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Order of Saint George (Kingdom of Hungary)

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Title: Order of Saint George (Kingdom of Hungary)  
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Subject: Knight, Military order, Knights of St. George, Kingdom of Hungary, Nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary, Chivalric order, Upper nobility (Kingdom of Hungary)
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Order of Saint George (Kingdom of Hungary)

The Order of St George, Hungarian: Szent György Vitézei Lovagrend, was the first secular chivalric order in the world and was established by King Charles I of Hungary in 1326.

History of the Order

The Order was founded by King Charles I of Hungary as the Fraternal Society of Knighthood of St George. The precise date of its foundation is not known, but based on the text of its Statutes, it was in existence on St George's Day, 23 April 1326. The order flourished during Charles' reign and achieved greater success under the reign of his son Louis I of Hungary. After the death of Louis, the Hungarian throne became the subject of a violent dispute between his relations, and the Hungarian kingdom dissolved into civil war, destroying the original Society.[1] All that is known about the Order in terms of its mission, composition, obligations and activities is sourced from the only surviving artifact which describes the Society.

Based on the Statutes, although the Society of St George was a political and honorary body, Charles infused the ideals of chivalry into the Society promoting them among the lesser nobles of his kingdom and implementing the classic symbol of chivalry, the knights' tournament, in Hungarian festivals of chivalry. Unlike the ecclesiastical Orders of the period, members of the Society wore a black, knee-length, hooded mantle, bearing not an heraldic device but an inscription: "IN VERITATE IUSTUS SUM HUIC FRATERNALI SOCIETATE":[2] "In truth I am just to this fraternal society".[3]

The Statutes were written in Latin, the language of learned writing in Hungary before the 19th century, and are about 1700 words long, in the form of letters patent. Suspended from the document was the great seal of the Society with the classic iconic representation of St George mounted on a horse slaying the dragon under the horse's hooves as shown on the right. The document is currently housed in the Országos Levéltar (National Archives of Hungary), DL. 40 483. There are a number of transcriptions and translations of the Statutes, facilitating study.[4][5][6][7][8]

The Order existed only for a short period. A private association of same name is a self-styled order, established in 2001.


Further reading

  • Fügedi, Erik: Ispánok, bárók, kiskirályok (Counts, Barons and Petty Kings); Magvető Könyvkiadó, 1986, Budapest; ISBN 963-14-0582-6.
  • Kristó, Gyula (editor): Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon - 9-14. század (Encyclopedia of Early Hungarian History - 9-14th centuries); Akadémiai Kiadó, 1994, Budapest; ISBN 963-05-6722-9.
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