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Foreign News: Most Noble

4 minute read
TIME

The very flower of Britain’s wartime heroes donned crimson and white robes of chivalry, last week, and assembled as the Most Noble Order of the Bath. The order is primarily militant. Civilians aspire to the Garter, but seldom to the Bath. Therefore last week it was a military pageant which moved with clanking swords through London, entered famed Westminster Abbey, traversed the long nave, and stamped with martial tread into the majestic, vaulted Chapel of Henry VII.

Connoisseurs know that in the lacelike stonework of this Chapel and in its cunningly carved oak chair stalls the English Gothic Style attained its richest and most intricate perfection. The resplendent scene was one to quicken blase hearts, as each Knight mounted to his carved niche, grasped his sword by the blade, and extended its upraised hilt toward the High Altar.

Dwarfed only by the Divine Presence, stood His Majesty, George V. King and Emperor, with two sturdy pages to support his long crimson and white train. At one side of the Altar sat Her Majesty, Mary, Queen and Empress, clad in a long, shimmering cloak of gold tissue with hat to match. In sombre contrast was the Cross Bearer, his face obscured by an early Saxon monkish cowl. The high purpose of His Majesty in convoking the Order, for the fourth time in the 18 years of his reign, came to august fruition as he proceeded to induct twelve new Knights of the Grand Cross of the Bath.

Foremost among the twelve loomed Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, still spruce at 67, who realized in 1917 the dream of Medieval Crusaders by capturing the Holy City of Jerusalem from Infidels who are still Infidels. Likewise among the twelve is Admiral Earl Jellicoe, trim and hearty at 68, who commanded the British Grand Fleet in the victorious though costly action at Jutland (1916) after which Ger mans did not again dispute the seas with Britons. The remaining Knights inducted, last week, were: General Sir Josceline Heneage Wodehouse, General Sir John Maxwell, Lieutenant General Sir Alfred Keogh, Admiral Sir Henry Bradwordine Jackson, Admiral Baron Wester Wemyss, Admiral Sir Charles Madden, Lt. Col. Sir Maurice Hankey, Sir Eric Geddes,* Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith and Baron Brad bury of Winsford. As a stirring climax to the induction of the Twelve, there was administered to them this Knightly Oath: “You shall honor God above all things ; you shall be steadfast in the faith of Christ. You shall love the King your Sovereign Lord, and him and his right defend to your power. You shall defend maidens, widows and orphans in their rights and shall suffer no extortion as far as you may prevent it, and of as great honor be this order unto you as ever it was to any of your progenitors or others.” After so ennobling a ceremony observers regretted that they could not banish from memory the gross legend which recounts how King Henry IV (1367-1413) was moved to establish the Order of the Bath. A certain courageous soldier had knelt before the Sovereign to be knighted, but His Majesty, although not squeamish, recoiled at the kneeling man’s terrific exudations. Tactful, King Henry IV, is said to have thereupon declared: “This brave fellow requires rest and refreshment after his prolonged heroism. Take him away and give him a bath and fresh raiment and sustenance. Then bring him again before me to be knighted.”

*Though a paunchy civilian and chiefly famed as Chairman of the Dunlop Rubber Co., he could squeak into the militant Order of the Bath through having been, during the War, an Honorary Major General and then First Lord of the Admiralty.

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