Our History

The Order and the Second Crusade

The capture of the Frankish stronghold of Edessa by the Muslim ruler Zengi and the deaths of the capable Byzantine emperor, John Comnenus, and Fulk of Anjou, the king of Jerusalem, left the Christian position in the Holy Land by the 1140s dangerously exposed. Maintaining those outposts against Muslim reaction, with a relatively small occupying power and attenuated supply routes, was never going to be easy. The need for military reinforcements in the Holy Land led the Pope, along with many of the Christian rulers, to deem a crusade necessary. Within months, large armies from England, France, Germany and other smaller nations rallied to the call, forming what is now called the Second Crusade.

In May 1147, the first contingents of English crusaders, bolstered with others from the Low Countries, left from Dartmouth in England for the Holy Land. The departure of over ten thousand crusaders from the port of Dartmouth in May 1147 in a fleet of over 150 ships marked a second-stage initiative to continue the momentum and success of the First Crusade, which against the odds had captured Jerusalem and carved out crusader kingdoms in the Holy Land.

Bad weather forced the ships to stop on the Portuguese coast, at the northern city of Porto on 16 June 1147.

In the spring of 1147, the Pope had authorized the expansion of the crusade into the Iberian peninsula, in the context of the Reconquista. He also authorized Alfonso VII of León and Castile to equate his campaigns against the Moors with the rest of the Second Crusade. As such the crusaders were persuaded to aid King Alfonso I in his attempt to recapture Lisbon from the Moorish Islamic invaders. After the surrender of Lisbon on 25 October 1147, many of the crusaders settled in the newly captured city - taking advantage of the plunder and the fact that their crusader duties had been finished without having to travel all the way to the Levant. This was a key time in the forging of the nation of Portugal and was the start of our continued very good relations between England and that country.

However a handful of them (such as Baron Stephen and his knight companions) set sail and continued to the Holy Land.

Why they did that probably reflects on their behaviour up to that point.

Early knights could be less than "honourable". Our founder, Stephen de Mandeville, was (unfortunately) no exception. His involvement in the Second Crusade was explicitly in order to gain the plenary indulgence available to remit his punishment for his sins in the afterlife. As a Baron he had the ability to call upon a number of Knights in his service. Some remained in England to look after their land. Others chose to follow him, and it is those who formed his initial "Order of St Edward".

Stephen de Mandeville lived during the time of "the Anarchy" - the turbulent period of the reign of King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda after the death of King Henry I. The chronicle of Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, explicitly mentions Stephen as follows: "Stephen de Mandeville, likewise, a man of note, and a persevering soldier, who greatly exalted the earldom of Devon, actively fomented the civil war in those parts. He repaired the old castles, which the necessities of a former age had planted on the summits of precipitous rocks, subjected wide districts to his tyrannical rule, and was a most troublesome neighbour to the king’s adherents wherever he established himself. All these, and others whom I omit, not to be tedious, were busily employed in undermining the king’s power; and when he was anxiously engaged in allaying these disturbances, sometimes in one quarter, sometimes in an other, they would suddenly unite in a body, and vigilantly defeat his designs. In like manner, the royalists, in the several counties of England, attacked the castles whenever a fit opportunity offered, at one time by open hostilities, at another by surprise; so that, by these mutual depredations and alternate excursions and encounters, the kingdom, which was once the abode of joy, tranquility, and peace, was everywhere changed into a seat of war and slaughter, and devastation and woe."

After the Second Crusade, Stephen and his Knights remained in the Holy Land supporting the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Order died out.

Revival of the Order

Edward the Confessor was patronised heavily by King Henry III, an attachment which dominated his spiritual life and inspired his rebuilding of Westminster Abbey. His devotion was the result of the peculiar circumstances of the 1230's, which rendered him desperate for the support of a spiritual patron.The Confessor's model of lawful consensual kingship also accorded well with Henry's own adopted style.

The 'Cult' of St Edward encouraged by the King therefore set the seal for the Revival of the Order.

The Order was then enhanced in 1414 during the reign of Henry V - in effect the key moment on its 'modern' history. It was during Henry V's reign that English became the language of the Court instead of Norman French and Latin.

Although not particularly attached to the 'cult' of St Edward, Knights of the Court considered St. Edward an appropriate person to act as the spiritual patron, as he was (and remains) the only King of England to have been formally canonised as a Saint of the Catholic Church.

Up to the Tudor period (and also by King Charles II) knighthood was technically a requirement (although not always taken up) for anyone with freehold land worth over £40 a year over the previous 3 years. In addition, the Register of Knights was only instituted at the College of Arms on the order of King James I in a letter to the Earl Marshal dated 15th May 1622 - and even then was incomplete. Not everyone knighted was a member of one of the Monarchical orders (which had limited memberships), and indeed other orders of short and long term usage were widely prevalent at Court and in wider society - many without a formal constitution or set of statutes.

Our small Order was set up in such fashion and included Sir John Standish, a Knight Bachelor knighted by King Henry IV in 1409. We can't trace whether he was the 'leader' as such or specifically when. There are hints that it did relate to an emphasis on the 'English' changes at Court and that it was of especial concern to emphasise the legitimacy of the monarchy at the time. However it appears that it was primarily a gathering of like minded knights rather than a response to any individual event - the vicissitudes of politics rather than an event of itself. so in this case it did differ from the original foundation in 1144.