Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday in History: Order of the Dragon

On this day in history in 1408, the Order of the Dragon was founded.
Sounds awesome, right? This was during the time when Crusades were still mucking up Europe and the Middle East, so before I get into what really happened, I’m going to make something up that sounds vaguely plausible but is way more awesome than what actually occurred.
Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary, returned to his royal tent as the Battle of Dobor came to a close. His queen, Barbara of Celje, welcomed him with joy and encouraged him to take some food and rest after his long toil to victory.  
“Well shall I sup and sleep this night,” he told her, “for today, Wife, I have slain two hundred noble Bogomil heretics.” The queen was very impressed with her husband’s valor, but did not bother him with questions. Instead she waited upon him and prepared a pillow for his head.  
Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary, slept well after his triumph. But as he slept, he dreamed. He saw the bones of the dead mean rise up on the battlefield and take the form of a great dragon, which burned the cities and villages of Hungary and would have continued burning all of Christendom if Sigismund had not raised his voice and commanded it to stop. 
The dragon spoke: “Why do you call me off my quarry, Sigismund of Luxembourg?” 
Sigismund stood before the dragon with nothing but his bloodied sword. “I would not have you destroy all the world,” he replied. 
“But you have done it yourself,” the dragon told him. “In your quest to rid this world of heretics, you have killed the very men who stood between your people and the Turks, who would take all this land and more for their own.” 
The dragon turned away and began burning all that Sigismund could see, until it was out of sight and all was black as night. 
When he awoke, Sigismund told his wife about the dream. 
“You must not be idle, my husband,” she told him. “You must stop the dragon. You must replace what has been lost. You must form a barrier of men between your people and the dangers that threaten them. An order of knights sworn to protect Christendom: the Order of the Dragon.”
The Order of the Dragon, like many other chivalrous orders of the time, was founded to defend Christianity. The patron saint of the order was St. George, so even though it did not have a name at the time of its creation, its association with a dragon-slaying saint gave it one.
Really, it was probably more of an elite club with a “ROYALS ONLY” sign hanging on the door. The rulers who were members were already planning to guard against Ottoman invasion, but as a member of the order, they could say it was for a higher purpose. Famous “Draconists” include the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad II Dracul, and later, his son, Vlad Tepes.
The Order of the Dragon may not have been inspired by a dream or done much more than inspire some dragonish additions to various royal coats of arms or lasted much longer than the life of its founder, but it definitely has a cool name. And a cool name will always be able to inspire an interesting story, even if it’s not quite true.

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