Project Ordensnamen
What do you mean that the Anceint and Venerable Order of the Most Holy and Righteous Wombat's Toenail isn't period?
By Meradudd Cethin

© 2002 Timothy Shead

Every kingdom has awards. Indeed, every barony has awards. However, The Crowns and baronages cannot just invent a name or device. Corpora is quite clear on the matter.

Kingdoms may establish awards and orders conferring Awards or Grants of Arms, and the Crown may award membership in such orders according to the laws and customs of the kingdom. The names and insignia of these awards and orders must be ratified by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms. (Corpora VIII.B.2) (emphasis mine)


Non-armigerous awards and orders may be established by a kingdom, principality or barony, according to the laws and customs of the kingdom. The names and insignia of these awards and orders must be ratified by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms (ibid. VIII.B.4) (emphasis mine)

Further, there are specific guidelines concerning how an order name should be constructed. The Rules for Submission is rather clear.

Names of orders and awards must follow the patterns of the names of period orders and awards (RfS III.2.b.ii)

Fine, but what ARE the patterns for period orders? The RfS gives 10 examples, mentioning that they are often names of saints and similar to sign names. This article attempts to expand on that, examining differing construction patterns and the relative commonality of them.

A note about the data set: There are a number of problems with assembling a conclusive and solid data set. First is the paucity of scholarly resources on the subject. To date, two significant works have been written on the history of chivalric orders with any substantive scholarly value (Barber's The Knight and Chivalry and Keen's Chivalry). They are, however, not without their flaws. Pinning down exact dates and places of the origins of these orders is not of primary importance to the authors. So, too, if the Order of St. Sebastian of Acre (made up order) also called themselves the Order of St. Sebastian... it's not a big deal to most historians but it IS important for us. Combine this with translation difficulties (Toison d'Or, literally translated, is Fleece of Gold, not Golden Fleece. Minor difference, except when trying to track name patterns), numerous falsified orders, genuine post-period orders with falsified backgrounds and orders who either had multiple names over time OR absorbed/branched off into different orders over time. Numerous articles have been written on the internet of wildly varied quality. The ones included in the data set have been carefully analyzed for accuracy and scholarly value.

Taking in all this information, assimilating it into some dated, documentable format that can be analyzed and then breaking down the information was the primary task. Even after all that, there are only 263 documentable period names for orders (as opposed to 597 registered SCA orders (not including the non-SCA orders protected by the CoA)). As such, the divisions between the major groupings should be viewed with caution.


I have analyzed and broken down the order names into 10 grouping elements.

Names - personal names, including those of Christ and God.
St. John, Jesus Christ, St. Hubert of Lorraine, Our Lady of Mercy.
Things - tangible objects including plants
Oak, Ship and the Shell, Lily of Navarre, Sword Brothers
Creatures - both fantastic and real beasts
Unicorn, Dragon, Dove, Greyhound
Places - countries, cities and buildings
Belgium, Malta, Santiago, Holy Sepulchre of Jeruselum
Groups - names of groups of people
Fools, Templars, Argonauts of St. Nicholas, Nobles of Catalonia
Adjectives -non-colour descriptors
Two Moons, Holy Phial, Prisoner's Iron, Precious Blood
Colours - colour-based descriptors
Golden Knights, Yellow Ribbon, White Eagle, Le Cordon Bleu
Qualities - intangible descriptors
Silence, Passion of Christ, Our Lady of Mercy, Christian Charity
Events - Time-related descriptors
Concord, Conception of Our Lady, Most Holy Annunciation, Alliance
Body Part - a specific descriptor referring to a part of a body
Wing of St. Micheal, St. Micheal's Wing


By far the most numerous element was the name. Almost 41% of the period orders in the data set had a personal name somewhere in the order name and most of these names were that of a saint. As most orders were either initiated or 'recognized' by the Church, and many surrounded elements of the Crusades, this should not be a surprize.

Places and things were the next more common element in period order names, comprizing over 26% and 29% respectively.

General adjectives amd creatires were common, but not terribly so, in period names, with almost 12% and 11% of the names having these elements.

Colour adjectives and groups were frequently used as period order name elements, with almost 8% and 10% respectively being used. Of interest, no heraldic names for colours were used, and most examples were the colour gold.

Infrequently used elements (under 5%) were events, qualities and body parts.


To paraphrase a Hindu proverb. "There are many ways to choose a name; by culture, by occupation, by sound. So too, there are many ways to construct an order name."

In the data set, there are no fewer than 63 different construction patterns. No single construction pattern comprises even 13% of the data set. Still, four main groups of patterns show up. They are grouped by frequency.


The most common pattern is that of <name>. With 34 examples of "Order of <name>", this comprises 12.93% of the data set. Of interest, with the exception of 'Pius' (named for Pope Pius) Lazarus (biblical figure) and Godefroy (???), all are either saints (including Mary) or God (or allusions to same).

e.g. Our Lady, Jesus Christ, Pius, Lazarus, St. James

The second most common pattern is <thing>. There are 32 examples of this pattern making up 12.17% of the data set.

e.g. Thistle, Bath, Garter, Collar, Fleet

The third most common pattern is <name + place>, with 30 examples comprising 11.41% of the data set. Of interest, most examples are <person of town> and none are places of buildings.

e.g. St. John of Acre, Our Saviour of the World., Jesus at Rome, St. George of Burgundy. St. Benedict of Avis.

The next two most common patterns are <creature> and <place>, with 18 examples (6.84%) of creatures and 19 examples (7.22%) of places..

Creatures - Porcupine, Salamander, Lioness, Elephant, Dragon

Place - Aubrac, Dobrzyn, Calatrava, Prussia, Rhodes


Construction patterns comprising up to 5% of the data set.


These construction patterns have less than 5 examples for each pattern.

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