One of our readers e-mailed us recently to ask us a question regarding the rank of Esquire (Grade VI) in the VOSJ. There was some talk in the last couple of years about getting rid of the grade. In fact, at the May 2006 meeting of the Grand Council, it was decided that Grade VI would in future be abolished as a Grade of the Order. Statutory changes would have been required for this action. Since the statutes have not yet been changed, personal esquires can still be appointed by knights of the Order pursuant to the current Statutes.
Recently, we've heard talk that the grade of Esquire will not be abolished, but only personal esquires. The main problem originally seems to have been that personal esquires could be appointed to the Order by their knights without much involvement from HM The Queen--the Sovereign Head of the VOSJ. To keep this from happening, some wanted to do away with the grade. Priory Esquires are another matter. They are defined in Grand Council Instruction #10 and are appointed by the various Priories and not individual confrères.
The e-mail that sparked this post came from one that hopes to join the Order soon. He wondered if he ought to start as an Esquire or a Member. His main concern was that he was past a certain age. We have seen Esquires that are well into and past middle age. It is true that most of the Esquires in the VOSJ are in their 20s and sometimes their 30s, there is no age limit to the appointment. Esquires do not have most of the same privileges and are entitled to wear the Order's button in their lapel as their only insignia.
So if advising someone who has a choice, we would undoubtedly say that one should be admitted to the Order as a Member and not as an Esquire.