Friday, 24 October 2014

Orders of Chivalry

As with all other royal houses the Bourbons were wont to hand out orders of chivalry as a symbol of gratitude - originally, most of the orders were  related to military services. Here are some of the most important orders of chivalry which were still greatly esteemed in the Ancien Regime.

Order of the Holy Spirit (L'Ordre de Saint-Esprit) 
Founded in 1578 the Order of the Holy Spirit was preserved for the nobility and eventually came to replace - or at least compete with - the Order of Saint Michael which had hitherto been the dominating order. Whereas the Order of Saint Michael had become so widespread that it became devalued in the eyes of the King and court, the Order of the Holy Spirit was to remain only for the nobility. To further enhance the order's prestige the number of knights were limited to 100.

To become a knight of this order you had to be at least 35 years old, be Catholic and be able to produce a noble lineage back at least three generations. However, there were some exceptions. The sons of the King were automatically knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit from birth but would first be initiated into the order at age 12. Princes of the blood could enter the order at 16 while foreign princes had to be at least 25.

The actual order is based on a cross with a white dove flying downwards. Surrounding the dove is a smaller green cross; between each wing of the cross is a fleur-de-lis.

Fun fact:
The Order of the Holy Spirit was permitted to use white wax on their correspondence which was allowed no other orders.

The order in portraits:

Charles Gaspard Guillaume de Vintimille de Luc,
Archbishop of Paris

Jean-Baptiste Colbert

Order of Saint Louis (Order de Saint-Louis)
The Order of Saint Louis was created in 1693 by Louis XIV. Every officer who had served 10 years in the French army would become a member of the Order of Saint Louis - here no noble lineage was required. The Dauphin was automatically a member. There were three ranks within the order: chevalier (no limited number), commandeur (limited to 24 people) and grand-croix (limited to 8 people). This could also only be awarded to Catholics.

Like the Order of the Holy Spirit, the Order of Saint Louis was set on a Maltese cross with Saint Louis in the centre holding a laurel crown in one hand and a crown of thorns in the other.

Fun fact: Axel Fersen was one of the foreigners who were awarded the Order of Saint Louis

Most chivalric orders were abolished during the revolution since it was thought that they brought back thoughts relating to the hierarchy of the old regime - which meant that they were dangerous.

The order in portraits:

Jean-Victor de Rouchechouart, Duc de Mortemart is wearing the
Order of Saint Louis

Orders as seen in portraits:

Louis XV wearing the star of the Order of the Holy Spirit and the Order of
the Star (L'ordre de l'etoile)

Jules-Hardouin Mansart wears the Order of Saint Michael

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