Little Bits of History

Dragon Master

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 12, 2013
Order of the Dragon

Order of the Dragon

December 12, 1408: The Order of the Dragon is established by King Sigismund and Queen Barbara. Sigismund was the son of Emperor Charles IV, King of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1355-1378. Sigismund was born to Charles’s fourth wife and he had one surviving older brother. Sigismund was the King of Hungary from 1387-1437 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1433-1437. The Holy Roman Emperor was chosen by the Electors’ Council and various men from Otto I to Francis II held the post from 962-1806.

At the age of 6, Sigismund was betrothed to Mary, eldest daughter of Louis I of Hungary and Poland. Mary was to assume the throne. By age 10, Sigismund was at the Hungarian court and soon became devoted to his adopted country. At age 13, his older brother and guardian, Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, sent the younger brother to Kraków to learn the language and customs in Poland. Court intrigues led to his expulsion. Mary became Queen of Hungary in 1382 and married Sigismund in 1385. He was crowned king in 1387; the coronation came at his instigation.

The marriage of Mary and Sigismund was not happy. He plotted to have his wife and mother-in-law kidnapped and the older woman killed. Mary was rescued but never forgave her husband. They lived in separate households. She died suspiciously in 1395 late in a pregnancy. Sigismund had his own troubles, often being taken and imprisoned by nobles but bribing his way to freedom. In 1396, Sigismund led combined armies to extend the borders of Hungary. Fighting continued with battles won and lost and power shifts. By 1406, Sigismund was married to Mary’s cousin Barbara and had amassed an army to crusade against the Croats and Bosnians.

After the battle for Bosnia was won, Sigismund began the Order of the Dragon based on the Order of St. George. These chivalric orders brought some stability to the area. The noblemen and knights pledged allegiance to the king and were charged with his protection against political intrigue and plots against him. The Order of the Dragon had an initial 24 members and expanded later to form two degrees. It was internationally recognized by 1409. After Sigismund’s death, the order lost prominence but the dragon symbol remains a part of the coat of arms for many Hungarian crests.

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.” – John Stuart Mill

“Chivalry is the most delicate form of contempt.” – Albert Guerard

“Justice is better than chivalry if we cannot have both.” – Alice Stone Blackwell

“Chivalry’s dead, sugar.” – Adam Brody

This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The members of the Order of the Dragon were called Draconists and were referred to as barons in the statutes. They were Sigismund’s political supporters and came from a limited region of allegiances. After a time, more distant groups were permitted to join en masse. The original members formed one degree of membership while this second group held a different degree. There were two different insignia worn by members of the Order. One showed a dragon forming a circle with the tail of the dragon wrapped several times around its own neck. The other emblem was also a circled dragon, but this time the dragon was eating its own tail. Interestingly, one of the members was Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, the basis for the Dracula stories. There were foreign allies as well including Henry V of England, King Ladislaus II of Poland, and some other high born foreigners. These did not need to swear an oath of loyalty.

Also on this day: Katzenjammer Kids – In 1897, the Katzenjammer Kids first saw print.
Boom! – In 1862, the USS Cairo sunk.
Ice, Ice, Baby – In 1985, Arrow Air flight 1285 crashed shortly after takeoff.

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