Order of Knight Venturers

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Banner of the order

The Most Noble Order of Venturers is today the premier Order in the Wesman honours system. The King of Wesmandy is Grand Master of the Order and it is awarded to men and, since 1980, women in the single class of Knight Companion of the Order. Members are usually referred to simply as "Knight Venturer"; they can use the title "Sir" or "Dame" and place the letters "KV" after their names. The number of Companions is limited to 28, as it has been since the order's foundation in 1167 (but in the Middle Era there was an unlimited number of Knights Deputy, a rank which no longer exists).

The order's minor modern role as an honour belies its fundamental importance in the history of Wesmandy.

History

Foundations

The Order of Knight Venturers - officially The Most Noble Order and Brotherhood of Venturers for the Honour and Glory of God - was founded by a group of Ingerish knights in 1105 for the purpose of defending the church and faith from all forms of attack, internal or external, wherever it may be threatened. It was a espiscopal creation, owing allegiance to Church rather than to any monarch, and was from the beginning a maritime force, travelling mainly by sea and acquiring arguably unrivalled skill in naval warfare.

The first Grand Master was Sir Thomas of Felbridge. He and most of the early senior knights were Ingerish and Ingerish was the functional language of the order, but recruits came from various countries (and other languages were occasionally used within particular units, although this was discouraged). There were 28 knights companion, each of whom commanded a brigade of knights deputy, squires, soldiers and support personnel. The order had no permanent home; instead it made its base wherever its main activity was taking place. This became problematic during periods of inactivity, because nobody particularly wanted to host large numbers of inactive, mostly foreign, soldiers and their followers.

The order's early campaigns were undertaken at the request of bishops for the purpose of defending the church, but it soon deteriorated into little more than a mercenary army, fighting for anyone who would pay and give it a temporary home. It became a state without territory.

The Caeltig-Norðmanni wars and establishment of Wesmandy

See also: History of Wesmandy

In 1202 the Grand Master Sir Thomas of Banley received a request from his son-in-law, King Meryn of Devnun, for help in defeating Norðmanni raiders, who had begun to establish permanent settlements in the Dihobarth and Kledbarth peninsulas (modern Tircambry, Ionadàlba, Wesmandy and Vinnmark ), rather than simply pillage, loot and leave, as they had done periodically over the previous couple of centuries. In return for help, Meryn offered the Order a permanent home in the north east of his territories. The entire order was mobilized for this, their greatest undertaking to date.

When they arrived in the Caeltig territories, the Knight Venturers set up bases in their promised home and also along other coasts, where they were uninvited but sometimes initially welcomed. They quickly became known as the "West men", as opposed to the Norðmanni or "North men", and in Ingerish this was soon contracted to Wesmen or Wesmans. The lands granted to them became the Duchy of the Wesmans, or Duchy of Wesmandy. The Grand Master was confirmed as Duke of Wesmandy ex officio.

Over 25 years of land and naval engagements, the Norðmanni were eventually defeated in Kledbarth (Tircambry) and Devnun, but held on longer in Ionadàlba, where the Venturers became more interested in grabbing some land for themselves than in defeating the Norðmanni.

The Grand Mastership and Dukedom

In the years before his death in 1216, Sir Robert of Canvey, Thomas of Banley's successor, bribed and cajoaled his fellow knights into promising to elect his son, Alfred, as Grand Master, which they duly did. This was not the first occasion that a Grand Master had attempted to contol the choice of his successor, but it was the first time that one had done so in favour of his own offspring.

When Alfred did the same thing before his death (in 1235) the precedent was established that not only was the Grand Mastership in the gift of the Grand Master himself, but that the office had become, in effect, hereditary. Some argued that this as a necessity in order to keep the mastership united with the dukedom of Wesmandy, since a dukedom implied noble blood and was therefore assumed to be hereditary (no such assumption had been mentioned 30 years earlier when the duchy was first granted).

Conquest of Devnun

By the time the Norðmanni were defeated, many Wesmen had settled in areas outside Wesmandy, on the coasts of Devnun, Morionys and Rhysiog, and were reluctant to leave. Conflicts ensued with their former allies : the Wesmen were evicted from Morionys and Rhysiog but fared better in Devnun where they remained in control of the north of the country.

Over the next few decades, until the Treaty of Stoneleigh in 1268, the Knight Venturers were the primary Wesman fighting force in intermittant conflicts with the Devnunii. The Treaty of Stoneleigh settled the border and the status of the Duke of Wesmandy as an autonomous ruler but subject to the King of Devnun.

Matters remained realitvely peaceful until 1304, when King Rewan "the Reckless" embarked on a campaign to oust the Duke. He lost and was forced to allow his daughter to marry the Duke of Wesmandy. Two years later Rewan died in suspicious circumstances and his infant grandson, Richard, became king, as well as being heir to the Duchy of Wesmandy. By 1323 Richard had become duke as well and assumed personal control of his government.

End of the Venturers as a military body

The number of active members of the Order of Knight Venturers declined after they had conquered and settled Wesmandy, but there remained a steady trickle of new members looking for adventure in keeping with the Order's original purpose. King Richard I and his successor King Edgar I, as Grand Masters of the Order, were reluctant to allow this, preferring to use the order solely for Wesman royal purposes.

When Edgar I died in 1377, a majority of the knights broke with established convention and elected their own candidate as Grand Master in preference to the new king. The order split and armed conflict ensued. The rebel forces were crushed in 1381, and their leaders either killed in battle or captured and executed.

In 1382 King Richard II issued new statutes of the Order which forbade Knight Venturers from raising or maintaining forces or ships except by commission from the Grand Master, and only for the duration of the commission. This fatally undermined the whole structure of the Order and effectively ended its role as a fighting force. Future Knights were chosen by the King as an honour rather than as military commanders (although many were soldiers), while future Wesman fighting forces were raised under the auspices of the Crown rather than the Order. Today the Order of Knight Venturers remains in existence as the highest award in the Wesman honours system.

List of Grand Masters of the Order of Knight Venturers

Arms Name Lifespan Term Nationality
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David of Ufford 1080-1120 1105-1120 Ingerish
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William of Calverton 1082-1131 1120-1124 (deposed) Ingerish
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John, Lord of Ashberly 1090-1137 1124-1137 Ingerish
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Albrecht von Ottendorf 1108-1159 1137-1159 Swaldian
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Osric of Renburh 1130-1174 1159-1174 Myrcian
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Bjorn Ericsson 1142-1175 1174-1175 Scandian
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Richard of Banley 1138-1183 1175-1183 Ingerish
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Gerald of Findburgh 1132-1198 1183-1198 Ingerish
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Thomas of Banley, first Duke of the Wesmans 1161-1207 1198-1207 Ingerish
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Robert of Canvey (Robert I, Duke of Wesmandy) 1166-1216 1207-1216 Ingerish / Wesman
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Alfred I, Duke of Wesmandy 1190-1235 1216-1235 Ingerish / Wesman
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Robert II, Duke of Wesmandy 1217-1258 1235-1258 Wesman
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Alfred II, Duke of Wesmandy 1224-1270 1258-1270 Wesman
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Alfred III, Duke of Wesmandy 1250-1296 1270-1296 Wesman
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Edgar, Duke of Wesmandy 1280-1320 1296-1320 Wesman
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Richard I, King of Wesmandy 1306-1348 1320-1348 Wesman
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Edgar I, King of Wesmandy 1330-1377 1348-1377 Wesman
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Richard II, King of Wesmandy 1357-1392 1377-1392 Wesman

The order ceased to be a fighting force in 1382, but monarchs of Wesmandy continue to be Grand Masters of the honorific order.

The modern order

The modern Order of Knight Venturers continues to consist of the Sovereign, who is Grand Master and Principal Knight Companion, and up to 28 "full" knights companions. In addition any number of "extra knights" (foreigners, usually heads of state) may be appointed.

Women have been admitted to the order as knights since 1984. Prior to that the only women to wear the order's insignia were Queens regnant of Wesmandy, but they held the office of "Sovereign Protector" of the order, not Grand Master and Principal Knight. During the reign of a queen, a male - usually her husband or heir - held the office of Grand Master.

Knights are entitled to use the title "Sir" (male) or "Lady" (female) in front their forenames, and the post-nominal initials "KV".

Insignia

Star, sash, collar and Sail Badge of the Order
Insignia of the order includes:

Round Badge - a round enamelled depiction of the banner of the order, surrounded by a black circlet containing the order's motto - For the honour and glory of God. The Round Badge appears on the Star of the Order.

Sail Badge - a gold-rimmed blue oval charged with a white medieval ship with the order's banner on its sails, with vertical Venturer-swords and a black oval behind it, and the royal crown on top. The Sail Badge is appended from the sash or collar.

Star - an eight-pointed silver star, with two pairs of gold Venturer-swords in saltire and the Round Badge on top. The star is worn on the left breast.

Belt - a black belt with white edging, the orders motto in white letters and a sail ship as an end-tip. In the coats of arms of knights, the belt encircles the shield.

Sash or riband - black with white edging. It is worn over the left shoulder and meets at a bow on the right hip, from which the Sail Badge hangs.

The Collar is worn over the shoulders instead of the sash on designated "collar days", and consists of alternating ships, Venturer-swords and Round Badges, with the Sail Badge hanging from it.

The Mantle is a black, white-edging robe with the circlet badge sewn on the left-hand side.

The Cap is a medieval-style black cap.

The mantle, cap, collar and belt are worn on special "order days", particularly for the annual Venturers' Day service.

The sash (with badge appended) and star are worn on most other occasions where the wearing of orders is appropriate, except on collar days where the collar is worn instead of the sash.

Flags

The banner of the Order dates from its earliest decades. It is white and contains a blue "sea cross" (i.e. a cross in which the horizontal arm has an invected "wave" pattern) and vertical red swords facing opposite directions (the "Venturer swords").

Followers of the order also flew a black banner with white horizontal edges, which became the de facto flag of the Duchy of Wesmandy and is the basis of the sash of the Order.