Fount of honour
The fount of honour (Latin: fons honorum) refers to a person, who, by virtue of his or her official position, has the exclusive right of conferring legitimate titles of nobility and orders of chivalry to other persons.
During the High Middle Ages, European knights were essentially armoured, mounted warriors; it was common practice for knight commanders to confer knighthoods upon their finest soldiers, who in turn had the right to confer knighthood on others upon attaining command. For most of the Middle Ages, it was possible for private individuals to form orders of chivalry. The oldest existing order of chivalry, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, was formed as a private organization which later received official sanction from church and state.
The 13th century witnessed the trend of monarchs, beginning with Emperor Frederick II (as King of Sicily) in 1231, to reserve the right of fons honorum to themselves, gradually abrogating the right of knights to elevate their esquires to knighthood. After the end of feudalism and the rise of the nation-states, orders and knighthoods, along with titles of nobility (in the case of monarchies), became the domain for the monarchs (heads of state) to reward their loyal subjects (citizens) – in other words, the heads of state became their nations' "fountains of honour".
Many of the old-style military knights resented what they considered to be a royal encroachment on their independence. The late British social anthropologist, Julian A. Pitt-Rivers, noted that "while the sovereign is the 'fount of honour' in one sense, he is also the enemy of honour in another, since he claims to arbitrate in regard to it." By the early thirteenth century, when an unknown author composed L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal (a verse biography of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, often regarded as the greatest medieval English knight),) Richard W. Kaeuper notes that "the author bemoans the fact that, in his day, the spirit of chivalry has been imprisoned; the life of the knight errant, he charges, has been reduced to that of the litigant in courts."
Legality of honour
The question whether an order is a legitimate Chivalric order or a self-styled order coincides with the fons honorum. A legitimate fount of honour is a person or entity who held sovereignty when the order was established. The Official Website of the British Monarchy states: " As the 'fountain of honour' in the United Kingdom, The Queen has the sole right of conferring all titles of honour, including life peerages, knighthoods and gallantry awards."
The Papal Orders of Chivalry comprise eight orders awarded by the Pope. An additional eleven orders are under their jurisdiction or protection. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, "...the reigning emperor in his lifetime is alone the fount of honor..." The Holy See is the sovereign authority and the Pope, as Bishop of Rome is its highest executive, affording to them the equivalent role of Emperor.
Official orders are conferred with the sanction of a sovereign state. Ultimately, it is the authority of the state, whether exercised by a reigning monarch or the president of a republic, that distinguishes orders of chivalry from private organizations. Private individuals, whether commoners, knights, or noblemen, no longer have the right to confer titles of nobility, knighthood or orders of chivalry upon others.
In the United Kingdom, where the fount of honour is the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, some private societies (such as the Royal Humane Society) have permissions from the monarch to award medals which may be worn by those in uniform provided the private society's medal is worn on the right-side rather than the usual left. In the United Kingdom it is the authority of the monarch that confers honours and peerages not the authority of the state. In France, however, with very few exceptions, non-government orders and medals are not allowed to be worn at all. In Spain the fount of honour is King Juan Carlos as the head of state.
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- Gautier, Léon, translated from French by Henry Frith (1891). Chivalry. Glasglow: G. Routledge and Sons. p. 223. "Every knight has the power to create knights"
- Wollock, Jennifer G. Rethinking chivalry and courtly love. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger. p. 75. ISBN 9780275984885.
- Anna, ed. by Luigi G. De (2003). Milites pacis : Military and peace services in the history of Chivalric orders : proceedings of the Conference: The Monks of War - the Monks of Peace, Military and Peace Services in the History of Chivalric Orders, Turku 15. - 26. 5- 2001. Turku: Univ. p. 82. ISBN 9789512924257.
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- Stevenson, Katie (2006). Chivalry and knighthood in Scotland, 1424-1513. Woodbridge [u.a.]: Boydell Press. p. 8. ISBN 9781843831921.
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- Bush, M.L. (1988). Rich noble, poor noble. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780719023811.
- McCreery, Christopher (2005). The Order of Canada : its origins, history, and development (Reprint. ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 3–16. ISBN 9780802039408.
- Pitt-Rivers, Julian, Honor and Social Status, Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society, Jean G. Peristany, ed., 20-77 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 30.
- Paul Meyer, L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal (Paris: Société de l'histoire de France, 1891–1901), with partial translation of the original sources into Modern French. Edition, History of William Marshal, (3 vols) Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3.
- Kaeuper, Richard W. (1999). Chivalry and violence in medieval Europe (Repr. ed.). Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780198207306.
- Matikkala, Antti (2008). The orders of knighthood and the formation of the British honours system, 1660-1760. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. pp. 211–13. ISBN 9781843834236.
- Hieronymussen, Paul; Crowley], photographed by Aage Strüwing ; [translated into English by Christine (1970). Orders, medals, and decorations of Britain and Europe in colour (2d ed. ed.). London: Blandford Press. ISBN 0713704454. "In practice, it may be found that the Royal Knighthoods still extant and the true Orders of Merit are identical, but they can differ in their external presentation. The Order can be either the prerogative of The Sovereign, which means that the reigning member of the Royal House rules the institution as the Master of the Order, or it can be a State institution, the President of the country, as Grand Master of the State Orders, having the final decision in all question concerning the Order."
- "Queen and Honours". The Officiial Website of the British Monarchy. London: The Royal Household. 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2012. "As the 'fountain of honour' in the United Kingdom, The Queen has the sole right of conferring all titles of honour, including life peerages, knighthoods and gallantry awards."
- Duren, Peter Bander van (1995). Orders of knighthood and of merit : the pontifical, religious and secularised Catholic-founded Orders and their relationship to the Apostolic See. Gerrards Cross: Smythe. pp. 307–94. ISBN 9780861403714.
- McCreery, Christopher (2008). Maple leaf and the white cross : a history of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: Dundurn. p. 26. ISBN 9781550027402. "Before the Royal Charter of Incorporation of 1888, the Order of St. John had no official status in Britain or throughout the British Empire as an honour.The situation was not unlike that now experienced by bodies using the name designation The Order of St. Lazarus. The Order of St. John was simply a charitable organization that involved itself in the teaching of first aid ambulance duties that happened to have attached to it an order of chivalry; on that was unrecognized by all relevant authorities--the Order of Malta, Papal officials, and, most important, the government of the United Kingdom...The involvement of the Prince of Wales was central in affording legitimacy to the Order as it evolved from what was little more than a private club to an official British order of chivalry engaged in important charitable works"
- [1.pdf JSP 761: Honours and Awards in the Armed Forces] (2nd ed.). London: Joint Service Publication, Ministry of Defense. May 2008. pp. 12B–4. Retrieved 29 November 2012. "only the Life Saving Medal of the Order of St John, The Royal Humane Society medals, Stanhope Gold Medal and the medal of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution may be worn on the right side of the chest"
- The King's regulations and orders for the army. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office. 1908. p. 287.
- "The Crown Today: Functions of the Head of State". Official Page of The Royal Household of His Majesty the King. www.casareal.es owned by the House of His Majesty the King (Palacio de la Zarzuela, Madrid 28071, Spain). Retrieved 29 November 2012. "Pursuant to the Constitution, the King is a symbol of the unity of the State, and as such, it is incumbent upon him to participate in important State acts...It is also incumbent upon the King to...Confer civil and military positions, as well as award honours and distinctions (Article 62 f)."