A speech by His Grace Michael Spencer Teilmann, KGCI, Duke of Aswan of Cappadocia, Grand Chancellor
Though the Order was founded by a Christian Byzantine Emperor, there still exist a great deal of confusion about the nature of Chivalric Orders around the world. Many of the original Chivalric Orders arose in response to the crusades to the Holy Land and other efforts to protect their lords, as well as the weak and less fortunate.
Byzantine Knights were appointed by their leaders in recognition of their valiant deeds in battles; protecting their emperor or other high ranking nobleman. The earliest of knights were proclaimed the defenders of the empire well before the crusades from 312 AD after the battle of the Milvian bridge and 1190 by the Byzantine Emperor Flavio Constantino I, Emperor Isaac II, as was the Holly Constantinian Order of St. Sofia. In 1290, these Chivalric orders continue until the fall of Constantinople on the 29th of May 1453. These Orders were held in trust by the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem after it was conquered by the emerging Ottoman forces lead by the Sultan Mehmet II, after an 8 week battle in which the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI was capture blinded and was executed.
In other parts of the world, well before the crusades, as early as 300 A.D., we find the Order of St. Antonio of Ethiopia, in 496 under the reign of King Clovis, the Order of St. Ampolla, in 732 the Order of the Genette by King Charles The Hammer; and in 800 we find the Order of Royal Crown by King Carlo Magno just to mention a few.
In 1291 after the Christian Crusades, the European Orders of Knighthood serving under its Grand Masters, had to find new missions for their existence since the Holy Land had effectively been lost. As most Orders were originally established as military and monastic Orders, and had the title bestowed upon them as Chevalier or Knight, some Orders became Monarchial. Others became Confraternal and Honorific. The Byzantine and Charitable Order of Constantine the Great, along with a small handful of other Orders, remain today as some of the oldest Orders, along with The Order of St. Michael 1171, St. Lassarus 1187, The Order of the Bear, 1213 by Emperor Federico II, the military Order of Jesus Christ, 1317 by Pope Giovanni XXII, The Equestrial apostolic Order of St. George of Bourgone, 1390.
In 1525, only four of the recognized Medieval Orders survived as their continuation had been thwarted by a number of territorial Kings, Prince Regents, and interfering and / or weak popes who continuously tried to dismantle most Chivalric Orders due to the fact that they had grown in size and reputation and had become much too powerful and wealthy, creating fear with in the Royals and the papal circles. The Orders had to be stopped!
In 1560, with the introduction of newer and more sophisticated weapons of war, and the formal establishment of Armies and Navies, many of the Monarchial Orders became unnecessary, and were transformed into honorific Orders where military and civic leaders rewarded the past deeds and service of distinguished individuals bound by a permanent rule of behavior and charitable goals.
The Orders now expanded in to the civilian side, allowing prominent citizens from all walks of life to become part of our chivalric families. Some Monarchial and governmental Orders still remains as of today, such as the Order of the Count de Lion 1745, Belgian Order of Leopold I 1832, the Order of the Crown 1897, the Order of Leopold the II, 1900,The legion dâ€™Honeur of France, The Order of the Garder of England 1347, The Order of the Elephant 1458 of Tialand, the Order of Rizal of the Philippines and many other European and Asian Orders.
Then we have the modern Knights and ladies, selected from all professions and whose Orders have evolved into bodies dedicated to a return to the chivalric values of old, such as charity, educating, military service and the arts â€“ all the while maintaining a sense of those great traditional noble values, that are needed today perhaps more than ever in the history of mankind.
Many Modern Orders are patterned after a few ancient truly important Orders, and has many branches worldwide, Such Orders including our Orders of Constantine the Great and Saint Helen, the Knights Templar 1118, Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Order of Malta, Orders of the Holy Sepulchers, Orders of St. Lasarus, The Order of St. Michael, the Order of St. George; just to mention a few.
Excluding these Orders associated with ruling Monarchs and the leaders of the worldâ€™s leading religions, most of the remaining Orders if not all, are Private and Honorific even though this might not be an admitted fact.
Regardless to which Order one belongs, the modern Knights and Ladies of the 21st Century are expected and by sworn oath, required to uphold certain traditional and historic values. During their ceremonies of investiture, the members pledged themselves to a Grand Master and to the Constitution of the Order and agree to follow its ideals of personal honor, courage and service to others.
So the tradition continues, they are conferred with the title of “Chevalier”, or Knight for gentlemen and “Dame” for our Ladies which is an Honorary Title. Our Order is world wide in nature, with functioning Priories in 13 countries.
H.G. Michael Spencer Teilmann, KGCI, Duke of Aswan of Cappadocia
The Royal Order of Constantine the Great and Saint Helen
The Royal Order of Constantine the Great & Saint Helen is an Order of Knighthood, founded in 330 A.D., whose members are dedicated to the chivalric principles of personal honor, courage, integrity, duty, and service. The Order creates a forum for the worldwide community by recognizing worthy men and women of exceptional accomplishment with an invitation to membership, without regard to race, religion, or nationality. We promote the expansion of chivalric principles through fellowship with other knightly orders. Through the work of our members and through our guidance of young people, we provide a model of leadership and strength of spirit which advances civilization.
The Order’s vision is to perpetuate and expand the knightly virtues, to encourage intellectual rigorousness, to recognize the exemplary conduct and achievements of its members, and to enhance society through our Leadership Program which nurtures, develops, and inspires the innovators of tomorrow.
Members will conduct themselves with personal honor, loyalty, discipline, and obedience to the constitution of the Order and to its superiors.
The Order recognizes the educational works and charitable acts of its members and believes in leading through example.
Members will diligently provide service to others by offering assistance to persons in need without regard to race, religion, or nationality.
Knights and Ladies of the Order will educate themselves and others about chivalric culture and values.
The Order sponsors a Leadership Program for young men and women from 14 to 21 years of age. They will be known as “Squires” and “Ladies-in-Waiting.” Through individual mentorship and group support, these young men and women will develop the chivalric values and modern skills which will deepen that young person’s commitment to the guiding principles of the Order and help develop the leaders, innovators and peacekeepers of tomorrow.
Subdivisions in the Order may have additional goals particular to their needs and characteristics. These goals must be in accordance with the Order’s constitution, be submitted in writing, and be approved by the Grand Council and the superiors of the Order.
Knights, Dames & Ladies in Waiting
Who are knights and what is the function of orderly Knighthood?
Knights and noble Ladies are selected after demonstrating the depth of their faith, the complexity and purity of its ideal, and the grandeur of its art. They lived by the “Obiter dictum…” if needs must, to lay down your life ”. They were “hired men of arms” who swore allegiance to a monarch or lord, soldiers whose high morals, military ritual, and rigid code of behavior became legendary and exemplified the sense of honor and duty known as “Chivalry”.
Becoming a knight was not a widely attainable goal in the medieval era. Only the sons of a knight were eligible for the ranks of knighthood. Those who were destined to become knights were singled out: in boyhood, these future warriors were sent off to a castle as pages, later becoming squires. Commonly around the age of 20, knights would be admitted to their rank in a ceremony called either “dubbing” (from the French adoubement ), or the “Accolade.”
Although these strong young men had proved their eligibility, their social status would be permanently controlled. They were expected to obey the code of chivalry at all times, and no failure was accepted. Although knights were men of war, they traditionally behaved in a courteous and civil way.
Knights trained in hunting, fighting, and riding. They were also trained to practice courteous, honorable behavior, which was considered extremely important. Chivalry (derived from the French word “chevalier”, implying skills to handle a horse) was the main principle guiding a knight’s life style. The code of chivalry dealt with three main areas: the military, social life, and religion.
The military side of life was very important to knighthood. Along with the fighting elements of war, there were many customs and rules to be followed as well. A way of demonstrating military chivalry was to own expensive, heavy weaponry. Weapons were not the only crucial instruments for a knight: horses were also extremely important, and each knight often owned several horses for distinct purposes. One of the greatest signs of chivalry was the flying of colored banners, to display power and to distinguish knights in battle and in tournaments. Warriors were not only required to own all these belongings to prove their allegiance; they were expected to act with military courtesy as well. In combat, when nobles and knights were taken prisoner, their lives were spared and were often held for ransom in somewhat comfortable surroundings. This same code of conduct did not apply to non-knights (archers, peasants, foot soldiers, etc.) who were often slaughtered after capture. They were viewed during battle as mere impediments to knights getting at knights of opposing forces to fight them.
Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced. The early Crusades helped to clarify the moral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As a result, Christian armies began to devote their efforts to sacred purposes. As time passed, clergy instituted religious vows which required knights to use their weapons chiefly for the protection of the weak and defenseless, especially women and orphans, and of churches.
In Europe, a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman from a family highly thought of in good society, but who was of lower rank than the woman on whom she attended. Although she may or may not have received compensation for the service she rendered, she was considered more of a companion than a servant to her mistress. ‘Lady-in-waiting’ is often a generic term for women whose relative rank, title and official functions varied, although such distinctions were also often honorary. A royal woman may or may not be free to select her ladies, and even when she has such freedom her choices have historically been constrained by the sovereign, her parents, her husband or the sovereign’s ministers as, for example, in the so-called Bedchamber crisis.
The duties of ladies-in-waiting varied from court to court, but functions historically discharged by ladies-in-waiting included: proficiency in the etiquette, languages, and dances prevalent at court; secretarial tasks; reading to and writing correspondence on behalf of her mistress; embroidery, painting, horseback riding, music making (vocal and/or instrumental) and participation in other queenly pastimes; wardrobe care; supervision of servants; keeping her mistress abreast of activities and personages at court, and discreetly relaying messages upon command. Ladies-in–waiting were companions of the Lady of the manor.
Ladies-in–waiting were companions of the Lady of the manor. It was a duty of a noble Lady to receive guests courteously and arrange for their accommodations. They were expected to spin wool and perform other household skills.
Historically, the Lady took responsibility of the castle when their husbands were away or when the castle was under siege. They murdered no one, nor wounded, nor harmed, nor betrayed men. They did not pursue, nor seize anyone nor any thing. They did not set houses on fire, nor disinherit men, nor poison, nor steal gold or silver. They did not cheat men of their lands, nor make false contracts, nor destroy Kingdoms, Duchies, Empires. Nor did they wage war and kill and plunder.
A noble-born boy, 7 years of age and who was to become a Knight was sent away to a nobleman’s household to be a page. He learned a variety of skills and to become proficient in horsemanship. They were trained to serve a knight, to attend noble ladies and to learn the art of courtly manners and good behaviors. At 14, he was apprenticed to a Knight whom he served as a Squire. The word Squire comes from the French word “ecuyer”, which meant “shield-bearer”. He was taught how to handle weapons and how to look after his master’s armor and horses. He followed his knight went into battle, helped the knight to put on his armor and assisted him if he was hurt or unhorsed. He learned how to shoot a bow and to carve meat for food. Successful squires were knighted when they were around 21 years old.
The “accolade” is a ceremony to confer knighthood that may take many forms, including, for example, the tapping of the flat side of a sword on the shoulders of a candidate or an embrace about the neck. In the Middle Ages a part of the ceremony of investiture was known as “the Vigil” . During the Middle Ages, a squire on the night before his knighting ceremony was expected to take a cleansing bath, fast, make confession, and then hold an all-night vigil of prayer to God in the chapel, readying himself for his life as a knight. He would dress in white, which was the symbol for purity.
A squire finally became a knight at a ceremony of dubbing. This was originally a blow to the neck with the hand. By the 13th century the blow was replaced by a tap with the sword.
Often the squire’s master, or even the King, performed the dubbing. The “knight-elect” knelt in front of the monarch on a knighting-stool when the ceremony is performed. First, the monarch lays the flat side of the sword’s blade onto the accolade’s right shoulder. He then raises the sword gently just up over the apprentice’s head and places it then on his left shoulder. The new knight then stands up after being promoted and the King or Queen presents him with the insignia of the order to which he has been appointed. The knight’s sword and spurs were then fastened on, and a celebration might follow.
By the 17thcentury, warfare was becoming more and more the job of full-time soldiers and mercenaries. Knights occasionally fought as officers, usually of cavalry. The medieval fighting man is now only a memory. No longer was knighthood granted exclusively to sons of lords and knights. It has become an honor, a title is given to persons the monarch or lord thinks deserves recognition. This idea still continues in many places, but the knight of old was not forgotten. His image survives and still lives as simplicity and charity in the quality of our modern men and women of today. These are the goals of our Order.
Knights of the medieval era were charged to Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all. These few guidelines were the main duties of a medieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish fully. Rarely could even the best of knights achieve these goals. Knights trained in hunting, fighting, and riding. They were also trained to practice courteous, honorable behavior, which was considered extremely important.