During the 15th century, orders of chivalry, or dynastic orders of knighthood, began to be created in a more courtly fashion that could be created ad hoc. These orders would often retain the notion of being a society or association of individuals, however, some of them were ultimately purely honorific, consisting of nothing but the badge. In fact, the badges themselves often came to be known informally as orders. These institutions in turn gave rise to the modern-day orders of merit of states.
Over time, the above division became no longer sufficient, and heraldic science distinguished orders into: hereditary, military, religious and fees.
In a more generous distribution proposed in The Knights in the Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Late Medieval Europe (1987), the Canadian heraldist D'Arcy Boulton classifies chivalric orders as follows:
Based on Boulton, this article distinguishes:
Another occurrent chronological categorisation is into: