The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor Annual Service of Dedication

Thursday 19th July 2018

It is a great privilege to be invited to attend the Annual Service of Dedication of The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor. The members of the Imperial Society are those individuals awarded knighthoods by the Monarch for service to the community in all parts of business, law, academia, medicine, public service and the arts.

Marching briskly to the event at St Paul's Cathedral in morning dress, I felt somewhat out of place amongst the crowds milling around its steps until stopped in my tracks by a cheery greeting from Past Master Chris Allen who had other business at St Paul's that day. Chris pointed me in the right direction, we bade each other farewell and I headed for the Crypt.

Held in the Chapel of St Faith at the eastern end of The Crypt, this service is an impressive distillation of devotional religious ceremony and chivalric pageant. The occasion, which includes the spectacle of the procession of scarlet cloaked knights, is strikingly unique and was overseen by the Bishop of London, the recently appointed Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally. A great many Masters of Livery Companies were in attendance in their formal attire, adding extra pomp to the occasion with their respective badges of office. Familiar hymns, choral pieces and fine ecclesiastical music followed.

Of special note in this year's Service was the marking of a new painting now hanging in the Knights Bachelor Chapel adjacent to St Faith's. Painted by Hughie O'Donoghue, 'St Martin Divides his Cloak' depicts the moment that the knight St Martin of Tours cuts his red cloak in two to share half with a beggar. St Martin is the Patron Saint of the Knights Bachelor and this painting, in a modern, realistic style, is intended to bridge time since the event took place and the present day. It is a reminder that acts of charity should remain at the heart of Christian belief. It is a powerful painting well worth seeing.