The Order of the Holy Spirit (L’ordre du Saint-Esprit) is the most prestigious award in the history of the French monarchy. The right to be called knights of the order was received only by the most noble representatives of noble families who proved their loyalty to the king. The Order of the Holy Spirit did not lose its significance with the change of monarchs and for more than two hundred years it retained its elitism. After the French Revolution, the award received dynastic status and today belongs to the heirs of the House of Bourbon.
The main characteristics of the Order of the Holy Spirit:
Date of establishment: December 31, 1578.
Number of degrees: 1.
Order size: 92 mm x 92 mm.
Sewn star size: 122mm x 121mm.
Materials of the order: gold, silver, enamel.
The Order of the Holy Spirit as an instrument of influence on the French nobility
The Order of the Holy Spirit or Knot is a more ancient prototype of the famous award. The knightly union was founded in 1352 by the governor of Languedoc, Louis I of Anjou. The duke wanted to gain a foothold on the throne of the Kingdom of Naples and established an order in order to unite the military elite and noble feudal lords around him. The hallmark of the knights was a knot of gilded cord, which was supposed to be sewn onto clothes, tied in a special way. The union broke up with the death of the king, but the handwritten charter of the organization has survived to this day and is today kept in the Museum of the French Monarchs in the Louvre.
The Order of the Holy Spirit was conceived by Henry III of Valois in the image and likeness of the Order of the Knot. It can be safely assumed that the king was inspired by the manuscript of his royal ancestor, since the new charter largely repeated the document of two hundred years ago. The goal of the monarch was similar Henry wanted to enlist the support of noble Catholic nobles, so the main task of the order was to protect the Catholic faith.
The king ascended the throne in the midst of religious wars, and his position was very precarious a strong rival, Duke Henri de Guise, who was loved by the people and supported by the nobility, claimed the throne. Henry established an order in honor of the Holy Spirit, since the feast of Pentecost had a special meaning for him.
It was on this day in 1573 that the monarch received the crown of Poland, and a year later became the king of France. The knighting ceremony was held with great pomp in the Parisian church of the Great Augustines on December 31, 1578. Henry swore to defend the faith on the gospel and accepted the vestments of the Grand Master from the hands of Bishop Jacques Amyot of Auxerre, who was awarded the title of Commander.
The charter limited the circle of initiates to one hundred knights. During the first ceremony, the king distributed only twenty-seven robes in the hope of attracting as many of his opponents as possible with honors.
The first to receive the title of knights were the commanders of the royal army:
- Charles de La Rochefoucaud, Lord Barbezier;
- Antoine de Pons, Comte de Marenne;
- Rene de Rochechouart, Baron Mortemart.
Evidence has been preserved that the supporters of the Duke of Guise managed to pretty much spoil the king’s celebration. Several radical nobles blocked the doors of the church with a heavy wardrobe, while a royal dinner was being held in one of the rooms of the abbey in honor of the founding of the order. The incident made a lot of noise and was perceived as a manifestation of blatant impudence towards the monarch.
The new regalia did not help the king stop internal political strife, but Henry managed to achieve the main thing the Order of the Holy Spirit in the court environment began to be considered elite. Founded by Louis XI, the Order of Saint Michael by that time had lost its significance due to the too large number of gentlemen. The possession of two awards gave the right to add the title of “knight of royal orders” to the title and receive a higher position at court.
Insignia of the Order of the Holy Spirit
The badge of the order was a Maltese cross made of gold or silver with royal lilies in the corners and a dove with outstretched wings in the center. The charter prescribed to wear the order on a blue moire ribbon, so the knights were often called “blue cords”. The star was sewn directly onto the clothes with silver threads. Solemn meetings provided for ceremonial vestments a velvet mantle and an order chain.
The internal structure of the order was regulated by the charter, which divided the cavaliers into three categories:
- knights nobles, whose origin was confirmed by four generations of noble ancestors;
- commanders eight clergymen;
- commanders-officers the administrative apparatus of the order, consisting of the chancellor, master of ceremonies, treasurer and secretary.
For the latter category, hereditary nobility was not considered mandatory, which subsequently allowed Louis XIV to appoint Jean-Baptiste Colbert to the post of treasurer. Members of the order annually paid the so-called marc d’or a special tax that went to the needs of the organization. Meetings of knights chaired by the king were held annually. The ceremony was opened by a solemn procession of knights in full dress to the church of the Grands-Augustins monastery, where a festive mass was held.
Unlike many French awards, the Order of the Holy Spirit has not lost its high status over time. The number of knights remained unchanged, and an honorary title could only be obtained by rendering special services to the king. In 1661, Louis XIV accepted seventy nobles as members of the order, who supported him during the Fronde. Up to this point, there had been no new appointments for thirty years.
The Order of the Holy Spirit was abolished by the French Revolution. After the restoration, the award was restored for a short time, but after the revolutionary events of 1830, the government excluded the order from the list of state regalia. After the suppression of the older branch of the dynasty, the indirect descendants of the last king refused to consider the regalia non-existent and continued to hand it over. Today, the Duke of Anjou, Louis Alfonso de Bourbon, is considered the head of the order.