Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to You!

"Patrick’s Day?" said Mr. Dooley. "Patrick’s Day? It seems to me I’ve heard th’ name befure. Oh, ye mane th’ day th’ low Irish that hasn’t anny votes cillybrates th’ birth iv their naytional saint, who was a Fr-rinchman."

So spake my own personal guru, Mr. Dooley, a creation of journalist Peter Finley Dunne, some 100-plus years ago.

But it being St. Patrick’s Day today made me remember what might be called the last and the least of the three main British orders of chivalry, the Order of St. Patrick. (The other two being, of course, the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle.) The Order of St. Patrick was founded in 1783 by George III. But the regular creation of knights of the Order ceased with the formation of the Irish Free State as an independent republic in 1922, and no knight at all has been created since 1936. The last surviving knight of the Order of St. Patrick, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. In theory, however, the Order still exists, with the Queen as Sovereign of the Order, and Ulster King of Arms (now combined with Norroy King of Arms) as the officer of the Order.

Pictures of the regalia of the Order of St. Patrick, featuring the cross of St. Patrick (Argent a saltire gules), can be found on-line at http://www.medals.org.uk/united-kingdom/united-kingdom007.htm

And, of course, the stalls of the knights of the Order remain in St. Patrick’s Cathedral (in Gaelic, Árd Eagláis Naomh Pádraig) in Dublin, with the stall plates with their arms affixed to their places, surmounted by their helms and crests, with the banners of their arms above. (Banners of the knights of the Order are also to be found on display in one of the halls at Dublin Castle.) So while the Order of St. Patrick itself may rightly be considered a thing of the past, its heraldry remains to be seen, and hopefully enjoyed, by visitors today. And hopefully also by you, on this St. Patrick’s Day.

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