Saturday, 25 August 2012

Objections to the Reform of Grace and Devotion

The objections to such reforms comes from both those who believe that the essential nobiliary character of the Order should not in any way be compromised, and those who believe that their particular republican societies should maintain their (superficial veneer of) egalitarianism and that the establishment of a system of nobiliary proofs is elitist and contrary to the ethos of the present times.

Answer to the Critics

The most effective answer is to turn the question on its head and rather than looking at the noble proofs purely in the context of nobility, instead to emphasize that the reasons the Order became a nobiliary body was because membership was firstly confined to the leaders of society, who in the feudal period were necessarily landed and were of course either already nobles, drawn from the ranks of the knightly class or were among the recently ennobled. The system was maintained to perpetuate the commitment of these families to the Order (achieved through the establishment of jus patronatus commanderies) and to attract members of these families to service in the Order’s galleys and hospitals. The possibility that seniority would lead to the grant of a commandery was an incentive to draw in young recruits who were likely to provide an effective fighting force able to undertake the strenuous work in the Order’s hospitals.

It is in this aspect that the argument in favour of maintaining the system that is called noble proofs becomes sustainable in the 21st century. By conferring a particular place in the ranks of the Order to members of those families who provide the leadership of society, they are given an incentive to join the Order. This in turn benefits the Order because the social position and connections of these individuals, even if not as significant as in past generations, may prove useful to the Order in its work. Families which over the generations have provided knights and dames deserve to be marked out and specially recognised. Members of these families then have an additional incentive to join and encourage future generations of their families, particularly younger members, to maintain this same commitment.

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