Today being St Patrick's Day, and this being this blog, regular readers will not be surprised to see again my virtually annual plea for the re-establishment of the Order of St Patrick.
The Order of St Patrick was founded in 1783, at the time of Grattan's Parliament, to reward those in high office in Ireland and Irish peers on whose support the government of the day depended. It therefore served as the national Order of Ireland as the Garter was for England and the Thistle for Scotland.
The Order in effect lapsed in 1974 with the death of the last surviving recipient, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, leaving The Queen alone as a member as Sovereign of the Order. Originally, the number of Knights of St Patrick was 15, and this increased to 22 in 1833. The Knights wore mantles of sky-blue satin, and the star of the Order was embroidered in silver on the right breast. The Order's most famous insignia were the badge and star used by the Lords Lieutenant of Ireland as grand Master of the Order; these were made available for the serving Lord Lieutenant's use in 1830 by King William IV. The insignia were made from 394 stones taken in part from some of Queen Charlotte's jewellery and from one of the Order of the Bath Badges which had belonged to her husband George III. Known as the 'Irish Crown Jewels', the insignia were stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907 and never recovered.
The Order effectively went into abeyance with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, and the last appointment to it was of the Duke of York as heir to the throne by his brother King Edward VIII in 1936.
King George IV's Sovereign's Sash Badge made in 1812. In the centre is a green enamelled shamrock, each leaf with a diamond five-arched crown, set on a red enamelled cross of St Patrick. The Badge has a swivel suspension loop of eight diamonds, and the reverse has the same design in coloured enamel and gold.
King George V's Diamond Star. Made around 1890, the Star's centre has a shamrock of emeralds, with the Saint's cross in rubies on a diamond background. 'George, Prince of Wales, April 1910' is engraved on the reverse
The Order's motto was 'Quis Separabit MDCCLXXXIII' - 'Who will separate us 1783'.
The badge of the Usher of the Order
Allowing the Order to begin to lapse in the years after 1922 was a mistake - part of the old Kingdom of Ireland remained as part of the united Kingdom, and the King was head of state of the Irish Free State until the 1937 Constitution was introduced, if not indeed until 1949 and the repeal of the External Relations Act. the post Second World war governments of the United Kingdom who in the face of opposition to reappointing to the Order of Ulstermen and Irishmen who had fought for the Crown in the war from the Dublin government were craven so to do.
On the basis that the Garter and the Thistle since 1948 have been solely in the Monarch's gift, and not political honours, the same principle should be applied to the Order of St Patrick. It could be bestowed on a similar basis on the great and the good. On an analogy with the Scandinavian monarchs bestowal of their highest orders on Presidents of Finalnd it could be given to the Presidents of the Irish Republic as an Extra Knight. The modern Irish state, which is unique in Europe in having no public system of honours can hardly object.
The Northern Irish 'Peace Process' and the commemorations of 1916 make much of shared recognitions of different traditions and their mutual acceptance. If that is so then restoring the Order cannot cause offence ( if it ever could have ) and it can be recognised as part of the historic traditions of all of Ireland.
The insignia of the Order survives as the emblem of the Irish Guards and gives them their blue bearskin flash. If the Duke of Cambridge as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment could wear that on his uniform at his wedding and at Trooping the Colour it seems plain silly not to make him a Knight of the Order.
Star of the Order of St Patrick
Offered for sale at Spinks in 2005