Order of the Holy Spirit, Cross
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This Order was founded by Henry III in 1578 as a reaction to the overuse of the Order of St. Michael. The new Order was restricted to 100 members, much less than the several hundred living members of the Order of Saint Michael. It also served as a commemoration of Henry III’s Catholic faith and his accession to the throne of France and Poland.
Membership of this Order was restricted to Catholic men of royal blood, Catholic men of noble blood, and men of the Catholic Church. Members were required to demonstrate three generations of nobility, and be a minimum of 35 years of age. The age requirement was not necessary for Princes of royal blood who were admitted at age 16, for sons of the King who were members from birth and received at age 12, and for foreign monarchs who could be admitted at the age of 25.
With the exception of clergy, members of this Order were required to belong to the Order of Saint Michael. Upon entrance into the Order of the Holy Spirit, members were given the title “Knights of the Orders of the King.” They were also charged with upholding the Roman Catholic faith and the dignity of the nobility.
The Order was discontinued during the Revolution on July 30, 1791, and was later re-established by Louis XVIII on September 28, 1814. It remained the highest Order of Chivalry conferred by the Monarchy until it was permanently discontinued in 1830.
The motto of the Order was "Duce et Auspice,” which translates to “Led and Inspired.”
The Order of the Holy Spirit is translated from the French "Ordre du Saint-Esprit" or "Ordre des Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit"; the Order is also known as the Order of the Holy Ghost.
The Cross was worn on a blue silk ribbon. This represents the first instance that the wearing of an Order and its ribbon were regulated by official statutes. It is also where the term “Cordon Bleu” originates.
The Cross for Knights had a dove on the obverse and a medallion depicting Saint Michael slaying a dragon on the reverse. Crosses for clergymen were slightly larger than the other crosses and had a dove on both the obverse and reverse.
There are few surviving examples of Ancien Regime Crosses as most were systematically re-purposed after the deaths of their owners, and then later abolished during the Revolution
Some resources stand that the Knight's Cross had had different design than the Clergyman's Cross; however, this information have not been confirmed.
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