BATH, KNIGHTS OF THE, so called from the ancient custom of bath ing previous to their installation. Cam den and Selden agree that the first mention of an order of knights, dis tinctly called Knights of the Bath, is at the coronation of Henry IV. in 1399, and there can be little doubt that this order was then instituted. That bathing had been a part of the discipline submitted to by esquires in order to obtain the honour of kmghthood from very early times, is admitted ; but it does not appear that any knights were called Knights of the Bath till these were created by King Henry IV.
It became subsequently the practice of the English kings to create Knights of the Bath previous to their coronation, at the inauguration of a Prince of Wales, at the celebration of their own nuptials or those of any of the royal family, and oc casionally upon othergreat occasions or solemnities. Fsbyan (Chron. edit. 1811, p. 582) says that Henry V., in 1416, upon the taking of the town of Cain, dubbed sixteen Knights of the Bath.
Sixty-eight Knights of the Bath were made at the coronation of King Charles II. (see the list in Guillim's Heraldry, fol. Loud. 1679, p. 107); but from that time the order was discontinued, till it was re vived by King George I. under writ of Privy Seal, dated May 18, 1725, during the administration of Sir Robert Walpole. The statutes and ordinances of the order bear date May 23, 1725. By these it was directed that the order should con sist of a grand-master and thirty-six com panions, a succession of whom was to be regularly continued. The officers appro priated to the order, besides the grand master, were a dean, a registrar, king of arms, genealogist, secretary, usher, and messenger. The dean of the collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster, for the time being, was appointed ex officio dean of the Order of the Bath, and it was di rected that the other officers should he from time to time appointed by the grand master.
The badge of the order was directed to be a rose, thistle, and shamrock, issuing from a sceptre between three imperial crowns, surrounded by the motto Tria junta in uno ; to be of pure gold, chased and pierced, and to be worn by the knight elect, pendent from a red riband placed obliquely over the right shoulder. The
collar to be of gold, weighing thirty ounces troy weight, and comp of nine imperial crowns, and eight roses, thistles, and shamrocks issuing from a sceptre, enamelled in their proper colours, tied or linked together by seventeen gold knots, enamelled white, and having the badge of the order pendent from it. The star to consist of three imperial crowns of gold, surrounded with the motto of the order upon a circle gales, with a glory or ray issuing from the centre, to be embroidered on the left side of the upper garment.
The installation dress was ordered to be a surcoat of white satin, a mantle of crimson satin lined with white, tied at the neck with a cordon of crimson silk and gold, with gold tassels, and the star of the order embroidered on the left shoulder ; a white silk hat, adorned with a standing plume of white ostrich feathers; white leather boots edged and heeled ; spurs of crimson and gold; and a sword in a white leather scabbard, with cross hilts of gold.
Each knight was to be allowed three esquires, who are to be gentlemen of blood, bearing coat-armour ; and who, during the term of their several lives, are entitled to all the privileges and exemp lions enjoyed by the esquires of the king's body or the gentlemen of the privy chamber.
In 1815, the Prince Regent being de sirous to commemorate the auspicious termination of the long war in which the empire had been engaged, and of mark ing his sense of the courage and devotion manifested by the officers of the king's forces by sea and land, ordained that thenceforward the order should be com posed of three classes, differing in their ranks and degrees of dignity.