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Knight of the Bath
Earliest Knight of the Bath insignia.

It is known that English Monarchs conferred the Knighthood of the Bath long before the institution of the Order of the Bath in 1725 under George I on special occasions.

There are five known examples of the knight’s insignia of the Bath extant from the seventeenth century. That shown above is the earliest, with experts dating the piece to 1638, conferred on someone it is thought at the time Prince Charles Stuart, later Charles II, was invested as a Knight of the Garter at age 8. So it is the only Bath insignia dating to before the English Civil War. It was executed in gold with the oval in red enamel and the interior crowns in green enamel. It measures 55 mm long (excluding the suspension ring and bottom pearl) by 36 mm wide. The ribbon which may be contemporary is 86 mm wide. As far as we know this piece has been in private hands for centuries and remains so today with the owner instructing me to keep the ownership anonymous for the obvious reasons.

The remaining four pieces of 17th century Bath insignia are of similar design and executed in gold with only green enamel and are of lesser craftsmanship. Two badges date to 1661 for the Coronation of Charles II of which, one is in the Royal collection and the other piece is in private hands. There is a colour illustration of the latter in Plate V, in “The History of Order of the Bath”, James C. Risk, Spink & Son, London 1972. The last two known badges date to 1689 with again one in the Royal Collection and one in private hands.

James C. Risk, CVO, FSA was not aware of the above-illustrated piece at the time he wrote his book. However he later examined the 1638 piece. It is inexplicable to us however that the Rev. Peter Galloway in his 2006 book on the Order of the Bath did not mention the existence of this key 1638 piece and of course he did not illustrate it. By this time the 1638 piece had appeared in publication and been long examined by several world class experts, authenticated and dated.

In closing we should like to say the piece being unique as far as we know and the only one of its kind from before the English Civil War must be priceless, but we have just learned from the owner that the piece has sold for $50,000.00. So the piece has a price after all !

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