AskDefine | Define banneret

Dictionary Definition

banneret n : a knight honored for valor; entitled to display a square banner and to hold higher command [syn: knight banneret, knight of the square flag]

Extensive Definition

A Knight banneret, sometimes known simply as banneret, was a knight (not necessarily a nobleman, but nearly always) who led a company of troops during time of war under his own banner (which was square-shaped, in contrast to the tapering standard or the pennon flown by the lower-ranking knights) and were eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry. The military rank of a knight banneret was higher than a knight bachelor (who fought under another's banner), but lower than an earl or duke.
The word derives from the French banneret, from bannire, banner, elliptical for seigneur - or chevalier banneret, Medieval Latin banneretus.
Under English custom the rank of knight banneret could only be conferred by the sovereign on the field of battle. There were some technical exceptions to this; when his standard was on the field of battle he could be regarded as being present though he was not. His proxy could be regarded as a sufficient substitution for his presence.


As there were no standing armies (except the military orders), military service was rendered ad hoc as a vassalitic obligation, either in person and/or with a contingent raised by one's own means. This social role was crucial: a suzerain unable to rely upon them would risk being unable to mobilize should war be declared. The only alternative was to replace knighthood as the core of military forces with mercenaries, as under a condottiere, but those often proved highly unreliable and expensive, as well as being known for changing sides for greater profit, or simply deserting and looting for themselves.
In feudalism, the rank was given to those nobles who had the right to lead their vassals into battle under their own banner. Ultimately bannerets obtained a place in the feudal hierarchy between barons and knights bachelors, which has given rise to the idea that they are the origin of King James I's order of the baronet. Selden, indeed, points out that the old stories often have liaronetti for bannereti, and he points out that in France the title had become hereditary; but he himself is careful to say (p. 680) that banneret hath no relation to this later title. The title of knight banneret, with the right to display the private banner, came to be granted for distinguished service in the field. No knight banneret, says Selden, of the English custom, can be created but in the field, and that, when either the king is present, or at least his royal standard is displayed. But the creation is almost the self-same with that in the old French ceremonies by the solemn delivery of a banner charged with the arms of him that is to be created, and the cutting of the end of the pennon or streamer to make it a square or into the shape of a banner in case that he which is to be created had in the field his arms on a streamer before the creation. The creation of bannerets is traceable, according to Selden, to the time of Edward I. Under these bannerets, he adds, diverse knights bachelors and esquires usually served; and according to the number of them, the bannerets received wages. The last authentic instance of the creation of a knight banneret was that of John Smith, created banneret at the Battle of Edgehill by Charles I of England for rescuing the royal standard from the enemy.


  • Selden, Titles of Honor (3rd ed., London, 1672), p. 656
  • Du Cange, Glossarium (Niort, 1883), s.v. Bannereti.
banneret in German: Venner
banneret in French: Banneret
banneret in Latvian: Bannerets
banneret in Hungarian: Zászlósúr
banneret in Russian: Баннерет

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bayard, Dannebrog, Don Quixote, Gawain, Jolly Roger, Lancelot, Old Glory, Ritter, Sidney, Sir Galahad, Star-Spangled Banner, Stars and Stripes, Union Flag, Union Jack, and blue, bachelor, banderole, banner, baronet, black flag, blue ensign, bunting, burgee, caballero, cavalier, chevalier, coachwhip, colors, companion, ensign, flag, gonfalon, gonfanon, guidon, house flag, jack, knight, knight bachelor, knight banneret, knight baronet, knight-errant, long pennant, merchant flag, national flag, oriflamme, pennant, pennon, pennoncel, red, red ensign, royal standard, signal flag, standard, streamer, swallowtail, tricolor, vexillum, white
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