Thursday, 21 November 2013

Societas Draconistrarum: A Brief Look at the Chivalric Order

Societas Draconistrarum

The Order of the Dragon was founded in 1408 by Sigismund I of Hungary (who would later become Holy Roman Emperor) and it was similar to other chivalric orders of the time. Its main purpose was to fight the enemies of Christianity, mainly the Turks. However, its enemies also included heretics. Initially, 21 men were inducted into the order ( there was about 24 in 1418). Sigismund later decided to expand the order and between 1431-1437 a second group of inductees were initiated. As the order became larger it began to have two degrees: a superior one and a larger inferior one. The superior degree had the dragon and the cross as its emblem, whereas the inferior one only had the dragon as its symbol. The order became less prominent after Sigismund's death, but its emblem remained on the coats of arms of several Hungarian noble families. The order had quite a number of important members, such as Henry V of England and Vlad II Dracula.

                                                     A Reconstruction of the Order Patch
Henry V of England , famous for his campaigning in France, was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, in exchange for Sigismund being inducted into the Order of the Garter. These inductions came about when Sigismund visited England in hope of making peace between. England and France. Sigismund's plan was to persuade Henry to change his demands against the French. Throughout, Sigismund's visit Henry lavishly entertained him.

 Henry had even intended to crusade for the Order of the Dragon after he had united the English and French thrones, but he died before his plans were fulfilled. The Treaty of Canterbury (1416) sealed an offensive and defensive alliance against France, between Henry V and Sigismund. This was likely due to Sigismund shift away from France and towards England after Henry V's victory  the Battle of Agincourt (1415).
                                                      Sigismund, who founded the Order

Vlad II Dracul (the father of Vlad III Dracula) received this surname in 1431, after being inducted into the Order of the Dragon. He took on the sobriquet in reference to his induction. 'Dracul' derives from the Latin 'Draco' which means 'The Dragon'. His son Vlad III signed some documents using 'Dracula' which literally means 'Son of Dracul' or 'Son of he who was member of the Order of the Dragon'.

The Order of the Dragon seems rather mysterious in a sense, but it could have just been a simple chivalric order. After all, it there were and are other chivalric orders with similarities. The Order of the Dragon itself was modelled after the Order of St.George to some extent. However, the Order's almost disappearance from history, after a point, makes the Order even more intriguing.

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