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The Order of the Hatchet

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Here’s an example of women who were granted honor equal to — indeed, exceeding — that of knights. They were awarded membership in the specially formed Order of the Hatchet, and in public ceremonies given precedence even over men. Once again, these were not full-time professional warriors, but it indicates that the Middle Ages could make room for exceptional women.

The example is of the Noble Women of Tortosa in Aragon, and recorded by Josef Micheli Marquez, who plainly calls them Cavalleros or Knights, or may I not rather say Cavalleras, seeing I observe the words Equitissae and Militissae (formed from the Latin Equites and Milites) heretofore applied to Women, and sometimes used to express Madams or Ladies, though now these Titles are not known.

Don Raymond, last Earl of Barcellona (who by intermarriage with Petronilla, only Daughter and Heir of King Ramiro the Monk, united that principality 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 Inhabitants being at length reduced to gread 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, fi nding himself obliged, by the gallentry of the action, thought fi t to make his acknowlegements thereof, by granting them several Privileges and Immunities, and to perpetuate the memory of so signal an attempt, instituted 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 Dadge, 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 Husbands, should be their own.



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

—excerpt from Ashmole, in The Institution, Laws, and Ceremony of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

LITERARY FIGURES

Despite the relative rarity of female warriors in literature, the precedents are certainly numerous enough to support the inclusion of such characters in a fantasy roleplaying game.


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