The institution, laws & ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter collected and digested into one body by Elias Ashmole ...
Ashmole, Elias, 1617-1692., Hollar, Wenceslaus, 1607-1677., Sherwin, William, fl. 1670-1710.

SECT. III. The Feminine Cavaliers of the Torch in Tortosa.

AND now, in close of our Discourse of the Orders of Knighthood, give us leave to bring up the rere, with a memorial relating to Feminine Valour, and of the later Age (for we shall not need to instance in the Amazons of old, whose fame in Arms is so generally known) since some of that Sex, having acquired honor and renown, by their personal courage and valiant exploits; have had be∣stowed on them the priviledge of living after the manner, and in the esteem of Knights.

The Example is of the noble Women of Tortosa in Aragon, and recorded by Io∣seph Micheli Marquez, who plainly calls them aCavalleros, or Knights; or may I not rather say Cavalleras, seeing I observe the words bEquitissae and Militissae (formed from the Latin Equites and Milites) heretofore applied to Women, Page  126 and sometimes used to express Madams, or Ladies; though now these Titles are not known.


Don Raymond, last Earl of Barcellona (who by an intermarriage with *Pe∣tronilla, only Daughter and Heir of King Ramiro the Monk, united that Princi∣pality to the Kingdom of Aragon) having, in the year 1149. gained the City of Tortosa from the Moors, they on the 31. of December following, laid a new Siege to that place, for the recovery of it out of the Earls hands. The Inha∣bitants being at length reduced to great streights, desired relief of the Earl; but he being not in a condition to give them any, they entertained some thoughts of making a surrender. Which the Women hearing of, to prevent the disaster threatning their City, themselves, and Children; put on mens Clothes, and by a resolute sally, forced the Moors to raise the Siege.

The Earl, finding himself obliged, by the gallantry of the action, thought it to make his acknowledgments thereof, by granting them several Priviledges and Immunities; and, to perpetuate the memory of so signal an attempt, d Insti∣tuted an Order, somewhat like a Military Order, into which were admitted only those brave Women, deriving the honor to their Descendants, and assigned them for a Badge, a thing like a Fryars Capouche, sharp at the top, after the form of a Torch, and of a crimson colour, to be worn upon their Head-clothes. He also ordained, that at all publick meetings, the Women should have precedence of the Men; That they should be exempted from all Taxes; and that all the Apparel and Jewels, though of never so great value, left by their dead Hus∣bands, should be their own.

These Women (saith our Author) having thus acquired this Honor by their personal Valour, carried themselves after the manner of Military Knights of those days.

We may also, not unfitly, bring in here a word or two, of a more general Orna∣ment of Honor, not long since made peculiar to this fair Sex, to wit, that of the Cor∣don; which some will have to be an eOrder, or somewhat equivalent thereto, un∣der that Title. The f Institution of it, is attributed to Anne of Britane, Wife to Charles the Eighth of France, who instead of the Military Belt, or Collar, bestow∣ed a Cordon or Lace on several Ladies, admonishing them to live chastly and de∣voutly, always mindful of the Cords and Bonds of our Saviour Iesus Christ; and to engage them to a greater esteem thereof, she surrounded her Escocheon of Arms with the like Cordon. From which Example, it is since drawn into use, that the Arms of unmarried Ladies and Gentlewomen (usually represented on Esco∣cheons made after the form of a Lozenge) are adorned with such a Cordon.

But if we look back into ancient times, we may see when Women among the Romans were first thought worthy of enjoying respect and peculiar favours; and in particular, out of a great honor to the Mother of Marcus Coriolanus, the liber∣ty of wearing the Segmenta aurea, or bordures of Gold and Purple on their Gar∣ments (the latter of which the Romans raised to an high esteem) was g first permit∣ted to the Roman Matrons, since she had so extraordinarily deserved of that Com∣mon-wealth, by h diverting the fury of her Son, and drawing off his Army from before the City, whose ruine he had threatned, upon a just resentment of the Citi∣zens ingratitude towards him; in memorial of which i preservation, was there also a Temple erected and dedicated to the Female Fortune. On this occasion al∣so, other accessions of honor and respect were decreed to this Sex; namely k to have place in passing on the way, and the permission of wearing golden Ear-rings. To all which the Romans willingly condescended for her sake, whose powerful perswasions, and rhetorical tears, had gain'd them so great a deliverance.