Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece, Grand Collar
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The Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece (Orden del Toisón de Oro) was instituted by Felipe III/Philip III, Duke of Burgundy on January 10, 1429 (or 1430). It was founded on occasion of his third marriage with Isabella of Portugal, and as a declaration of the wealth of Burgundy and his desire to separate the Duke of Burgundy from the Kingdom of France.
The Order was instituted as an Order of Knighthood rewarding individuals who had defended the Catholic Faith, venerated the Glory of God, Virgin Mary and St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of Burgundy, as well as those individuals who had exhorted to all men to live virtuously, displaying catholic good manners, defending the weak, and obeying the commandments of chivalry with honor and greatness.
Originally, the Order was conferred only upon those men who had noble origin and belonged to the Catholic Church. Throughout 15th and 16th centuries, the Order was conferred mainly upon the heirs of royalties of Burgundy, Portugal, Scotland, Poland, Denmark, France, and Bavaria.
In 1477, with the marriage of Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, and Maximilian I, head of the House of Hapsburg, the sovereignty of the Order remained in dispute between the house of Hapsburg and the Kings of Spain. After the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713,) Charles VI, new Emperor of Austria, re-instituted the Order as an Austrian Order of Knighthood. At the same time, Philip V, who became King of Spain, re-established the Order under the command of Burgundy’s house in 1721. In spite of the continuous engagements between both Kings claiming sovereignty of the Order, the next years the Order was tacitly introduced into both countries.
During the Peninsular War (1808-1814), this Order was the only Spanish order that was not abolished by Joseph Bonaparte.
Nowadays, the both branches of the Order remains; however, each branch has its own unique attributes, statues, and council.
The Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece remains under the mastery of Burgundy’s house, and it is the highest decoration that the Crown of Spain confers. It is conferred upon those who have served the Spanish Crown with loyalty and courage. It may be awarded to non catholic person, and women, however the recipient must have a noble origin.
The Order is conferrable upon women with the suffix of Dame instead of Knight. The award has to be returned to the council once the recipient has passed away.
The currently design of the Spanish Order features the fleece in profile with only one eye and a visible horn.
The motto of the Order is in Latin, and can be translated to "Not a bad reward for Labor", and "Hurt before the Flame Burns".
The Collar is composed of alternate links of flints with sparks and fire steels with the shape of the letter “B” for the House of Burgundy.
The Collar was conferred upon French Minister Guizot, the first recipient without noble origin; also, throughout 19th and 20th centuries, the Collar was awarded to non-catholic recipients such as, a few Japanese Emperors, Sultan Abdul, and Bey of Tunisia, the latter was awarded in 1870. Also, it have been conferred to the Queen of United Kingdom in 1988, the Queen Margriet of the Netherlands and the Queen of Denmark in 1985.
The Collar has an assigned number to recognize it when it has returned to the Order.
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