Order of the Bath

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Insignia of the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Department
Insignia of the Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Department
Shoulder ribbon and breast star of the Knight Grand Cross of the civil division

The Most Honorable Order of the Bath ( German  high honor Full Order of the Bath , shortly Bathorden ) is a British government military orders , the 1725 by I. King George was donated and will be awarded the day mainly high military and civil officials.

Order classes

Originally the order only had one class, that of the Knight Companion (KB). From 1815 this was abolished and three classes were introduced. There are numerical limits for the number of members. The order includes the following classes since 1815:

  1. Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCB)
  2. Knight Commander (KCB) or Dame Commander (DCB)
  3. Companion (CB)

The totality of the members of the order is divided into a civil and a military division ( Civil Division and Military Division ), whereby the insignia of the Military Division differ from those of the Civil Division in all degrees of the Order of the Bath .

In addition, the order has a number of offices: The sovereign of the Order of the Bath is the respective British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The sovereign is assisted by an order grandmaster, currently Prince Charles . There are six administrative offices within the order : dean, herald , registrar and secretary, deputy secretary, genealogist ( Thomas Woodcock ) and servant (gentleman usher). The office of dean of a British knightly order has traditionally been held by the chief clergyman of the respective order's chapel, for the Order of the Bath this is the dean of Westminster , currently John Robert Hall . The Herald is called the Bath King of Arms ; however, he is not a member of the College of Arms . The order servant of the Order of the Bath is referred to as the Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod . Unlike the order servant of the Order of the Garter (the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod ), he has no duties in the House of Lords .

Order day is October 20th. The motto of the order is Tria juncta in uno(three united in one) for the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. In the ranking of orders and decorations of the United Kingdom he ranks fourth among the orders of knighthood.


Like most other orders and decorations in the United Kingdom , the Order of the Bath is awarded by the monarch on the basis of a nomination by the Prime Minister . The vast majority of proposals are submitted via the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior ( Home Office ). The United Kingdom Department of Foreign Affairs or the United Kingdom diplomatic missions are responsible for awarding foreign nationals, including foreign diplomats, and forward the recommendation to the Prime Minister's Office.

First and foremost, high soldiers and officials are honored with admission to the Order of the Bath. This can also be seen in the numerical limit on the number of order members. As a Knight Grand Cross can only military personnel, at least the rank of Major General of the Army , Air Vice Marshal of the Royal Air Force or Rear Admiral of the Royal Navy hold, and civilians are awarded to top positions, especially in the public service and in the diplomatic field (maximum 120 ). For Knight Commander only military personnel, at least the rank of be Colonel of the Army, Group Captain of the Royal Air Force or Captain hold the Navy and civilian officials in comparable positions appointed; the maximum number of holders is 355. Companions are either Major / Lieutenant Colonel of the Army, Squadron Leader / Wing Commander of the RAF, Lieutenant Commander / Commander of the Navy or senior officials of the British government; the maximum number of holders is 1925.

There are currently more than 2000 members in the order. In special circumstances, the monarch can appoint additional members of any class, but only on the recommendation of the government.

The medal is also the one that is awarded to foreign heads of state in diplomatic and protocol ceremonies during state visits. In this respect, people who are known for enrichment in office (such as Jacob Zuma ), who were dictators (such as Porfirio Díaz , Josip Broz Tito and Mobutu Sese Seko ) or who are accused of violating human rights also benefited from the Order of the Bath (like Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , General Suharto , Kenan Evren or Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz ).

Historical reference to the Knights of the Bath

The order refers to the medieval Knights of the Bath . Since the 12th century, the initiation ceremony has emerged: taking a bath before the actual accolade as a sign of ritual cleansing and keeping a vigil. With this special ceremony, mostly on special occasions such as on the eve of coronations, appointments of the heir to the throne as Prince of Wales or before royal weddings, young nobles were made Knight of the Bath . This joint accolade gave the awardees priority over a Knight Bachelor , but in contrast to the Order of the Garter did not establish a joint religious community. The last time the ceremony took place in 1661 before the coronation of Charles II .

On May 25, 1725, King George I founded the Order of the Bath, expressly referring to the tradition of the Knights of the Bath. The new Order of Merit received a class for military and one for civil service. The king issued detailed statutes for the order. An extension of the statutes introduced additional knights, whereupon the statutes were modified again on January 2, 1815 and the order received its current division into three order levels. The maximum number of Knights Grand Cross at that time was 72 servicemen (with the rank of Major General or Rear Admiral or above) and 12 civilians, the maximum number of Knights Commander was 180 servicemen (with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Full Captain or above), while all other officers of the Companions British forces could be appointed. On April 14, 1847, civil divisions were also added for the ranks of Knights Commander and Companions . On January 31, 1859, the order of Queen Victoria received new statutes, in which u. a. the number of members of the order of the various classes was re-established.

Until 1971 the order could not be awarded to women. In 1975 the highest order class (Dame Grand Cross) was first awarded to a woman, namely to Alice, Duchess of Gloucester , an aunt of Queen Elizabeth II.

Insignia and religious clothing

Prince Albert in regal clothing as the Knight Grand Cross, around 1842.

The medal is usually worn by male companions as a neck medal (more rarely in the buttonhole or on the medal buckle), women wear it on the lady's bow. Knights commanders also wear the insignia around their necks, ladies commanders on the lady's bow, with a breast star belonging to this level . Knights Grand Cross wear the insignia as a hip decoration on the shoulder band , which also includes a breast star.

The ribbon of the order is crimson. The medal of the civil division consists of a golden oval with the scepter on it, the three crowns with rose, thistle and clover, surrounded by the Latin motto of the order TRIA JUNCTA IN UNO. The medal of the military department consists of a golden Maltese cross with eight points, on the middle on white enamel the three crowns between rose, thistle and clover with two red circles, on it "Tria juncta in uno" , two laurel wreaths and below that written in German Motto ICH DIEN. The appearance of the medal is identical for all levels of the order, but the insignia of the Knights Grand Cross are slightly larger. The breast star for Knights Grand Cross of the civilian department consists of a central shield with three golden crowns, surrounded by a ring in red enamel with the motto TRIA JUNCTA IN UNOand a laurel wreath , which lies on a four-armed silver star , from the corners of which flames emerge. The breast star for Knights Grand Cross of the military department consists of a golden Maltese cross with silver flames and the center shield as described above, but below it a ribbon with the motto ICH DIEN. The breast star for Knights Commander is silver in the shape of a cross, the design of the middle shield as above.

Particularly ceremonial occasions, the holder of the wear Grand Cross religious characters at a golden necklace ( Collane ) consisting of nine crowns and eight golden wands with roses , thistles and Klee is formed by the 17 nodes are connected together.

The order's dress consists of a crimson-red satin coat with the star in embroidery, plus an upper skirt, undergarment and cap. In the 18th century, knights wore historicizing costumes from the 17th century. Today the order's mantle is worn over a uniform or suit.

Hierarchy and privileges

Only citizens of the United Kingdom or Commonwealth countries can become regular members of the Order of the Bath . Citizens of other countries can, however, be appointed honorary members. Knights and Dames Grand Cross have the letters GCB as an addition to their name ; Knights Commander and Dames Commander the letters KCB and DCB , respectively ; Companions use the letters CB (so-called post-nominal ).

The members of the Order received a position in the protocol Aryan ranking in the UK ( Order of Precedence ), a ranking in which the registered persons are classified according to their nominal significance and plays an important role in ceremonial events. Wives of male members are also accepted there; so are the sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander. In contrast, relatives of a female member are not included in the list.

By awarding the top two levels of the Order of the Bath, citizens of the United Kingdom and citizens of those Commonwealth countries that recognize the British monarch as their head of state ( Commonwealth Realms ) can be elevated to the nobility . The Knights Grand Cross and the Knight Commander is the occasion of the Order of Merit ( investiture ) by the monarch to the Knights ( Knight ) beaten and then use the title Sir before their first name. Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commander do not receive an accolade, but are also considered ennobled and bear the title of lady . Like the wives of all British Knights, the wives of the Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath are allowed to use the addition Lady as a courtesy title in front of their name; a comparable privilege does not exist for the husbands of the Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commander.

Anglican clergyman received a knighthood (knighthood) not, any more than the foreign members of the Order of the Bath. Anyone who is not a citizen of the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth Realm is an honorary member of the Order.

Knights and Dames Grand Cross are authorized to include shield holders in their coat of arms . You may also include a bracelet showing the motto of the order and an image of the collar in your coat of arms, Knights and Dames Commander and Companions only the bracelet, not the collar.


Giovanni Antonio Canal : The Interior of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey (around 1750)

The Order's chapel is the Lady Chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey in London. As a rule, an induction ceremony with church service takes place every four years, the last being on May 24, 2018. The monarch is present every second time, i.e. every eight years.

The Monarch and the Knights and Dames Grand Cross have their places in the choir stalls of the chapel, with their respective heraldic symbols attached above each order member : Each order member shows his helmet , surrounded by the helmet cover and surmounted by the crest . His heraldic banner hangs above it . According to English coat of arms law , the coats of arms of women other than the monarch do not show helmets and crests; instead a diadem is used according to the lady's rank. On the back of the choir stalls there are brass plates on which the name of the order member, his coat of arms and the date of admission into the order can be seen. If a member of the Order dies, the banner, helmet, helmet cover and crest are removed; the plate, however, remains attached to the stalls. Today, the panels form a colorful decoration of the seating and an interesting overview of the members of the order.

Since there is not enough space in the choir stalls of the Lady Chapel even for the Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, only the most senior knights (i.e. whose appointment as Knight or Dame Grand Cross was the longest ago) can have their own seat with a banner . If an order member dies, the next unplaced member moves up. However, this can take a long time. For example, Lord Craig of Radley was accepted into the order in 1984, but was only assigned a place in the choir stalls in 2006.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The London Gazette : 16972, 17 , January 4, 1815.


  • Peter Galloway: The Order of the Bath . Phillimore, Chichester 2006, ISBN 1-86077-399-0
  • James Risk: The History of the Order of the Bath and its insignia. Spink, London 1972
  • Bath Order , in: Heide N. Rohloff (Ed.): A royal millennium. Stagings of a monarchy , catalog and manual for the exhibition of the British Crown Jewels (in replica) [The British Heritage Exhibition], Hanover: Congress Centrum; Tourismus Center, 1997, pp. 80f.
  • William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. A complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors. Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906.

Web links

Commons : Order of the Bath  - collection of images, videos and audio files