Order of the Bee
The Order of the Bee was founded by Willem II prins van Oranje, Steward of some of the 17 Netherlands on Sunday the 7th of June 1648, less than a month after signing the Peace of Münster which officially severed the ties between the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire.
But Willem secretly desired to become King of the Netherlands. A king like his father-in-law in England, supported by a strong nobility. He noticed how the Rebublic of the Seven United Netherlands was too privatised and divided; he thought he could do better by centralising power, around him. Publically he joined sides with the orthodox Calvinist and promoted their desire to unite the Netherlands under one faith. This quickly clashed with the republicans, who were more focused on the financial interests of the nation. But secretly he sought help from the nobility.
The troubles between Willem II and the Saten-Generaal kept growing until it evolved into a near civil war in July 1650. Unfortunatly in Oktober 1650 the prince got injured in a hunting accident and died at the age of 24. After which the Staten-Generaal declares that they don't need a Steward to represent the Spanish King and can govern the Netherlands by themselves.
Already in the 17th century the noble houses of the Netherlands where scattered, fallen out of power or even near extinct. Some of them still held land and title, others where broke poor, but none of them ruled. All political and juridical power lay with the merchants, the rich, and the big companies.
The Order of the Bee was charged with finding all the nobles from dukes to hereditary knights of the Seventeen Netherlands, keep track of their family lines and protect that linage. Aid the nobility in keeping their properties and power in any way they could. While also keeping a low profile.
Contrary to other Orders the members aren't chosen from a noble rank, neither from a specific religion. They are commoners, scholars, librarians, historians, members of the clergy, bankers and lawyers. People chosen for their knowledge and profession.
During the first First Stadtholder less Era the Order of the Bee found a home with the Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Teutonic Order. They had a seat in the Commandery of Doesburg. And the Knights of the Order of the Bee started on their task, gathering information. From the very start they didn't remove information where they found it, but they copied it and recorded the original location. And brought the copies back to their headquarters. Building their archive
The times where troubled with the English and the French allying to try to conquer the Netherlands but failing to do so. The Prins van Oranje emerged victorious and the first republic era was to an end in 1673. The Order of the Bee tried to give the new steward Willem III the titles of Duke of Gelre and Count of Zutphen, but the prince bend under the pressure of the merchants of Holland.
Willem III proved to be a weak ruler who was more itnerested in helping his friends to regent positions and looked the other way when confronted with their corruption. He was best known for raising taxes to fight wars with France. The Order of the Bee did what they were tasked and wrote papers, they didn't interfere with the politics as they followed the line most nobles held, in that they didn't think Willem III would be the right person to lead the nation.
When Willem V fled to England in 1795, the Netherlands became a republican vasal state of France, ruled by the commoners via a new system called democracy. After Napoleon Bonaparte declared the Kingdom of Holland in 1806 with his brother Louis at the head, the Orde of the Bee at the time a de facto part of the Bailiwick of Utrecht became illegal, and relocated to current day Germany to find a home among the Teutonic Order.
But the Teutonic knights where less helpful than the ones in Utrecht, they gave a living and working quarters but that was it. The Order of the Bee had realized they had failed to build own capital, build their own network of aids and agents. They had been to focused on recording, so while revolution raged among Europe they found themselves unable to do what they were tasked to do, help the nobility of the Netherlands.
After Napoleon was defeated in 1813 the Order of the Bee had found some influence among the diplomats that decided the future of Europe on the Congress of Vienna and the old internal borders of the Netherlands was restored and the Prins of Oranje returned to govern the country. First not as King, but after Napoleon escaped from Elba and the Netherlands was once again threaded to become part of France. But at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) the Dutch army hastily gathered and ill prepared and even worse equipped turned out victorious under the command of the new King.
Life was good for the Order in those first half of the 19th century, they got rented property in centre of 's Gravenhage they were finally able to grow capital, they bought some farms to generate income. But then Thorbecke came along in 1848 with his constitution. The Order of the Bee fought hard with the King and the nobles against the changes of the constitution. But the revolutions of France where happening all over in Europe, and the unrest that caused in the streets sparked greed among the merchants and they raised the prices, leading to an economic decline in the country. King Willem II had no other choice then accept the new constitution or lose his head. Thorbecke and his group where surprise by the actions of the Order and the power they wielded behind the scenes with the nobility. That they quickly kicked out all nobility from the government and managed to make the order loose all its possessions. Afraid that the order might find a charismatic person with claims on a count or duke title of significance they tried to seize the records of the order, but they quickly fled the country and went in hiding for 50 years, losing a lot of support.
In 1909 the Order of the Bee aquired Doorwerth Castle, disguised as the club Vereniging De Doorwerth a club with a goal to restore and maintain the castle. This move once again returned the order to the Netherlands, and they moved their operation back to the country they were meant to serve.
During world war one, the order helped the Belgian nobility as best they could, but the political situation of the Netherlands made it difficult, as was the fact that the order was still technically illegal. In the days after WW1 when Belgium wanted Dutch lands in compensation for the Dutch neutrality the order poked their members if they could wield any political powers to steer towards a unification of the low countries. But international politics avoided another war between the Netherlands and Belgium.
During world war two the Order hid their records deep to protect the people on the list. They neck deep in the organized resistance and helped everybody they could by hiding them in their castle, which was searched near weekly. And passing them on to safer places, from hosting night time Rhine crossings. Near the end of the war, first the occupiers and later the liberators shelled Doorwerth Castle and the after-war period was used to restore it. While also trying to find lost noble lines and supporting the ones that survived with restorations and lengthy juridical processes to get there possessions back.
The popularity of the internet has made the job of the order easier, as more and more records are digitalized and made public, even records that where closed for research before. It allows the order to close some holes in their records. With the current political course of letting the Dutch nobility naturally die out, and the order without any political power as they haven't made a comeback into the known world yet. They are in a bit of a stalemate position, reduced to simple record keepers, the knights not sure what to do with their order. This is the source of unrest within the knights and not all of them agree with the ideas of the magistrate, who is in favour of being just that, record keepers.
Serve and Protect
The honey bee is the ancient symbol for royalty, staring with the Merovingians around 100AD the predecessor of the French fleur-de-lys symbol which first appeared around 1100AD.
The knights of the Bee do not have a special costume for special occasions or celebrations, neither do they have ribbons and medals, identifying them or differentiating ranks among them. The only carry rings:
Silver signet rings for the knights, all members of the order, with the text serve and protect engraved on the inside, and a symbol of a bee engraved in the seal.
For the members of the nobility they had created golden rings of a similar design, the bee engraved in the seal, but with the name of their house engraved on the inside. One per house, with the instruction to pass them down the line to the heirs.
And it was with the definition of heirs that the Order of the Bee broke with the common rules, they did not care it that heir was a son or a daughter, or a cousin, it didn't matter if that person was born in or out of wedlock, or even if the heir was adopted. If there was no-one to be an heir according to the rules of nobility the Order of the Bee regarded the choice of the last holder of the ring guiding, in where the ring should go to and who was the new leader of the house.
Ofcourse the Order did try to follow those rules carefully as it made the most sense. But if two houses married and joined lines they'd try to advocate in passing the rings to separate children. As to keep the nobility wide and many.
Ranks in the Order
The Magistrate is the leader of the order. Chosen from among the knights by weighted votes. A position that is appointed for life, unless ninety percent vote to replace the Magistrate in a special meeting.
An officer in the Order of the Bee is a person who holds a position of organisation, the treasurer, secretary, lord of the castle, etc. They are chosen by popular vote, for a period of fourteen years, after which they are replaced.
All ordinary members, regardless of rank or function in real life. Regardless of what role they perform within the order.
After taking the oaths as Initiates the new Knights of the order of the Bee get their silver rings. For other ranks there are no symbols.
New members, before they have taken the oath. Introduced by knights who are more than ten years a member.
After a magistrate, dies, resigns or is asked to step down. All Knights of the Order of the Bee will gather, and from among them will elect a new Magistrate. All knights are eligible to make themselves available to be chosen. And during an all day meeting all candidates have the chance to promote themselves.
That evening, a voting round will be held. Each knight has one vote, plus an additional half vote for every decade they are a member of the order. Former officers get an extra quarter vote for the amount of times they have been an officer and completed the fourteen year service. Current officers get an extra full vote.
If there is no winner with a two-thirds majority of the vote, there will be another voting round, where the candidate with the least amount of votes is no longer electable, until there are only three candidates left. If there is no winner after three voting rounds with three candidates. All candidates are back electable, and a new full day of campaigning is held, before voting continues as it began. In between voting rounds there is a maximum of fifteen minutes of debate allowed between the candidates.