Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Orders worn by King Louis XVI

After writing my post last week about King Louis XVI it occurred to me that I could, and indeed should have said something about the Orders the King is wearing in the two portraits I included in my text.

In both paintings the King is wearing the premier Order of the French Crown, the Order of the Saint-Esprit (usually rendered in English as the Order of the Holy Ghost). It was founded in 1578 by KIng Henri III, and superceded the Order of St Michael, created by King Louis XI in 1469, as the most senior Order: thereafter Knights of the Saint-Esprit automatically received the Order of St Michael. There is a website about the Saint- Esprit here It has a few unfortunate mistranslations - such as rendering the 'Order of St Michael' as 'Michaelmas' produced by the automated system used - but is illustrated and informative.

There is another site which deals with all the French royal orders here.

In the portraits the King can clearly be seen wearing the sky blue moiree riband of the Order and the breast star with its motif of the Dove. The riband was the first to be prescribed in the statutes of an order, and is the origin of the term 'cordon bleu' as asign of honour. The Order specifically commemorated King Henri's accession to the thrones of Poland on Whitsunday 1573, and to that of France on Whitsunday 1574, and hence the use of the Dove as a symbol. It also served to recall the account of the Holy Dove bringing the Sainte-Ampoulle at the baptism of Clovis in 496, and the source of the Holy Oil used at the Sacre of the King at Rheims. The design of the breast star and badge of the Order was to be copied and adapted by nmany other orders in Spain, Sicily, Sweden and Great Britain with the badge of the Military Division of the Order of the Bath, with lions and unicorns replacing the fleur-de-lys.

Examples of the black mantles embroidered with flames worn by knights of the Order on ceremonial occasions can be seen in the Louvre. In Bernard Fay's biography
Louis XVI there is a reproduction of a painting of the knights paying homage to the King. It was in his reign, in 1778, that the bicentenary of the Order was celebrated and a commemorative medallion in silver produced by P.A.F. Tardieu.


King Louis XVI aged 20 in 1775


King Louis XVI in 1786

In both portraits the king is wearing on his jacket the badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece. I assume this is from the Austrian branch of the Order, through his marriage into the Habsburg dynasty. In the second
trait he is wearing with it the French Military Order of St Louis, founded in 1693. The red riband of that order was copied for the Napoloeonic and later Legion d'Honneur.

The chivalric orders of the monarchy were abolished by the revolution, but restored by King Louis XVIII. Amongst the recipients in those years were Britons such as King George IV and the Duke of Wellington. After 1830 the historic Orders were not retained under the Orleanist monarchy, although ocasionally worn and bestowed by the heirs of King Charles X.

In recent decades the Order has been revived, worn and bestowed by the Dukes of Anjou in respect of their claim through descent from King Philip V of Spain. In the photograph below, which shows him and his wife the present Duke of Anjou of that line, Louis Alphonse, who would claim to be
King Louis XX can be seen wearing the riband and star of the Order, as well as a collar of the Order of Malta.
Tke Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duche
Prince Louis Alphonse and Princess Maria Margarita, Duke and Duchess of Anjou

1 comment:

cornelia blight said...

the first picture is not working???