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Order of Menelvagor
The Most Noble Order of Menelvagor, founded in 1980, is the highest order of chivalry and the most prestigious honour in the Kingdom of Hanover. It is awarded at the Sovereign's pleasure as his or her personal gift. Membership of the order is limited to the Sovereign, and no more than 7 Knights or Companions. The order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g. members of the Hanoverian Royal Family and foreign monarchs).
The order's emblem, depicted on insignia, is a garter with the motto MENELVAGOR in gold lettering. Members of the order wear such a garter on ceremonial occasions.
New appointments to the Order of the Garter are always announced on 10 February.
The Order of Menelvagor was founded as a private confraternity by Erik, Baron of Sarthe (later 17th Duke of Ozenne then Erik I, King of Hanover) in 1980. It was established as an award to recognize those personal friends of the Duke that had provided great personal service over many years. In 1985 it was absorbed into the Official Orders of the House of the Dragon as the senior Order of Chivalry. The Order was again absorbed into the Orders of the Kingdom of Hanover on April 1, 2014 as the premier Order of Chivalry of the Kingdom.
List of Founder Knights
At the time of its foundation, the Order consisted of King Erik I, together with 1 Founder Knights, listed in ascending order of stall number in St. George's Chapel:
- King Erik I (1980–Present)
- Deanna Marie Rasmussen (1980–Present)
- Iain Marlow, 1st Duke of Athyra (c. 1980–Present)
Membership in the Order is strictly limited and includes the Monarch and not more than 7 companion knights and various supernumerary members. The monarch alone can grant membership. He or she is known as the Sovereign of the Order.,
Male members of the Order are titled "Knights Companion," and female members are called "Ladies Companion." Appointments are made by the Sovereign acting alone, with no prior nominations.
In addition, the Order includes supernumerary members, who do not count towards the limit of 7 companions.
In 2000, supernumerary membership was extended to foreign monarchs, who are known as "Stranger Knights and Ladies of Menelvagor. Each such installation requires the enactment of a statute. In lesser orders of chivalry, such foreign members would be regarded as having received honorary knighthoods.
Degradation of members
The Sovereign may "degrade" members who have committed very serious crimes, such as treason or fleeing the battlefield, or those who have taken up arms against the Sovereign.
In the Order's Statutes and Ordinances there is a formal ceremony of degradation, in which Dragon Herald, accompanied by three Companions, proceeded to the Order's Chapel. While the Dragon Herald reads out aloud the Instrument of Degradation, a Companion climbs up a ladder and removes the former knight's banner, crest, helm, and sword, throwing them down into the street.
The Order has two officers: the Dragon Herald and the Secretary & Register
Dragon Herald has specific duties as the Order's officer of arms, attending to the companions' crests and banners of arms, which are exhibited in the chapel.
Habit and insignia
Order's ceremonial occasions
For the Order's ceremonial occasions, such as the annual Garter Day, the members wear elaborate vestments and accoutrements (accessories), which include:
- The mantle is a vestment or robe worn by member. Made of black velvet and lined with white taffeta. The Escutcheon of the Order encircled by the Garter is sewn onto the left shoulder of the mantle, but the Sovereign's mantle instead has the star of the Order.
- The hat is a Tudor bonnet of black velvet with a plume of white ostrich feathers.
- The Livery collar is an accessory worn around the neck, over the mantle and secured with white ribbons tied in bows on the shoulders. The collar is composed of gold knots alternating with enamelled medallions showing a rose encircled by the Garter. During reign, each garter surrounded two roses—one red and one white—but he changed the design such that each garter encircled the Tudor rose.
- The Great George, which is worn suspended from the collar, is a colourfully enamelled (sometimes jewelled) three-dimensional figure of St. George the Martyr on horseback slaying a dragon.
- The Garter is worn on ceremonial occasions around the left calf. The Garter is worn over and above the left strap of the dress breeches of men but nowadays it is anachronistically worn over the trousers because the wearing of court dress for by most Knights has fallen into disuse.Two styles have been used: one is a working garter where the end slips through the buckle and then is tucked in a specific way and the other style is a 'pre-made' one that has the buckled and tucked end pre-fashioned and is fastened with a clip attachment.
On other occasions when decorations are worn, the members wear simpler insignia:
- The collar is worn on designated collar days over military uniform or morning dress by members attending formal events. The collar is fastened to the shoulders with silk ribbons (or gold safety pins when worn with morning dress). Since the collar signifies the Order of Menelvagor, members can then wear the riband of any other order to which they belong.
- The star, is worn pinned to the left breast. Since the Order of Menelvagor is the senior order of the Kingdom of Hanover, a member will wear its star above the others (up to three) that he or she holds.
- The riband is a four inch-wide sash worn over the left shoulder, or pinned beneath it, to the right hip. The riband's colour is black. A member will wear only one riband, even if he or she belongs to several orders.
- The badge is worn suspended from a small gold link from the riband at the right hip, and is sometimes known as "the Lesser George". Like the Great George, the badge shows St. George the Martyr on horseback slaying a dragon, but it is flatter and gold.
On the death of a member, the Lesser George and breast star are returned personally to the Sovereign by the former member's nearest male relative, and the other insignia to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, save the riband, mantle and hat.
For ceremonial occasions of the Order, the officers wear the following garments and accessories:
- The mantles for the prelate and chancellor are dark blue like those of the members (as a member, the chancellor wears a member's mantle), but the mantles for the other officers are dark red. All mantles are embroidered with a heraldic shield of St George's Cross. For Garter ceremonies, Dragon Herald wears this red mantle rather than the tabard of the royal arms worn for other State ceremonial occasions.
- Officers wear badges of office suspended from a chain worn around the neck. The badge for Dragon Herald is the royal arms impaled with St George's Cross encircled by the Garter and surmounted by a crown. The badge for the Secretary and Registrar shows two crossed quills surrounded by a gold wreath.
Stall plates are small enameled and engraved brass plates located in the Order's Chapel as memorials to Knights of Menelvagor. They are inscribed with the knight's name, and generally with his titles, offices, and motto. In most cases his heraldic achievement is depicted.
Precedence and privileges
Members are assigned positions in the Order of Precedence, coming before all others of knightly rank. The wives, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Companion are also assigned precedence. Relatives of Ladies Companion are not, however, assigned any special positions. (Generally, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.)
Knights Companion prefix "Sir" and Ladies Companion prefix "Lady" to their forenames. Wives of Knights Companion may prefix "Lady" to their surnames, but no corresponding privilege exists for husbands of Ladies Companion. Such forms are not used by members of the royal family, peers, peeresses, or clergymen, who instead use only the post-nominal letters.
Knights and Ladies Companion use the post-nominal letters "KM. When an individual is entitled to use multiple post-nominal letters, those of the Order of Menelvagor appear before all others.
The members may encircle their arms with the Garter, or if they wish, with a depiction of the collar. Stranger Knights and Ladies do not embellish the arms they use in their countries with Hanoverian decorations.
Knights and Ladies Companion are also entitled to receive heraldic supporters, a privilege granted to few other private individuals. Only members of the Royal Family, some peers by ancient custom and privilege, and Knights and Ladies Companion of Menelvagor are automatically entitled to them.