one order with the same name but under different monarchs, such as the Order of Golden Fleece which has a Spanish and an Austrian version.

Why mention these organizations on a heraldry & genealogical blog? Because members have a coat of armor that is displayed in the registers of the order and those members, in turn, display their decorations with their heraldic achievements.

Additionally, many of these orders that are also noble corporations have strict requirements for admission that in some cases go so far as to require 4 generations of proven nobility on both sides. Because of this, these orders have extensive documentation on their members that has been kept over the centurie. Therefore, if one can prove descent from someone who was a member of one of these orders, one can go back even more generations by access their records.