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Star and Garter

The reference in the Ritual to "golden fleece" and to "the Roman eagle" continues to be a puzzle in the archeology of words.

Lionel Vibert, with whom most will agree, wrote that "fleece" refers not to Jason's Golden Fleece but to the Flemish Order of the Golden Fleece--the woolsak in Parliament is another memorial to the days when wool was the great source of national wealth in both England and the Lowlands. The Roman Eagle was the Badge of the Hanse, or Hanseatic League, which once vitas to Northern Europe, and to the wool trade in particular, what the East India Company later was to India. Charles added a star to the insignia of the Order of the Garter. An Order of the Star as founded by John of France in 1352 but was replaced in the Fifteenth Century by the Order of Michael. In 1429 Philip, Duke of Bergundy, formed the Order of the Golden Fleece in Bruges--it w as popularly called "the Golden Fleece." (Selfridge has some interesting pages on the Mercers Company [ an old London Livery Company] and the Golden Fleece in his Rownance of Commerce.)

In the Fifteenth Century the French Kings had even less "government" around them than did the English kings. A French king "farmed out," or "let by contract" the raising and quarter mastering and even the command of armies, the levying of taxes, the building and command of navies, etc.; even the coining of money was let out to private contractors who grew rich on their "seigniorage," or milling fees, and divided their profits with the King.

Thus Charles VII, of whom Joan of Arc was a personal friend and under whom she ranked as an army commander (and not depending on miracles !), signed contracts with Ravant Ladenois for minting coins in Orleans, Portiers, St. Pourcain, Chinon, and in the King's home city of Bourges (the home also of a powerful gild of Freemasons). So also was it with commerce, manufacturing (especially of armor and weapons), etc. The members of the trades, crafts, and gilds with which the Kings thus had to deal, and upon whom they depended for so many purposes, were not members of the hereditary classes of the aristocracy or the nobility and therefore could inherit no titles. One of the original purposes in setting up the honorary Orders was to enable a king to confer a title on some faithful friend or citizen who otherwise could never have received one.

King Charles created the Order of the Golden Fleece as a royal honor to the wool trade, to indicate that he was its especial patron, and to encourage the younger sons of noble families to enter it, and it was for such reasons that this Order won renown in the Low Countries and England, the European center of the "fleece," or "staple," or wool industry. The Order must have proved popular from the start, and spread rapidly, because in 1432, only three years after Charles had constituted it, Sir Andre Toulongeon is found in Palestine wearing its insignia. Randle Holme and Elias Ashmole who were among the first of the famous "Accepted Freemasons" were enthusiasts about armory and heraldry; but they were only the first of a long line, and the earliest Speculative Lodges lived in an atmosphere where heraldry, coats of arms, honorary Orders, etc., mere staples of daily conversation.

(On King Charles see Jacques Coeur, by Albert Boardman Kerr; Charles Scribner's Sons; :New York; 1927. It is not about Freemasonry, but few books give so vivid a picture of the cities and the times in which Fifteenth Century Freemasons worked; it also gives a broad picture of the almost national wide extent of military architecture, a branch of Medieval Freemasonry of capital importance, and yet one that none of the historians of the Craft has ever examined or described. The history of Medieval Masonry must ever be incomplete until that great lack is supplied One of the first large books published in Europe was a detailed account of military architecture, and of the geometry and engineering involved in it. Castles, forts, redoubts, moats, and fortifications were designed and erected and monopolized by the gilds of Masons.) See also Golden Fleece.

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