The Origins of the "Crescent and Star" Motif in Turkey as exemplified on a Knife, Fork and Spoon Set.

This silver-gilt knife, fork and spoon (see figure 1) is engraved with a crescent and star on a red background within the star of the paramount Order of Chivalry in England that of the Garter (see figure 2).  The crest is still used by the modern state of Turkey, having taken it over from the Ottoman dynasty who ruled the region from 1299-1922.

Figure 1: A silver-gilt Cast Vine pattern knife, fork and spoon made in London in 1855 by Hunt and Roskell.

Figure 2: The engraved crest on the Cast Vine flatware

Made by the firm of Hunt and Roskell, one of the Royal Goldsmiths, in London in 1855, this set is emblematic of of the friendship between Great Britain and Turkey (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Hallmarks on Cast Vine spoon.

In 1579, Britain established regular diplomatic relations with Turkey one of the earliest of the European nations to do so.  Since then there had been numerous exchanges of diplomatic gifts:  At her wedding Queen Victoria wore a brooch given to her by Prince Albert with diamonds presented to her by the Sultan of Turkey [Ref. 1] and there is an impressive Bohemian Crystal chandelier in the Dolmabahce Palace, Constantinople presented by Queen Victoria to the Sultan.
However the first conflict in which the two countries were formally allied was the Crimean War (1854-1856).  It was a result of this alliance that Queen Victoria appointed Sultan Abdul Medjid Khan of Turkey as 717th Knight of the Garter, and the first non-Christian member of the Order, on 16th August 1856. 

Sir Charles Young, the Garter King-at-Arms was sent to Constantinople on 20th September 1856 accompanied, among many others, by two other heralds.  It is reasonable to assume that this knife, fork and spoon was a gift carried on this mission along with the Garter regalia. Young arrived on the 1st of October but the official investiture did not take place until the 1st of November.  This was because the Sultan 'expressed some repugnance' to parts of the ceremonial and 'urged his objections for reasons Spiritual and Imperial' [Ref. 2].

In addition to the religious differences between the two nations there were social differences. Among these were an embargo on physical contact with the Sultan and the customary presentation to the Heralds of the sword worn by the new Knight to his investiture.

These problems were eventually solved when Queen Victoria agreed to alter the ceremonial for the Sultan and 'all the insignia were handed to the Sultan with the exception of the riband with the St. George, which the ambassador [Stratford Canning] placed over the Sultan's shoulder and the Garter with which he touched the Sultan's knee' [Ref. 3].  Following his return to England the Garter King-at-Arms received 'a sabre d'honneur' as a gift from the Sultan in January 1857.

Recent research by Dr. Selman Can of Ataturk University [Ref. 4], has brought to light a further difference between the Statutes of the Order and Ottoman tradition.  Each Knight of the Garter has a metal plate engraved with his coat of arms in St. George's Chapel Windsor, the spiritual heart of the Order, however the Ottomans did not have an armorial tradition.  As part of the investiture Sir Charles Young created the crest engraved on this knife fork and spoon. The crescent and star, derived from an ancient Eastern symbol, that has become the modern emblem of Turkey.

Luke Schrager

Ref.1:       www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?searchText=victoria+wedding&pagesize=20&object=200193&row=20&detail=about

Ref. 2     : The Most Noble Order of the Garter: Begent, Peter J. and H. Chesshyre: 1999: pp.244-245

Ref. 3:      The Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston (Tasmania): 31st January 1857: (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/65724384).

Ref. 4:       http://www.landoflights.net/magazine/ottoman-coat-of-arms-created-by-the-british-queen-880.html

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