Prehistoric chivalry, about which very little is known, if indeed it ever existed, and chivalry, which sprang into existence almost simultaneously with Christianity, and received its religious sanction, would seem to have had one element of surpassing interest in common, gradually developing as time went on, and always serving as a test of merit - the defence of the innocent and weak against the criminal and strong, with the subjugation of the oppressor as a natural and most desirable result of the struggle.
As some of the duties imposed by chivalry on the members of its orders were, therefore, of a militant character, demanding at times the exercise of considerable bodily strength and endurance, it is somewhat surprising to find that many of the orders have admitted women as well as men to their membership, and that several orders have been founded expressly for women only, or have female branches.
The first order of chivalry whose origin has some historical foundation is that of the Holy Ghost, established by Saint Martha at Jerusalem, in 33 a.d., and reconstituted by Guy de Montpelier in 1195.
The second order, that of St. George, was founded by an emperor - Constantine the Great - in 312, and afterwards re-established by Isaac Angelus II. at Byzantium in 1192 ; but the third order owed its foundation to St. Helena, Constantino's mother, who discovered the Holy Sepulchre, built a church over it and around it, established a monastery of Canons Regular of St. Augustine to tend and serve there, and in 326 founded the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, at Jerusalem, to defend and protect the church and holy site, and all the pilgrims who came there. Baldwin I. re-established the order in 1110. Thus two out of the first three orders of chivalry, instituted in historical times, were founded by women, but a gap of many years occur before another woman continued the work. This was in 711, when Beatrice de Cleves founded the Order of the Swan in the Duchy of Cleves.
Later on, in 1191, the wife of a German noble assisted her husband in establishing the Order of the Teutonic Hospitallers at Jerusalem, where both were residing at the time, with the primary object of helping and protecting German pilgrims in Palestine. The order spread to Austria, Holland, Prussia, Russia, and Spain, where it was known under different names, and became rich and powerful.
St. Bridget founded the Order of the Brician Knights in 1366 to defend Christianity in Sweden ; and Anne of Austria, widow of Louis XIII. and mother of Louis XIV., instituted that of the Collar of the Holy Rosary in 1645, for women, with the object of calming the factious spirit, which had taken possession of the French nobility and was quickly destroying the domestic happiness of all the great houses in France.
It is interesting to note that Christina, Queen of Sweden, and daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, founded the Order of the Amaranth in 1653, for both sexes, in memory of a very dear friend of hers, a, lady of superlative beauty, courage, and piety ; and that Eleanor de Gonzaga, Empress of Germany, formed the Order of the Slaves of Virtue, for women only, in 1662, in the hope of increasing thereby the piety of the ladies at her court in Vienna.
There is something more than ordinarily dramatic about the foundation of the Order of the Star Cross. A great fire suddenly burst forth in the palace in Vienna, and the same Empress Eleanor very nearly perished in the flames. A portion of the true Cross had been presented as a relic to her Majesty, and she wore it encased in a casket of gold and precious stones. In the flight from the blazing palace, the casket was dropped and lost.
Next day search was made for it, and amidst the ruins it was found, with the hinges broken and the metal melted almost out of recognition. Yet the relic inside remained uninjured. The Order of the Star Cross was thereupon founded by the Empress in 1668, in commemoration of this remarkable salvage of the relic, and to serve as a thankoffering for the providential escape of the founder.
A quaint conception was that of Louise de Bourbon, Duchesse de Maine, who in 1703 established the Order of the Bee, for women only, in Sceaux, and appointed for its bad a medallion, with a portrait of herself on one side, and the representation of a bee on the other, having as a legend around it, " Je suis petite, mais mes blessures sont profondes."
In the same year Queen Anne, of these islands, remodelled the Order of the Thistle, which Scots are pleased to declare was originated as the Order of the Rue by their King Achaius, in 809 or 810.
One order possesses a gruesome appellation, and it is that of the Death's Head, which Louise, the widowed daughter of Silvius, Duke of Wurtemberg, revived in 1709. The Duke had founded it in 1652. Only women were admitted, and the object of its foundation was to remind its members of the certainty of death, and to warn them against evil living.
The Empress Elizabeth Christian has conveyed a pretty suggestion by founding in Austria the Order of Neighbourly Love, for both sexes, in 1708 ; and Catharine I. displayed devotion to the memory of her husband, Peter the Great, by instituting the Order of Alexander Newsky, in 1725, in accordance with the desire expressed by the Tsar before he died. This was founded for both sexes.
Two other Queens of Britain, in addition to Queen Anne, were responsible for orders. Caroline of Anspach, wife of George IV.. founded that of St. Caroline of Jerusalem in 1816; and Queen Victoria instituted the Orders of the Star of India for men in 1861, Victoria and Albert for women in 1862. Indian Empire for men in 1878, Crown of India for women in the same year, and Victorian Order for men in 1896.
Admission to the Order of the White Eagle, established in Poland in 1325, and reconstituted in Prussia in 1713, was offered to, and accepted by, the Empress Catharine I. of Russia ; and the Order of the White Elephant, instituted in Siam in 1861, can boast of the reception of its decoration by the . late Queen Victoria.
Other orders, of less interesting creations, which have been founded by women are those of Tiers Ordre in 1265 by Isabella Berti and Eulalia Pius at Barcelona ; Cor-deliere in 1498 by Anne, widow of Charles VIII.; in France ; Maria Eleonora in 1632 by Queen Maria Eleonora in Sweden ; St. Anne in 1683 by Countess Anne Maria in Fran-conia ; Perfect Union in 1732 by Queen Sophia Magdalen in Denmark ; the Fan in 1744 by Queen Louisa Ulrica in Sweden ; Elizabeth Theresa in 1750 by Elizabeth Christina, wife of Charles VI., in Austria. To be continued.