A Family History of Chivalry
One of the most enjoyable things about researching your family history is learning about some lesser-known historical facts. This can be even more exciting when you discover that your ancestors had a part to play.
For example, it can be a thrilling moment when you discover that there was a knight in your family tree.
It can be a bit of a surprise if you find out that the knight was a woman.
During the middle ages, there were several orders of knighthood for women such as:
The Order of the Hatchet
Founded by the Count of Barcellona in 1149, The Order of the Hatchet honored the women who fought against the Moors in defense of the town of Tortosa. The Order granted the lady knights precedence over men at public assembly as well as an exemption from taxes.
The Order of the Glorious Saint Mary
Loderigo d’Andalo, an Italian nobleman from the town of Bologna founded The Order of the Glorious Saint Mary in 1233. Later approved by Pope Alexander IV in 1261, this was the first of the religious orders of knighthood granted to women.
The Order of the Garter
The Order of the Garter was granted to 68 women between the years 1358 and 1488. Many of the women appointed to this order were wives of knights of the order or those of noble blood: although, there were members who were neither. A symbol of the Knights of the Garter is a garter worn upon the left arm; many such are seen on the headstones of those inducted into the order.
The term for a woman who has been knighted is “Dame”.
If you find this title associated with one of your ancestors it will be because she belonged to an order of chivalry. Often these titles are only held for life and are not hereditary.