The Queen’s Order of Courtesy
Long ago, the lands of Drachenwald were forged into a mighty Kingdom, and in the King’s army was a virtuous but impoverished nobleman. One day in the fierce heat of battle, a foul arrow struck him under the arm, where he was lightly armoured, and he fell. The chirurgeon, knowing the esteem in which the man was held, worked long into the night to save him. Eventually, the arrowhead was withdrawn, but it was clear that he could play no further part in that campaign.
“A good and courteous man,” said the King to His queen, “but he is now of no use to me. Lay him in a carriage and send him home to retire.”
When the man awoke from his fever, the Queen went to him and said, “Sir, your service has been gallant, but in your condition, you can no longer fight. You have leave to depart.”
Though he could not stand, the nobleman sat up and said, “Your Majesty, I can no longer wield my sword, yet I beg that I be allowed to stay so that I may be of use wherever I can, for my heart still beats with a love of Drachenwald.”
And so our nobleman followed the army. His pain and his misery at being unable to fight alongside his King in the front rank was almost beyond endurance.
But, the Queen noted, not once did he complain. he made his bed in the open, along with the servants, shared their meagre rations without demur, fetched firewood and stirred the pot alongside the lowliest cook.
As his wound began to heal, he took further tasks upon himself. he rode with messages from the King, or on errands for the Queen. Even when requests for assistance were made by the lowliest servant, they were greeted with a smile and left with a charming good-day. Never did he think of his own needs, but rather always saw the world through the eyes of those around him, anticipating their needs and making their burdens less wearisome.
Some of the maids had children that ran about their feet whilst they tried to work. Te nobleman began to look after the children for a while each day, so that the ladies might have peace. he taught the children games and skills that would be of benefit to them in later life, and he told them moral tales. These children came from the humblest families – yet our nobleman treated them all with the same grace and courtesy as if they had been the children of the King and Queen themselves.
One day, the army was passing through a region of high mountains in terrible weather. Thunder shook the walls of rock around them, and lightning flashed overhead. Rain turned every stream into a torrent laden with fallen branches and tumbling rocks.
The Queen turned to one of her ladies-in-waiting, asking, “Were is that kind and gracious lord who was wounded? I would have him organise Our camp for tonight.”
A while lather, the lady returned, saying “Your Majesty, it grieves me to tell you, but that gentleman is nowhere to be found.”
The Queen ordered, “Search the army and find this noble lord, for he is of great service to Me, and I would have him at My side.”
Eventually, a young peasant was brought before the Queen.
“Your Majesty,” he said, “it is my fault that your noble servant is not here. Please forgive me.”
“Do not be afraid,” said the Queen, “just tell me what has happened.”
“I am a goatherd,” said the young man, “and my flock provides Your Majesty with fine cheeses and fresh milk. But this morning, when this terrible storm arose, my animals took fright and scattered. That noble lord found me crying at my plight, and immediately set of to find my goats although the thunder threatened to blast him from those dreadful rocks.” The boy turned and pointed to a rocky ridge that climbed thousands of feet to be lost in the clouds.
The King said to the Queen “By God, that man would risk his life even for a mere peasant, and had he already returned, we would never have known his toil. But he has always been so.”
The Queen replied, “it is true that even the greatest deeds can pass unnoticed. But now, We must find our noble friend, for he is in danger in this storm. I beg you to find him.”
Patrols were sent into the mountains, and at length, a trumpet-call sounded. Their Majesties mounted Their steeds, and clambered up the treacherous paths, until They found the soldiers.
“Look!” called the sergeant-at-arms, pointing further ahead. And there, descending through the mist, with staff in hand, guiding a flock of goats, was our nobleman, singing a jaunty song in defiance of the storm.
Surprised to be greeted by such a retinue, the nobleman bowed deeply. “Your Majesties,” he said, “surely you cannot be ere on my account. How may I help you?” he spread his arms wide, and Their Majesties could see his hands were cut and grazed from the perilous climb.
The King addressed the nobleman. “Noble lord, I can see your strength has returned, and your courage has evidently not faltered, so you may rejoin the army with my blessing.”
The Queen smiled. “Noble lord,” she said, “We came in search of one whose values We would protect. You never complain at your misfortunes. Not once have you sought attention at the expense of others. Unseen, you work to ensure that the honour of Drachenwald and its people is upheld. But in particular, it is the unstinting courtesy that you have shown to young and old, to noble and low-born alike that has made this long journey and difficult task not a labour, but a joy, and for that We thank you.”
With this, the Queen noticed something in the nobleman’s belt. “What is that flower caught in your clothing?” she asked.
The nobleman saw that an edelweiss was lodged in his buckle, so he handed it to the Queen. As he did so, a drop of his blood stained its centre. “It is an edelweiss, Your Majesty, that grows only on the highest peaks, for it was there that I found the goats, sheltering from the gale.”
The Queen turned to her husband, saying “Your Majesty, I beg of you this boon. The honours of Drachenwald are mostly in Your gift, but I would ask that I, too, may create an Order to which only the most worthy may be admitted.”
“So be it,” replied the King, “know ye all that I grant her Majesty this wish.”
The Queen spoke again. “Noble friend, your courtesy and love of Drachenwald is an example to us all that is almost beyond reward. But let this flower be now worn as a rare badge of honour, for the Queens of Drachenwald alone to bestow, from now until the world ends.”
And so She pinned the edelweiss on the nobleman’s breast, and charged him to promote the study of courtesy for as long as he should live.
And so from that time forth, exceptional individuals have been awarded the Queen’s Order of Courtesy, in this fashion, either as a pin or on a silver chain: an edelweiss argent eyed gules.
(The story was commissioned by Queen Honor of Restormel and written by Lord Heinrich von Westfelsen.)