Knight banneret

"Banneret" redirects here. For other uses, see Banneret (disambiguation).

A knight banneret, sometimes known simply as banneret, was a medieval knight ("a commoner of rank")[1] who led a company of troops during time of war under his own banner (which was square-shaped, in contrast to the tapering standard or the pennon flown by the lower-ranking knights) and was eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry.

The military rank of a knight banneret was higher than a knight bachelor (who fought under another's banner), but lower than an earl or duke; the word derives from the French banneret, from bannire, banner, elliptical for seigneur - or chevalier banneret, Medieval Latin banneretus.

Under English custom the rank of knight banneret could only be conferred by the sovereign on the field of battle. There were some technical exceptions to this; when his standard was on the field of battle he could be regarded as physically present though he was not. His proxy could be regarded as a sufficient substitution for his presence.


As there were no standing armies (except the military orders), military service was rendered ad hoc as an obligation of a vassal, either in person and/or with a contingent raised by one's own means. This social role was crucial: a suzerain, or feudal overlord, was dependent upon his vassals to mobilise on his behalf in case of war. The only alternative was to replace knighthood as the core of military forces with mercenaries, as under a condottiere, but those often proved highly unreliable and expensive, as well as being known for changing sides for greater profit, or simply deserting and looting for themselves.

In feudalism, the rank was given to those nobles who had the right to lead their vassals into battle under their own banner. Ultimately bannerets obtained a place in the feudal hierarchy between barons and knights bachelor, which has given rise to the idea that they are the origin of King James I's order of the baronet. John Selden, indeed, points out that the "old stories" often have baronetti for bannereti, and he points out that in France the title had become hereditary; but Selden is careful to say that "banneret hath no relation to this later title [of baronet]".[2] The title of knight banneret, with the right to display the private banner, came to be granted for distinguished service in the field. No knight banneret, says Selden, of the English custom:[3]

can be created but in the field, and that, when either the king is present, or at least his royal standard is displayed. But the creation is almost the self-same with that in the old French ceremonies by the solemn delivery of a banner charged with the arms of him that is to be created, and the cutting of the end of the pennon or streamer to make it a square or into the shape of a banner in case that he which is to be created had in the field his arms on a streamer before the creation.[3][4]

The creation of bannerets is traceable, according to Selden, to the time of Edward I. "Under these bannerets, diverse knights bachelor and esquires usually served; and according to the number of them, the bannerets received wages".[5] The last authentic instance of the creation of knights banneret was by King Charles I to several men at the Battle of Edgehill (1642) including Thomas Strickland of Sizergh for gallantry, and John Smith for rescuing the royal standard from the enemy.[3]

Whether any further bannerets were granted is debated by historians. George Cokayne notes in The Complete Peerage (1913) that King George II revived the order when he created sixteen knights bannerets on the field of the Battle of Dettingen in 1743,[lower-alpha 1] and although his source for this, a diary entry by Miss Gertrude Savile, states "This honour had been laid aside since James I, when Baronets were instituted", which contradicts other sources,[3] a news magazine published in the same year as the battle recorded the honours.[7] Several sources, including Edward Brenton (1828) and William James (1827),[8][9] record that captains Trollope and Fairfax and were honoured with bannerets by King George III for their actions during the Battle of Camperdown (1797). However, these awards were never recorded in The London Gazette and is much more likely that these knighthoods, which first appear in formal records in December 1797 without their nature being specified,[10] were as knights bachelor.[lower-alpha 2]

Though the title had long fallen into disuse, bannerets and their sons continued to be listed in the table of precedence until at least as late as 1870; those created by the sovereign under the Royal Standard in wartime rank above baronets, whereas those knights banneret not so created by the sovereign in person rank directly below baronets.[12]

Royal Air Force

Following the creation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, several rank titles were proposed to distinguish between current army and navy rank titles; one of these was "banneret",[13] equivalent to an Army colonel or a Navy captain.

See also


  1. King George II's 16 bannerets were: the Dukes of Cumberland and Marlborough; the Earls of Stair, Dunmore, Crawford, Rothes and Albemarle; and Generals Honywood, Hawley, Cope, Ligonier, Campbell, Bland, Onslow, Pulteney and Huske.[6]
  2. "When the fleet returned to the Nore [George III] signified his intention of visiting it there, and Trollope, as the senior captain, was appointed to the Royal Charlotte yacht to bring him from Greenwich. The king accordingly embarked on 30 Oct.; but the wind came dead foul, and after two days the yacht had got no further than Gravesend. He therefore gave up the idea and returned to Greenwich, knighting Trollope on the quarterdeck of the Royal Charlotte before he landed. The accolade conferred 'under the royal standard' was spoken of as making Trollope a knight banneret, and was apparently so intended by the king; but it is said to have been afterwards decided [by the Privy Council], as a question of precedence, that a knight banneret could only be made on the field where a battle had actually been fought; or presumably, in the case of a naval officer, on the quarterdeck of one of the ships actually engaged".[11]
  1. Neave 1930
  2. Selden 1672, p. 680.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm 1911, pp. 353–354.
  4. Selden 1672, pp. 655,656.
  5. Selden 1672, p. 656.
  6. Cokayne 1913, pp. 572–573.
  7. Shaw 1743, p. 356.
  8. Brenton 1823, p. 356.
  9. James 1827, p. 78.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 14075. p. 1210. 19 December 1797. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  11. Laughton 1899, p. 248, Marshall 1823, p. 153
  12. The Royal Kalendar ... for the year 1870, p. 10
  13. Woodward, p. 364.



Further reading

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