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Revived and Recently Created Orders of


• Introduction
• Revived Orders:
• Modern Templars
• Saint Thomas of Acre
• The British Order of Saint John
• The Order of the Militia of Christ
• The Order of Saint George of Burgundy
• The Modern Order of Saint Lazarus
• The Niadh Nask
• Recently Created Orders

This page describes a few modern orders of knighthood, which are either recreations of specific
medieval orders, or imitations of medieval or monarchical orders without specific reference to any

The term "bogus" is one I don't like, because it was so abused by Arthur Fox-Davies, who thought
that any arms which were not delivered on parchment by a royal official were "bogus"; thus
relegating 90% of heraldry into inexistence. As far as I am concerned, there is no good reason why
anyone could not create "orders of chivalry" today; how seriously such associations would be taken
will depend on many factors, such as their membership, stated goals and veritable activities; but
also on what they claim to be. Only people who would reject as "bogus" any such organization
might be offended by the choice of certain orders. I discuss the general question of legitimacy of
orders separately.

I discuss two kinds of orders, revived and recently created. I use the term revived to refer to
associations which call themselves orders of chivalry but are the only ones to do so, and which also
claim to be identical with or directly emanated from well-defined historical orders of chivalry. I
discuss here a few, sometimes entertaining examples of associations which have sprung up in the
past. In some cases, like Lazarus or the British Order of Saint-John, the origins are what they are,
but the orders have, to a large degree, transcended them.

By recently created orders I mean institutions which call themselves orders of chivalry, and imitate
in their general appearance (name, style, insignia, activities) well-known orders or monarchical
orders, without claiming to be the continuation or revival of any specific historical order.

Guy Stair Sainty also discusses a large number of self-styled orders (including many not mentioned
here) on his Web site (and he predictably disagrees with my placement of the Most Venerable
Order on this page!).
A note: in the references, I have listed all documentation that I have found mentioned in various
bibliographies, but I have had access to a small portion only. Those books I did consult are marked
with an asterisk.

I thank James Algrant and Guy Sainty for helpful comments, although the opinions expressed here
are mine only and do not engage their responsibility.

Revived Orders:

The Modern Templars (18th-20th c.)

The abrupt and dramatic end of the Order of the Temple in 1312, and the execution at the stake of
its last Grand-Master Jacques de Molay in 1314, created the right conditions for future claims of
resurgence. A similar phenomenon has occurred in the past with dynasties: the various impostors
Czar Dimitri Ivanovich in 1605, the various people claiming to be Louis XVII (the most famous
being Naundorff), the woman who claimed to be Anastasia daughter of the Czar Nicholas II, etc.

In Spain and Portugal, the surviving Templars were regrouped into new orders founded by the
sovereigns. Elsewhere, the Templars endured various fates, but the organisation itself disappeared,
its leadership killed, its assets confiscated and turned over to the Hospitallers of Saint-John.

In the 18th centuries several legends emerged, claiming that the Templars had in fact survived as an
order. Jacques de Molay, on his way to death, had allegedly appointed someone as his successor
and entrusted him with perpetuating the Order in secrecy. That successor is variously named as the
preceptor of Auvergne (who fled to England but died there in jail) or an English knight. The
successor is said to have gone to England or Scotland and found refuge among the mason guilds.
Thus the secret traditions and knowledge of the Templars (acquired in the East, of course) were
passed on to the masonic associations. Not surprisingly, these legends appear at the time when
freemasonry is created in England and Scotland, in the early 18th century. Knights Templars
became a grade in some forms of free-masonry in the mid-18th century, and it seems that an
offshoot of that grade became an order in the US and Canada in the late 19th century (see Land,
Robert Ernest Augustus: Fifty years in the Malta order. Toronto, 1928).

One particular revival occurred in 1804. Two French masons, Philippe Ledru (1754-1832) and
Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1775-1838) found the Order of the Temple, and Fabré-Palaprat
is made its grandmaster. Napoleon I, who viewed freemasonry favorably, allowed them to carry on
their activities, including solemn processions in the streets of Paris (albeit in modern attire with
mantles and toques). Later, in 1815, Sir William Sydney Smith (1764-1840) linked up with these
neo-Templars. As admiral of the British navy he had successfully defended Acre against Napoleon
in 1799, and supposedly was given by the Greek archbishop a Templars' cross (left in Acre by
Richard Lionheart) in gratitude. This cross opened the doors for Sir Sydney who became a Templar
and tried to create a branch in England, for which he was made Grand-Prior. His aim was to send
the order to participate in the liberation and pacification of Greece and other areas under Ottoman
control. He also dreamed of establishing a base in Malta and taking over the old activities of the
order of Saint-John (since Malta was then in the hands of the British). He managed to get
Augustus-Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) interested in the project. The duke of Sussex (6th
son of George III) became Grand Prior of England. Another individual active in the revival was
Charles Tennyson d'Eyncourt (uncle of the poet Alfred Tennyson). On the death of Fabré-Palaprat
Smith became Regent of the order, but his subsequent death soon followed by that of the duke of
Sussex dissipated the order in England. D'Eyncourt himself lost interest and resigned from the
order in 1849. The French branch seems not to have outlived its founder.

In the 20th century, pseudo-Templars proliferated. They are chronicled in Chaffanjon anf


• * Malcolm Barber (ed): The military orders : fighting for the faith and caring for the sick
Aldershot, Great Britain, 1994; Variorum.
• Manuel des chevaliers de l'Ordre du Temple. Paris, 1817 (2d ed.: 1825.) The manual of
Palaprat's French order.

The Order of Saint Thomas of Acre (18th-19th c.)

This order was originally founded as a purely religious order in in Acre in 1190, probably by
Richard Lionheart. It was devoted to Saint Thomas Becket, and retained an English character
throughout its history. In 1228, Peter des Roches, bishop of Westminster, reorganized the order into
a military monastic order on the model of the Teutonic Order. The order did not play a major
military role, and after the fall of Acre in 1291 it retired to Cyprus. Sometime in the 1370s the order
was moved to its London house. There it survived as a mainly hospitaller order until it was
dissolved along with other orders in 1540.

At what time it was revived I do not know for sure. It appears again in the early 18th century in
Jacobite circles, and was one of several organizations active in promoting the Jacobite cause. It
seems to have been under the protection of the exiled Stuarts in France. George Keith, Earl
Marischal of Scotland (1692-1778) was its Grand Master until he transferred the office to
Seignelay de Colbert Traill, younger son of Laird Castlehill and bishop of Rodez. Later we find Sir
Robert Strange as its Grand Master, and in 1848 Lord Elphinstone (1807-60). At some later point
Bertram, 5th earl of Ashburnham (1840-1913) is Grand Master, succeeded in 1908 by Melville de
Ruvigny (1868-1921).

Other Jacobite orders or associations include the Realm of Sion and the Order of Sangreal. In 1848
Henry Lascelles Jenner, bishop of Dinedin in New Zealand, founded the grandly named Sovereign
Sacred Religious and Military Order of Knights Protectors of the Sacred Sepulchre of Our Lord
Jesus Christ and of the Most Holy Temple of Zion, which was later merged with Sion and Sangreal
into a "federal chivalric condominium" called the Sovereign Order of the Realm of Sion.


• * Alan Forey, The Military Order of Saint Thomas of Acre, in the English Historical Review
(1977), 92:481-503.
• * Roger Ararat, Preface to Ruvigny: The Jacobite Peerage. 1914.

The Prehistory of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of

Saint-John of Jerusalem (MVOSJ) (1827 to 1888)
See the official site of the US priory, with links to an in-depth history of the order. What follows is
my personal interpretation.

This Victorian invention has its origins in the turmoil of the Napoleonic era. Following the capture
of Malta in 1798 and the conquest of most of Europe by Napoleon, the Order was quite
disorganized in 1814. The return of the Bourbons to France prompted the formation of a "capitular
commission" of the French langues by an assembly of French knights in May 1814, which was
initially recognized by Louis XVIII, and approved by a papal bull of August 10, 1814. It began
lobbying for a return of the Order's French properties, and acting at the Congress of Vienna for a
return of the island of Malta. Camille de Rohan was head of the commission, followed in 1816 by
Lasteyrie du Saillant and later by Jean-Louis de Dienne. It failed to persuade Britain to return the
island, but it obtained French government pensions for the professed knights (about 90 survived)
and worked on the return of the estates, which seemed possible if the Order regained its territorial
sovereignty. Offers of Elba from the Austrian government were rejected because Metternich
demanded control of the Grand-Mastership. The search was on for some vacant island.

The French Commission, then controlled by its Chancellor Pierre-Hippolyte de Sainte Croix-
Molay, then turned to the possibility of helping the Greeks in their war of independence, and a
treaty was signed between the Commission and the Greek rebels in June 1823. The treaty promised
the order several Greek islands and Rhodes (should it be conquered), and in exchange the Order
would raise troops and 10 million Francs. To begin the process the Comission started making
knights rather indiscriminately, at least 200 in the space of a few years. But the treaty was opposed
by other Greek rebel groups, as well as England and Austria. Under international pressure the
French government withdrew its recognition of the Commission and henceforth acknowledged
only those knights which had also been authorized by the Lieutenancy of the Order in Messina. (In
fact, a royal ordinance of April 16, 1824 stated that only the French royal orders were legal in
France, and bearers of foreign orders needed authorization from the government; an instruction of
the Chancery of the Legion of Honor of May 5, 1824 provided further details). The Lieutenant of
the Order dissolved the commission. The floatation of the loan in the form of bonds on the London
market collapsed before it started.

The Commission nevertheless revived itself in 1826, under the presidency of Calonne d'Avesnes
but still controlled by Sainte Croix-Molay, and continued in its attempts at raising money for its
Greek operation. At this time it was totally unofficial, disavowed by the Order of Malta and
unrecognized by the French government. The Commission decided to search private sources of
funds in England, and opened negotiations with a Scot called Donald Currie, an acquaintance of
Sainte Croix-Molay. In 1827 Instruments of Convention were signed between the Commission and
Currie, enabling him to raise L240,000 by recruiting new members (even non-Catholics). Currie
did not raise much money but he recruited avidly.

Greek independence having been achieved without any participation of the Order, Sainte Croix-
Molay now turned to the possibility of settling in Algeria, conquered in 1830 by the French. But the
same year Charles X was overthrown, and the Commission lost all influence with the French
government, which also broke diplomatic relations with the Lieutenancy in Messina. Nevertheless
the Commission continued to encourage the formation of an English Langue, which took place in
January 1831, with the election of Sr Robert Peat, Bart, former chaplain of George IV, as "Prior ad
interim of the Tongue of England". However, a split amongst the British members occurred the
next year. By 1837, the party which the French Commission had recognized had more or less
disappeared, and the other party led by Robert Peat continued on its own. Peat was succeeded by
Sir Robert Dymoke in 1838, Lt-Col. Sir Charles Montolieu Lamb, Bart, in 1847, Rear-Admiral Sir
Alexander Arbuthnot in 1860.

The English group made contact again with the French knights in 1838, only to learn that Sainte
Croix-Molay was considered a disreputable and disavowed character. The English group
nevertheless tried to negotiate recognition from the Lieutenancy, who replied that they could not
accept non-Catholics. The English also sought the patronage of the duke of Sussex, who turned
them down in 1839.

The English group almost disappeared, but, led by Sir John Broun, it persisted in hoping for
recognition, basing themselves on letters patent of 1557 recreating the order in England (although it
was abolished again by Elizabeth I in 1560). Now called "the Sovereign and Illustrious Order of
Saint-John of Jerusalem: Anglia", it made contact again in 1857 with the Lieutenancy of the Order
in Rome, through a Catholic member of the English group, John James Watts. Negotiations started,
with the aim of establishing a Catholic priory, which in turn would form a Protestant branch (the
existing group, of course). The Lieutenancy was initially favorably disposed, but the three English
knights of Malta, led by Sir George Bowyer, and including John James Watts, who had just been
received as members and were to form the Catholic priory decided to break off with the English
group instead. A British Association of the Order of Malta was to be founded in 1876.

The English association nevertheless persisted in its efforts at some kind of recognition. It enlisted
the support of the 7th duke of Manchester who became their grand prior in 1861. The group drew
up a Constitution in 1871 and renamed itself more modestly "Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem in
England". A corps of ambulances was created in the 1860s, roughly around the same time as (or
preceding) the real Order of Malta's charitable activities and those of the Red Cross. The Princess
of Wales became Lady of the Order in 1876, and she in turn secured the membership of the Prince
of Wales.

The priory finally received a royal charter in 1888, which changed its name to The Grand Priory in
the British Realm of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint-John of Jerusalem, and
made the sovereign of Great Britain its Sovereign Head and Patron. The Prince of Wales was
appointed Grand Prior in 1890 by Queen Victoria, and since then the Prior has always been a
member of the royal family.

After the Royal Charter

This royal charter changed the nature of the order. It now enjoys official recognition in Great
Britain, and is indeed a British order of chivalry (albeit one with a peculiar status, totally
independent of the government, and the only one conferring neither precedence nor use of the title
"Sir"). That is an advantage that few orders, self-styled or otherwise, possess. This, however,
changes nothing to the origin of the order: it started as a 19th century revival of a defunct
organization, the English branch of Malta, abolished in 1540 by Henry VIII.

The desire to represent the Venerable Order as the heir to the historical Order of Saint John is
evident in the Librarian of the Order's work, Edwin James King's The Knights of St. John in the
British realm: being the official history of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of
Jerusalem (continued after King's death in 1952 by Sir Harry Luke), published in 1967 in London
by the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. This was the 3d edition of E.
J. King's history of the Venerable Order. The book studies the Priory of the historical Order until its
abolition in the 16th century, and describes the organization since 1831 as a "revival" which
received "official regonition" (not existence or legitimacy) from the charter of 1888. He writes, for
example: "[In 1871] So far the Order of Saint John had succeeded in re-establishing itself in
England and in reviving certain of its ancient dignities (p. 144) [...] The knights of Saint John were
now to receive their official recognition in the form of a Charter from Queen Victoria [...] Queen
Victoria's charter expressly defines the continuity between the original Grand Priory and its revival
in these words: 'The Grand Priory of England is the Head of the Sixth or English Language of the
Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem'" (p. 149). Among many other examples,
one can cite Appendix F of the book "On the seals of the grand priory", which shows "the ancient
seals" (until the 16th c.) and "the modern seals" (since 1831); this is not innocuous, since in English
law corporate seals are the legal mark of identity.

But Queen Victoria cannot make the Venerable Order into what it cannot be: it cannot be "the
Priory in Great Britain" of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, because the latter is a Catholic
order with its own British association, and the Queen of Great Britain does not have the power to
create priories of that order. The language of the 1888 charter is even more jarring: by calling the
new order "the sixth or English language" a clear reference was made to the historical Order of
Saint John, in which, until the reorganization of the 19th century, the knights were grouped in
Languages or Tongues, and England was the 6th. Before and after its transmutation into a British
order of chivalry, the order has used a name (Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem)
which belongs, or is a purposeful imitation of a name which belongs to another institution. The aim
of such use is to assume some of the historical prestige and legacy of the historical order of
Malta: self-styled orders do no less.

The relations between the English Order and the Order of Malta were predictably icy for a long
time. But in the end, time worked its magic, and a reconciliation of sorts took place. A Joint
Declaration was issued by the Order of Malta and the British Order of Saint John on 26 November

The relationship which exists between the Sovereign Military

Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of
Malta and the Grand Priory in the British Realm of the Most
Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem is
not always clearly understood, and it is to dispel any
misconceptions which may exist that this statement is being

A dispute, long since relegated to the realms of academic

discussion, as to whether the Most Venerable Order was the
lineal desdendent of the old Grand Priory of the Sovereign
Order, at one time caused division amongst those concerned
with such questions. Certain it is that the Most Venerable
Order acquired a completely independent existence when it
was granted a Royal Charter by Her Majesty Queen Victoria,
who became its Sovereign Head.

Since this time the Most Venerable Order has pursued the
same high ideals of charity, especially to the poor and
sick, which were the very cause of the foundation of the
Sovereign Order nearly one thousand years ago.

It will be easy to understand, therefore, why two great

Orders, representing the same traditions, pursuing the same
ideals, serving the same cause and wearing the same famous
eight pointed cross, should have the greatest respect and
esteem for each other. It is our happiness to declare that
such a relationship does truly exist, and that it is the
dearest wish of both Orders, to seek ever more ways in which
they can collaborate, to serve God's glory and to alleviate
the sufferings and miseries of mankind.
Notice that the issue of legitimacy and recognition is skirted adroitly; in particular, the Order of
Malta does not recognize the British Order to be "the" Order of Saint John, as its name implies.
What one can conclude from this, is that, from Malta's point of view, the British Order is worth
collaborating with for purposes of charity, and questions of legitimacy and usurpation of name are
secondary. Few other orders enjoy this form of recognition. To this day, members of the Order of
Malta are also members of the British Order (as was, e.g., Mgr Bruno Bernard Heim), as good a
sign of reconciliation as any.


• *King:, Edwin James: The Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of Saint-John of
Jerusalem in England: a Short History. London: Fleetway Press, 1924.
• King, Edwin James: The Knights of St. John in the British empire; being the official history
of the British Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. London: St. John ambulance
association, 1934.
• *King, Edwin James: The Knights of St. John in the British realm: being the official history
of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. (3d. edition,
continued by Sir Harry Luke). London: Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of
Jerusalem, 1967.
• * Henri de Pierredon: Histoire politique de l'Ordre Souverain de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem:
(Ordre de Malte) de 1789 à 1955. Paris, 1955; Ed. Scaldis.
• * Malcolm Barber (ed): The military orders : fighting for the faith and caring for the sick
Aldershot, Great Britain, 1994; Variorum.

Order of the Militia of Jesus-Christ (ca. 1885)

Saint Dominic founded an order by that name in 1216; but it was not an order of chivalry, and it did
not survive very long.

The modern revival began, innocently enough, in 1870, after the capture of Rome by Italian troops.
Former members of the Papal army, under the comte de Beaumont, decided to found an association
which would fight for the rights of the Holy See and stand ready to assist it against its enemies. The
name of the association was Milizia di Cristo, crociata di preghiera e di azione (Militia of Jesus-
Christ, crusade of prayer and action). This society, which admitted women, was organized in
sections headed by "promoters," and was placed under the spiritual guidance of the Dominicans. Its
name recalled the Militia of Jesus-Christ founded by Saint Dominic in 1216, although no claim to
be a continuation of that institution was made. The Dominicans looked favorably on the new
institutions, affiliating its members with the Third Order of the Dominicans. The comte de
Beaumont merely called himself Organisateur de la Milice de Jésus-Christ pour la défense du
Saint Siège, and the cross worn by members consisted simply of a cross potent argent with a
medallion in the center.

One day things changed abrutply. On the occasion of the funeral of the French admiral Courbet in
1885, a Paris newspaper, L'Univers (Aug 30, 1885) mentioned the presence of a representative of
the Militia, and asserted that "the Militia [was] a religious and chivalric order founded by Innocent
III and Saint Dominic, and Pius IX had appointed the comte de Beaumont as Grand Master of the
Order in France". The General of the Dominicans, Padre Larroca, was rather surprised, and made
inquiries. He discovered that the comte de Beaumont had retired and been succeeded by Domenico
Piccoli, who started calling himself Lieutenant General and Grand Prior of the Cross of Paris of the
Order. The Order was renamed Ordine religioso cavalleresco della Milizia di N.S. Gesu Cristo, its
members calling themselves knights and commanders, wearing a uniform with white jacket, and
the shape of the insignia had become the black and white cross flory of the Dominicans. Alarmed,
the General of the Dominicans wrote to Piccoli and informed him that all links between the
Dominicans and the Militia were severed, and asking him to stop using insignia related to those of
the Dominicans. His successor also wrote to Piccoli in 1888 telling him not to use titles such as
Lieutenant-General or Grand-Master, since theirs was an association, not an order. Some years
later, Piccoli made another attempt at obtaining official endorsement, and received a reply from P.
Cormier, Procurator General of the Dominicans, once again refusing to have anything to do with
the Militia (1897).

Badges of the Militia of Christ. Source: By courtesy of Hermann Historica, Munich.

At this point, Piccoli turned elsewhere for patronage, and persuaded the Melkite Catholic patriarch
of Antioch, Peter IV, to become Grand Master, in 1900. Peter IV died in 1902, and the Mastership
was offered to his successor Cyrill VIII, who immediately wrote to the Pope for his approval. The
Holy See's reaction was swift. In 1904, the Secretary of State of the Holy See wrote to Piccoli to
inform him that the Order of the Militia of Christ was not approved by the Holy See, and that Cyrill
VIII would not accept the Mastership.

In the end, Piccoli assumed himself the Grand Mastership of his order. He died in 1916, but the
association seems to have survived him; and it was still in existence in the 1970s. Some members
of the Militia, however, went on to found other revived orders. In particular, Paul Watrin, knight of
the Militia in 1902, founded in 1910 a revived order of Saint Lazarus and placed it under the
protection of the same Melkite patriarch in the same year.


• * Alberto di Montenuovo: article in Rivista Araldica, 1916, pp.364-7.

• Piccoli, D. Constitution de l'Ordre de la Milice de Jésus-Christ. Paris, 1887.
• Piccoli, D. Histoire de la chevalerie, des croisades et de l'Ordre de la Milice de Jésus-
Christ depuis leur origine jusqu'à nos jours. Paris, 1905.
• Bertrand, Paul. L'ordre de la Milice de Jésus-Christ, de Saint-Dominique et de Saint Pierre
Martyr. Paris, 1938. (I have not seen this book; the author is the official chronicler of the
revived order of St Lazarus).

Noble Ordre de Saint-Georges au Comté de Bourgogne ou de

Rougemont (ca. 1920-1937)
This noble confraternity, known in English as Saint George of Burgundy, was founded in 1390 by
Philippe de Mollans, a nobleman from Franche-Comté or comté de Bourgogne. A tradition claims
that he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and brought back a relic of Saint George. Soon after he
founded the Order in question. Its statutes are known: members had to prove 16 quarters of nobility
and 10 degrees of nobility in male line, be natives of Franche-Comté, Catholics and 16 or older,
and pay 300 livres. A governor was elected for life; other officers included a chancelor (a cleric), a
treasurer and two secretaries. Assemblies were held every year. The society lapsed but was revived
in 1485; it swore allegiance to Philip II of Spain in 1569, expelled a Protestant in 1584; it stopped
meeting during the Thirty Years War but resumed after 1648, and met yearly in Besançon. The
arms of the order (Gules Saint George or) were registered in 1696. In 1768 the statutes were
revised. Many of the order's members emigrated or died during the Revolution, and it had only 25
members in 1814. In 1816 the survivors regrouped under the leadership of Charles-Emmanuel,
marquis de Saint-Mauris (1753-1839), baron-pair in 1828, of an ancient local family that had
counted many members of the order (Révérend, vol. 6, p. 194). The statutes were revised to allow
for speedy reception of siblings and children of former members, and other receptions brought the
order to 78 in 1817, date of the last reception of members. But the order was abolished in 1824
when an Royal ordinance of April 16, 1824 made it illegal to wear decorations and insignia other
than those of the Royal orders. An instruction of the Chancery of the Legion of Honor of May 5,
1824 specifically cited the Order of Saint George as abolished. No knights were subsequently
received. The last knight, the marquis de Jouffroy d'Abbans, died in 1869, at which point the Order
became extinct.

In the Bibliothèque nationale, collection Clairambault, are two volumes on this order: 1318 contains printed material,
1319 contains a list of members from 1575 to 1703.

The insignia of the order was a medallion showing Saint George killing the dragon, hung from a
ribbon, initially red (with the approval of the duke of Burgundy Philippe le Bon), changed to blue
under Louis XIV.

There exists a book on this order or confraternity: La Noble Confrérie des Chevaliers de Saint-
Georges by Eric Thiou.

Badge of St. George of Burgundy. Source: By courtesy of Hermann Historica, Munich.

This story is told by Pidoux de la Maduère in an article in Rivista Araldica (Aug 1905 pp. 465-72).
Great was his surprise some 25 years later when he learned of a revival of the order (in fact, he
even received a diploma as "commander" of the order in December 1929!)

The revived order followed a worn pattern. In a typical fashion, it was claimed that the order was
actually founded in 1167 in Palestine by Roger, bishop of Arimathea, brought back to France
around 1300, reinvigorated in 1390 by Philippe de Mollans. Supposedly, it was not abolished in
1824 but survived until 1880, when, allegedly, new statutes were given to it. It only really surfaces
in the 1920s, when it is headed by a Grand Referendary named the comte de Maupas (false title of
comte, non-noble family name changed from "Maupas" to "de Maupas" in 1853; Dioudonnat, p.
447). Maupas was succeeded in 1923 by a marquis de Golbery (another false title) and in 1926
replaced by a General Government assisted by a Sacred Council headed by a duc de Lavillatte (yet
another false title). In 1929 Francesco Antonio di Gonzaga di Mantua was elected Governor of the
order, and revised statutes of the Apostolic and Hospitaller Order of Saint George and Notre-Dame
du Mont-Carmel were published. The new order was rather different in spirit: the nobility
requirements were dispensed with, the exclusion of non-Catholics was relaxed, and recruitment
extended outside of Franche-Comté. The name "Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel" was added, based
on the claim that knights of the French order of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel had merged their
order with that of Saint-Georges (never mind that N-D du Mont-Carmel was never an independent
order, but merely a duplicate of Saint-Lazare). The same year, the French Association of the
Knights of Saint George was registered as a non-profit association under French law (14 Mar
1929). In 1931, the order in question dropped any reference to Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel... By
1934, the Order of Saint-Georges claimed the membership of the French generals Weygand and
Gouraud, as well as 3 Italian generals and 3 American generals. It found an ardent supporter in
Adriano Colocci-Vespucci, who wrote several articles in Rivista Araldica (1934, p.562-7, 1935
p.61-63). An article by A. de Rubeis (Rivista Araldica, Feb 1938, pp.79-83) lists other eminent
members: the archduke Franz-Josef of Habsburg-Lothringen, the archduke Ferdinando of Lorraine-
Tuscany, prince William of Wied (king of Albania in 1914), the French general de Castelnau, the
admiral Dartiguez, the vice-admiral de Neresteny, the presidents of Venezuela, Peru, Cuba, the
Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, two cardinals, Victor Dowling (New York Supreme Court), etc.
Note that Dowling was also a knight of Saint-Lazarus.

One of the individuals involved was an orthodox priest, the archmandrite Demeter de Ser Leo
(already connected to the contemporaneous revival of Saint Lazarus, of which he was a member).
He was tried in November 1937 by a military court in Rome and found guilty (along with two
Frenchmen) of illegal sale of decorations; the same court declared the order to have been abolished
in 1824 and inexistent. Even worse, the "duc de Lavillatte", a.k.a. "duc de Saint-Simon", whose
real name was Philippe Dissandes de Lavillatte (an old non-noble family from the Berry, according
to Dioudonnat), was sued for usurping the name of Saint-Simon and for wearing false orders and
impersonating a general. The offending occasion, though not the sole one, was his appearance at
the funeral of a general at the Invalides on 10 Jan 1934, styling himself "Most Serene Highness
general duc de Saint-Simon", wearing the uniorm of an Italian general, and wearing no less than 22
decorations. He claimed that his father had received the ducal title from the king of Montenegro in
1920, and also claimed to descend from the famous writer duc de Saint-Simon (d. 1755). The court
sentenced him to a suspended sentence of 8 days in jail, a criminal fine of 500F and a civil fine to
the Saint-Simon family of 8,000F (Tribunal correctionnel de la Seine, 9 Dec 1936; Recueil Sirey,
1937, 2:133).

Not surprisingly, the order disappears completely after that date, although it is included in the list
of false orders condemned by the Holy See in 1953.

The parallels with the revived order of Saint-Lazarus are striking: an ancient order which died out
in France after 1830, revived in the 1920s (albeit with membership requirements much loosened),
with vague claims that it had survived secretly in the 19th century, some of the same individuals
involved in both activities, a Grand-Master with an impressive name chosen in 1929, a sudden
surge of activity with famous people supposedly becoming members, including presidents of Latin
American countries, etc.

There appears to be a recent revival of this order by Pierre Pasleau, an habitué of the false title


• Jürgens, G. Storia dell'Ordine equestre di San Giorgio di Borgogna. Roma, 1935.

• Uyttenhove, J. Ordre souverain de Saint Georges de Bourgogne. Gent, 1960.
• * various article in Rivista Araldica, cited above.

The Modern Order of Saint-Lazarus

I discussed briefly the prior history of the Order of Saint Lazarus. It was a hospitaller order
founded in the 12th c. in Jerusalem to serve as hospital for knights who had contracted leprosy.
Since leprosy did not necessarily incapacitate, the hospital acquired a structure modelled on the
other military-monastic orders in the Holy Land, and, as manpower grew scarce in the late 13th c.,
some members were involved in battles against Muslims. After the fall of Acre in 1291, the last
remnants of the order moved back to Western Europe, mainly France and Italy. The Pope tried to
merge it with the Order of Saint John in 1489, then merged it with the Savoyard order of Saint
Maurice in 1572. The remaining French priory, which refused to obey the Pope, was transformed
into a French royal order and united with the Order of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel in 1608; it
underwent many changes and was abolished in 1791. Not restaured in 1814, it disappeared with its
last members in the mid-19th century.

The Order was revived in 1910 and the organization still exists today. I discuss its modern history
in a separate page.

The Niadh Nask

The Niadh Nask was a self-described "non-chivalric order of knighthood" which was claimed to
have roots in a medieval caste of Irish warriors and to be associated with the MacCarthy family
(princes of Desmond until the 16th c.). Evidence of its existence prior to recent times was scant (for
example, a cross-shaped badge hangs around the neck of the last prince of Desmond in a 19th
century copy of an alleged 16th c. portrait, now lost, and of stylistically dubious authenticity). Its
defenders claimed that it had survived until the 1970s as a rather confidential order confined to the
MacCarthy family. It considerably extended its public presence under the grand-mastership of
Terence MacCarthy, a.k.a. the "MacCarthy Mór". There was substantial overlap in the
memberships of the Niadh Nask and the Order of St. Lazarus.

In late 1999, what many people had suspected became patently clear: Terence MacCarthy, whose
descent from the princes of Desmond was debunked by Sean J. Murphy, was a complete fraud, and
had completely invented the Niadh Nask. Elements of this now obsolete controversy can be found
in this page.

Recently Created Orders

Although bona fide orders have been created out of private initiative for charitable, military or
religious purposes ever since the original order of Saint John (now known as Malta), since the 19th
century there has been a large number of orders created either to satisfy personal vanity, or to
enrich a group of people (or both). Not all recently created orders of chivalry need be condemned
by such a blanket statement, but caveat emptor remains the rule.

Legal Status

Legally, some (but only few) governments have adopted a stand on orders of chivalry:

• The French government's position

• The Italian government's position

On the Web

Here are some links randomly collected while surfing the Web (some links may be out of date or
• Carl Lindgren's pages
several links worth pursuing

• Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem

Founded in the late 1960s by the head of the Melchite Greek Catholic Church, the Patriarch
Maximos V. It has ranks, titles, fees ($1500 for a knight, $11750 for a grand cross),
decorations, fancy costumes, investiture ceremonies, etc. Coincidentally, the patriarch is
also the spiritual protector of the order of St Lazarus.
• Order of Saint Ignatius
founded in 1976 by the metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox archdiocese of North
America, with the blessing of the Antioch patriarch Elias IV.
• Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle
of the Ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople was founded in 1966, with Pierre DeMets
as Grand Commander.
• Order of Saint Constantine the Great (OMCM), Order of St Helen, Order of St Eugene of
run by Theodore IX Lascaris Comnenos
• Sacred Orthodox Order of the Most Holy Cross of Saint Constantine the Great
This self-described "ecclesiastical order of merit" made a brief appearance on the Web; it is
apparently tied to the Orthodox bishop of Milan. Its badge is a stunning likeness of the
badge of the Constantinian Order of St George of the Two Sicilies. Its recognition by the
ICOC is said to be pending. There are two associated orders, the Supreme Order of St.
Ambrosius and the Orthodox Order of Saint Mary Magdalen at the Holy Sepulchre of
• Byzantine Order of the Holy Sepulchre
• The Religious and Military Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Created by Lloyd Worley, a professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado
(and also count palatine of Mazalla, courtesy of the "house of Alabona-Ostrogojsk", see
• The Order of the Noble Companions of the Swan
Created by William Maszer, a.k.a. "His Royal and Serene Highness Prince William I de
• Noble Order of the Guards of St Germain
an invention of "Prince Michael Stewart of Albany"
• The Emperor of Palm Beach by D. Kinnane-Roelofsma (on Caltrap's Corner)
• Gauci's response to Kinnane-Roelofsma
• Gauci's page on Maltese nobility
• "Peerage Conferred"
This title peddler (be a duke for $1500!) also confers the "Order of Saint Andrew of
Jerusalem". Dukes get the "Order of St. Victor" for free.


I include here a bibliography taken from Ivo Suetens: Bibliographie Numismatique: Ordres et
Décorations, Bruxelles, 1969, 1977. I have not seen these books, and it is likely that they are quite
rare, many of them being 16-page pamphlets without place or date of publication. But the list is, of
itself, instructive, as it provides traces for the activities of these orders over time.

See also the list of fantasy orders established by the Italian Foreign Ministry and another list drawn
by the Holy See in 1953.
• General
Some general sources on self-styled orders.
• Gillingham, H. E. Ephemeral Decorations. New York, 1935. American
Numismatical Society: Numismatic Notes and Mongraphs 66.
• Zeininger de Borja, H. C. Vanitas Vanitatum, o el trafico de condecoraciones
fantasticas. Leysin, 1939. (Zeininger, a serious heraldist, spent a lot of time
denouncing self-styled orders, and was a fierce critic of the order of S. Lazarus.)
• Chaffanjon, Arnaud and Bertrand Galimard-Flavigny. Ordres & contre-ordres de
chevalerie. Paris : Mercure de France, 1982.

• Gonzaga Orders
A19th century creation of the so-called prince of Gonzaga-Castiglione, convicted of fraud
in 1853.
• La famille des Gonzagues et l'Ordre de la Rédemption du Précieux Sang. (mid-19th
• Villamora, A. de. Notice historique des ordres de chevalerie appartenant a la
maison royale des princes de Gonzaga, ducs de Mantoue. Lyon, 1863. Marseille,
• Lusignan orders
In 1880, a former Maronite priest named Kafta and his wife started peddling an Order of
Melusina, claiming to represent the royal house of Lusignan (which reigned over Cyprus in
the 13th to 15th centuries) and calling themselves Guy and Marie de Lusignan. After his
death, her lover became Grand Master and called himself comte d'Alby de Gratigny, but
became involved in a fake art intrigue in 1910.
• Lusignan, M. de. Ordre de Mélusine, chevalerie d'honneur de Marie de Lusignan.
Paris, 1888.
• Lusignan, G. de. Statuts de l'Ordre royal de la Saint Catherine du Mont Sinaï. Paris,
• Cornaro, F. Reale Ordine di Cipro. S.l., 1948. 16 p.
• Pelliccioni di Poli, Luciano Il sovrano ordine di Cipro. Rome, 1973.
• Golden Horn
• Gybels, V.G.M. Geschiedenis en Symbolen der Geheime orde van den Gulden
Hoorn. Merksem, 1933.
• Grand Centaure
• Miera, F. de. Statuts de l'Ordre Equestre du Grand Centaure. Verviers, 1872.
• Saint Agatha of Paternò
Created in the 1950s by a cadet of the Sicilian family of Paternò. See more info.
• Santippolito, C. L'Ordine dinastico di S. Agata dei Paterno. Messina, 1961.
• Saint Brigitte of Sweden
• Orden de los Caballeros del SS. Salvador o de S. Brigida de Suevia. Estatutos. 1948.
• Ordine dei Cavalieri del S.S. Salvatore o di S. Brigida di Svezia. Statuti. 1950.
• Bisogni. La Sacra e nobile milizia del SS. Salvatore o di S. Brigida di Suezia. 1950.
• Van Dijk, B.J.M. De ridderlijke orden van St.-Birgitta van Zweden en van de Roos
en het Kruis van Jerusalem, tempelorde. Amsterdam, 1968.
• Saint Mary of Bethlehem
• Vargas Machuca, A. de. Il Sacro militare ordine di S. Maria di Bethlemme. Naples,
• Saint Denis of Zanthe
Founded by Pericles Voultsos in the 1950s, headed now by Thomas John Taglianetti. See
more info.
• Ordre grec-souverain et international de Saint-Dennis de Zante: Histoire,
Administration, Buts et activites. New York, 1953.
• The International American Institute. The story of the ancient and most exalted
Greek Order of Saint Dennis of Zante. Washington, D.C. 1958.
• Historia de la muy antigua e nobre Ordem grega de S. Dionisio de Zante. Lisboa,
n.d. A Spanish version, printed in Santiago de Chile, ca. 1960.
• C.N. Packett. The story of the ancient and most exalted Greek Order of Saint Dennis
of Zante. Bradford, 1962.
• The Sovereign Greek Order of Saint Dennis of Zante. Historical summary and roster.
New York, 1965-.
• Voultsos, P. Hoi hippotai tou hagiou Dionusiou Zakunthou. Athens, 1973.
• Saint George of Carinthia
Revived in the mid-20th century; seems to be still active.
• Pelliccioni di Poli, Luciano: L'Ordine di San Giorgio in Carinzia. Rome, 1975.
Another edition in 1983 with slightly different title: L'Ordine Sovrano Militare
Ospedaliero di San Giorgio in Carinzia. On the cover of the first edition the author
is styled "conte di Montecocullo, Gran Cancelliere dell'Ordine".
• Saint Hubert of Bar
A nobiliary confraternity of this name did exist in Old Regime France, similar to S. George
of Burgundy. Like it, it was revived in the 20th century by Ernest-Diomede Caprotti during
World War II; its chancellor was a Dutchman, Charles J.A. Begeer. This order had as its
head a prince Galitzin and later Eugene-Leopold of Bavaria (cf. Zeininger 1953).
• Caprotti, D. Capitularis Ordo Sancti Huberti Lorenensis ac Barensis e pia Unione
dell'Ordine di S. Huberto. Florence, 1944.
• Saint Sébastien et Saint Guillaume
Originally a crossbow practice group of the 15th century, briefly revived in the 1730s.
Recreated by L. Doucet inthe 1900s as a pseudo-nobiliary order with Grand-Cross,
Commander, Officer and Knight. The insignia was a Maltese cross with two arrows crossed
between the branches and surmounted by a countal coronet.
• Doucet de Chermont, L.M. Documents, statuts et privilèges de la noble institution
de l'Ordre des Chevaliers de Saints-Sébastien et Guillaume. Montligeon. 1911.
• Breve Historia da ordem dos Cavalheiros de S. Sebastiao e Guilherme. Rio de
Janeiro, 1954.
• article by Ugo Orlandini in Rivista Araldica, October 1910, p. 624.
• Constantinian Order and Royal Crown of Vandalia
A creation of "Flavian Eugene, 47th duke of Athens". (Cf. Zeininger 1953).
• Sanz de Andino, F. J. La Orden de Constantino el Grande y de la Real Corona de
Vandalia. Madrid, 1947.
• Cross of Constantine the Great
One of the creations of Fortuné Koller, who also served as propagandist for the Belgian G.
Proot, so-called prince of Thomond.
• Koller, Fortuné. Ordre sacré impérial angélique de la Croix de Constantin le Grand.
Rome, 1950.
• Our Lady of Mercy (N. S. Della Mercede)
• Ajtay de Vajasd, L. L'Ordine della Mercede. Rome, 1914.
• Vico, A. Costituzioni del celeste, reale e militare Ordine di N. S. della Mercede.
Rome,. 1926.
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François Velde

Last Modified: Nov 03, 2003

Knighthood and Orders of Chivalry

The following pages deal with knights and knighthood, as well as the related concept of order of
knighthood, both in its original form as a medieval institution, and its modern form as an award of
merit. See the introduction for a development of these distinctions.

• General Introduction to Knights and Knighthood
• Women and Knighthood in the Middle Ages
• History of the Orders of Knighthood: a Survey
• Specific Orders:
• The Order of Saint John (Sovereign Military Order of Malta)
• The Teutonic Order
• List of the Knights of the Garter from 1348
• The French Orders of Chivalry
• Revived and Recently Created Orders, of which the Order of Saint Lazarus
• An essay on legitimacy of orders.

There are many, many books on the topic of orders of chivalry. There is an excellent bibliography:

• Suetens, Ivo: Bibliographie Numismatique - Supplément: Ordres et Décorations. Bruxelles,

Cercle d'Etudes Numismatiques, Travaux: 1969, 1977 (2 vol.).

Lists of British knights

To identify a British knight (knight bachelor or knight member of an order), one can use:

• Shaw, William Arthur: The knights of England; a complete record from the earliest time to
the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and
Ireland, and of knights bachelors; Incorporating a complete list of knights bachelors
dubbed in Ireland, compiled by G. D. Burtchaell. London, Printed and published for the
Central chancery of the orders of knighthood, Sherratt and Hughes, 1906. Shaw's lists go
"from the earliest time" to 1904 inclusive. For any honour awarded sinec January 1, 1900,
the online edition of the London Gazette can be searched.

Other Resources on the Web

Listings of Knights

• Knights of the Garter (1348-present)

• Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit (1578-1789) by Arnaud Bunel
• Knights of the Golden Fleece (1430-present) by T.F. Boettger
• Knights of the Annunciation (1362-1788) by Federico Bona

• ORB's page on military orders with scholarly contributions, primary documents (such as the
rules of the Templars and Teutonic nights) and links
• Page on Chivalric Orders by Guy Stair Sainty, the most complete site on the subject.
• A Page on Honours from the British monarchy's official website.
• Honours in New Zealand
• The Canadian Honours System
• The British Venerable Order of Saint John, US priory (with further links)
• Knightly Orders & International Nobility, by Luigi Mendola.
• The ancient Portuguese military orders by José Vicente de Bragança
• links to Military Orders, Orders of Knighthood & Orders of Merit
• As Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas (in Portuguese)
• Official Web Page of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta's Assocation in the United
• A page of links related to the Order of Malta from the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard.
• The Orders of Chivalry Web Site, currently contains articles the British Orders of Chivalry,
the Orders of St John (the Sovereign Order of Malta and on the four non-Catholic Orders of
St John known as the Alliance Orders), the Order of St Lazarus, and the Order of St
• Catholic Encyclopaedia entry on Chivalry
• International Commission on Orders of Chivalry originally founded in 1962, refounded in

Return to Heraldica Main Page

François Velde

Knighthood and Chivalry

No substantial change since September 1996.

The terms are often confused, and often needlessly distinguished. The term knighthood comes from
the English word knight (from Old English cniht, boy, servant, cf. German Knecht) while chivalry
comes from the French chevalerie, from chevalier or knight (Low Latin caballus for horse). In
modern English, chivalry means the ideals, virtues, or characteristics of knights. The phrases
"orders of chivalry" and "orders of knighthood" are essentially synonymous.

The German translation for "knight" is Ritter (literally, rider). The Latin term in the Middle Ages
was miles, since a knight was by definition a professional soldier. In modern times, the Classical
Latin term eques was preferred.


The Emergence of knights

Succintly, a knight was a professional soldier. The old "citizens' armies" of Antiquity had been
replaced by professional armies. This trend was reinforced by the appearance in the 8th century of
the stirrup, which made mounted men much more powerful and turned cavalry into the most
important element of medieval armies. But being a mounted soldier was expensive, since it
required enough income to buy and sustain a horse and the equipment (armor, weapons) to go with
it. Thus, those who were too poor to provide this service became mere peasants, attached to the

In feudal society as it emerged in the 10th century, everyone held land from someone else in
exchange for goods or services of some kind. Men who were not free provided a portion of their
crops and labor services. Men who were free provided military service, either personally or (if they
were rich enough) using others' services. Thus, a man who held his estate in knight's fee owed
service as a knight to his lord. A more sizeable vassal, when called by his liege, would summon his
knights and form a contingent in his liege's army.

The Development of Knighthood

Knighthood was originally a professional association. It included those men who could afford to
make and maintain the heavy capital investment required by mounted warfare (horse and armor). It
emerges in the 11th century, and its members are nobles (members of the great land-owning
families) as well as small land-holders, free men, craftsmen, etc (in Spain, caballeros villanos were
common until the 14th c.). It must be understood that, even in the feudal era, the boundaries of
knighthood were quite fluid. Anyone who, by luck or effort, managed to obtain the training and
equipment to be a knight, could eventually enter that class. In Flanders, there is a famous case of a
family of servile (i.e., unfree) origin who entered into knighthood and became castellans of ??? in
the 12th c.

In the course of the 12th century, a social and ethical dimension is added to this professional aspect.
The strong influence of Cluny monks, who try to give an ethos to savage warfare, leads to the
definition of the true miles Christi, a soldier who follows a certain code of behavior, which we now
call chivalric. Starting in the second half of the 12th century, literature (gests and Arthurian
romances) also provides a model for the knightly community, as well as a means of glorifying it.

Knighthood and Nobility

Thus, knights were not necessarily nobles, nor were nobles necessarily knights. The noble class and
the knightly class slowly came to merge from the late 12th century onward. Nobles become knights
with increasing frequency. The French prince (future king Louis VI) was knighted without the
knowledge of his father who remains distrustful of a rather heterogeneous professional class, but
thereafter every French king is knighted (Favier 1993). Conversely, heredity enters the knightly
class in the 13th century. The son of a knight is automatically a squire, thus making him eligible for
knighthood on the basis of his ancestry; at the same time, knighthood is more and more restricted
to descendants of knights by various legal restrictions imposed over the course of the 13th century.
In the late 13th century, a decision of the Parliament in Paris forbade the count of Artois from
making unfree men into knights without the king's consent; interesting to note, the two men who
had been so knighted were allowed to remain knights subject to the payment of a fine. This marked
both the closure of the knightly class as well as the beginnings of a new form of access, by

In England, the evolution was different: those who held land in knight's fee but did not wish to take
up the profession could pay a tax. Knighthood did not become a hereditary class in England, and
instead the knightly class (those eligible to be knights) became the nucleus of the gentry.

See also my page on women knights.

The End of Knighthood

As a military institution, knighthood was on the wane from the late 13th century on. The end of
feudal society meant that sovereigns gained a monopoly on war-making, and the old form of
military service owed to one's immediate lord became obsolete. Kings still summoned their knights
for wars, but increasingly they turned to other sources of manpower, namely mercenaries whose
use became common in the 14th century. The war preparations of Henry V of England, which are
well-documented, show how the king formed an army: he signed dozens of contracts (or
indentures) with individuals who pledged to provide a specified number of men-at-arms and
archers (usually 3 archers for each man-at-arm) at muster time.

The development of gunpowder and increasingly more powerful archery meant that the use of
massive cavalry charges to break enemy lines and carry swift victory could not be relied upon, and
the dominance of cavalry came to an end. If any battle summed up this change, it was the battle of
Agincourt in 1415. The charging French knights, compressed by the terrain and the English arrows
into a fragmented and ever constricted line of attack, reached the English line without any room to
maneuver, and it only took a few fallen horses to prevent all other knights from moving in any
direction. Thus, in half-an-hour the battle was decided, and thousands of French knights lay
prisoners. The fear of a second attack prompted the English to kill them on the spot, and the French
nobility was horribly decimated in a single day. The French learned their lesson; Charles VII, who
finally expelled the English, formed the first standing, professional army in Europe.

The chivalric ideals continued to live on, perhaps precisely because the reality of knighthood had
disappeared, and a free rein was given to romanticizing. The French king François Ier insisted on
being knighted on the battlefield of his first victory at Marignano in 1515. Tournaments, pas
d'armes were favorite entertainment at the French court of the 16th century. More and more
elaborate suits of armor were forged for pure display, in increasingly baroque imitations of earlier
models. Ariosto's poetic retelling of the crusades popularized the figures of Orlando and Ruggiero
and extended the knightly myth for another 200 years. In the 19th century, when no one read
Ariosto anymore, Sir Walter Scott and Romanticism took up the cause.

Orders of Knighthood
The origins of orders of knighthood are in the Crusades. In the Latin Orient, a new institution
emerged, in which knights (professional soldiers) associated themselves under a strict, quasi-
monastic rule of life, for the purpose of protecting pilgrims and defending Christian conquests in
the Holy Land. In the 14th century, just as the original military-monastic orders were searching for
a new mission after the loss of the Holy Land, kings began creating orders of their own, modelled
in part on these original orders, but with a different purpose, to bind their nobility to themselves.
Still later, in the late 16th century, these monarchical orders were imitated in form by the new
orders of merit which became common throughout Europe.

Because each institution tried to use the prestige of the previous one by imitating it, the term "order
of knighthood" has been passed on and is now used for modern awards and decorations which are
neither orders nor composed of knights. In modern society, only a very few orders survive from the
times of the Crusades, and most "orders of knighthood" awarded by sovereigns or governments
(such as the English Garter or the Spanish Golden Fleece) are, in spite of their historical
connection, awards of merit.

I discuss orders of knighthood at greater length.

Heraldry and Knighthood

The relations between heraldry, nobility and knighthood are often completely misunderstood.
Briefly stated, heraldry appeared in the landed aristocracy and quickly spread to the knightly class
in the 12th century, at a time when knighthood and nobility remain very distinct classes. Over the
course of the 13th century, knighthood and nobility came to merge, just as heraldry spread far
beyond either class to be used by all classes of society. Thus, heraldry is not particularly linked to
nobility, although the most easily documented uses of heraldry are among nobles, simply because
nobles were the elite.

The initial development of heraldry certainly owes a lot to the practices of the knightly class, in
particular the growing fashion of tournaments, which became more and more popular from the 13th
century, just as knighthood as a military institution was on the wane. Tournaments were the
occasion to display coats of arms, and heralds, who were originally a specialized group of
minstrels, became responsible for identifying and cataloguing the arms of participants. Their
knowledge of coats of arms also helped them identify fighters in battle and dead on the battlefield,
and for this reason heralds became associated with battles, truces, declarations of war, in an official

• Favier, Jean: Dictionnaire de la France Médiévale. Paris: 1993, Fayard.
• Walrop: La Noblesse de Flandres avant 1300.

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François Velde

Last Modified: Jun 01, 2002

Women Knights in the Middle Ages

Were there women knights in the Middle Ages? Initially I thought not, but further research yielded
surprising answers. There were two ways anyone could be a knight: by holding land under a
knight's fee, or by being made a knight or inducted into an order of knighthood. There are examples
of both cases for women.

Female Orders of Knighthood

The Order of the Hatchet

There is a case of a clearly military order of knighthood for women. It is the order of the Hatchet
(orden de la Hacha) in Catalonia. It was founded in 1149 by Raymond Berenger, count of
Barcelona, to honor the women who fought for the defense of the town of Tortosa against a Moor
attack. The dames admitted to the order received many privileges, including exemption from all
taxes, and took precedence over men in public assemblies. I presume the order died out with the
original members.

Here is a description taken from Ashmole, The Institution, Laws, and Ceremony of the Most Noble
Order of the Garter (1672), Ch. 3, sect. 3:

"The example is of the Noble Women of Tortosa in Aragon, and recorded by Josef Micheli
Marquez, who plainly calls them Cavalleros or Knights, or may I not rather say Cavalleras, seeing I
observe the words Equitissae and Militissae (formed from the Latin Equites and Milites) heretofore
applied to Women, and sometimes used to express Madams or Ladies,though now these Titles are
not known.

"Don Raymond, last Earl of Barcellona (who by intermarriage with Petronilla, only Daughter and
Heir of King Ramiro the Monk, united that principality to the Kingdom of Aragon) having in the
year 1149, gained the City of Tortosa from the Moors, they on the 31 of December following, laid a
new Siege to that place, for the recovery of it out of the Earls hands. The Inhabitants being a length
reduced to gread streights, desired relief of the Earl, but he, being not in a condition to give them
any, they entertained some thoughts of making a surrender. Which the Women hearing of, to
prevent the disaster threatning their City, themselves, and Children, put on mens Clothes, and by a
resolute sally, forced the Moors to raise the Siege.

"The Earl, finding himself obliged, bythe gallentry of the action, thought fit to make his
acknowlegements thereof, by granting them several Privileges and Immunities, and to perpetuate
the memory of so signal an attempt, instituted an Order, somewhat like a Military Order, into which
were admitted only those Brave Women, deriving the honor to their Descendants, and assigned
them for a Dadge, a thing like a Fryars Capouche, sharp at the top, after the form of a Torch, and of
a crimson colour, to be worn upon their Head-clothes. He also ordained, that at all publick
meetings, the women should have precedence of the Men. That they should be exempted from all
Taxes, adn that all the Apparel and Jewels, though of never so great value, left by their dead
Husbands, should be their own.

"These Women (saith our Author) having thus aquired this Honor by their personal Valour, carried
themselves after the Military Knights of those days." Jeanne Hachette, who fought to repel a
Burgundian assault on the town of Beauvais in 1472. The King exempted her from taxes, and
ordered that, in an annual procession to commemorate the event, women would have precedence
over men. This story seems to be a carbon copy of the Order of the Hatchet story...

In Italy, the Order of the glorious Saint Mary, founded by Loderigo d'Andalo, a nobleman of
Bologna in 1233, and approved by pope Alexander IV in 1261, was the first religious order of
knighthood to grant the rank of militissa to women. This order was suppressed by Sixtus V in 1558.

In the Low Countries, at the initiative of Catherine Baw in 1441, and 10 years later of Elizabeth,
Mary and Isabella of the house of Hornes, orders were founded which were open exclusively to
women of noble birth, who received the French title of chevalière or the Latin title of equitissa. In
his Glossarium (s.v. militissa), Du Cange notes that still in his day (17th c.), the female canons of
the canonical monastery of St. Gertrude in Nivelles (Brabant), after a probation of 3 years, are
made knights (militissae) at the altar, by a (male) knight called in for that purpose, who gives them
the accolade with a sowrd and pronounces the usual words.

In England, ladies were appointed to the Garter almost from the start. In all, 68 ladies were
appointed between 1358 and 1488, including all consorts. Though many were women of royal
blood, or wives of knights of the Garter, some women were neither. They wore the garter on the left
arm, and some are shown on their tombstones with this arrangement. After 1488, no other
appointments are known, although it is said that the Garter was granted to a Neapolitan poetess,
Laura Bacio Terricina, by Edward VI. In 1638, a proposal was made to revive the use of robes for
the wives of knights in ceremonies, but it came to nought. (See Edmund Fellowes, Knights of the
Garter, 1939; and Beltz: Memorials of the Order of the Garter).

Unless otherwise noted, all the above is from the book by H. E. Cardinale, Orders of Knighthood,
Awards and the Holy See, 1983. The info on the order of the Hatchet is reproduced elsewhere as
well, e.g., a Spanish encyclopedia. I have seen the order of glorious Saint Mary discussed
elsewhere, but without mention of women. I have yet to identify the orders of the Hornes family.

Women in the Military Orders

Several established military orders had women who were associated with them, beyond the simple
provision of aid. The Teutonic order accepted consorores who assumed the habit of the order and
lived under its rule; they undertook menial and hospitaller functions. Later, in the late 12th century,
one sees convents dependent on military orders are formed. In the case of the Order of Saint-John
(later Malta), they were soeurs hospitalières, and they were the counterparts of the frères prêtres or
priest brothers, a quite distinct class from the knights. In England, Buckland was the site of a house
of Hospitaller sisters from Henry II's reign to 1540. In Aragon, there were Hospitaller convents in
Sigena, San Salvador de Isot, Grisén, Alguaire, headed each by a commendatrix. In France they are
found in Beaulieu (near Cahors), Martel and Fieux. The only other military order to have convents
by 1300 was the order of Santiago, which had admitted married members since its foundation in
1175. and soon women were admitted and organized into convents of the order (late 12th, early
13th c.). The convents were headed by a commendatrix (in Spanish: commendadora) or prioress.
There were a total of six in the late 13th century: Santa Eufenia de Cozuelos in northern Castile,
San Spiritu de Salamanca, Santos-o-Vello in Portugal, Destriana near Astorga, San Pedro de la
Piedra near Lérida, San Vincente de Junqueres. The order of Calatrava also had a convent in San
Felices de los Barrios.

and thirteenth centuries,' Studia Monastica 1987 (vol. 29).

Women Knights
Medieval French had two words, chevaleresse and chevalière, which were used in two ways: one
was for the wife of a knight, and this usage goes back to the 14th c. The other was as female knight,
or so it seems. Here is a quote from Menestrier, a 17th c. writer on chivalry: "It was not always
necessary to be the wife of a knight in order to take this title. Sometimes, when some male fiefs
were conceded by special privilege to women, they took the rank of chevaleresse, as one sees
plainly in Hemricourt where women who were not wives of knights are called chevaleresses."

I could find no trace of any title bestowed on Jeanne d'Arc. Her family was made noble, with
nobility transmissible through women, which was quite unusual. She did ride a horse and dress up
in armor, but she did not wield a sword and never killed anyone, but rather grasped her banner
pretty tightly.

See also the Nine Worthy Women (les neuf preuses).

Female Grand-Cross in the ORder of Saint John

In 1645, when a Turkish fleet threatened the island of Malta, a French nobleman, Louis d'Arpajon
(1601-79), called his vassals, raised an army of 2000 men, found ships and provisions and sailed
for Malta. On 27 July 1645, a grateful Grand Master granted to him and his eldest son the right to
wear and to bear in his arms a cross of Malta, and to one of his younger sons the right to be
admitted as a minor in the order and to be promoted grand cross at the age of 18; furthermore this
privilege was to be transmitted to his successors as head of his house, and in case of extinction of
the male line it would pass to females. (See his arms).

This privilege was The male line became extinct with his grandson Louis d'Arpajon, knight of the
Golden Fleece, who died in 1736. He left a daughter Anne-Claude-Louise d'Arpajon (1729-94)
who married Philippe de Noailles, comte de Noailles, baron de Mouchy (1715-94). She was
received Grand-Cross on 13 Dec 1745 in Paris by the ambassador of the Order, and her husband
was received 17 Nov 1750 (he was also knight of the St Esprit 1767, knight of the Golden Fleece
1746, and maréchal de France 1775, grandee of Spain 1st class 1741, styled duc de Mouchy 1747.
(source: La Chesnaye-Desbois; the président Hénault, maternal uncle of the countess of Noailles,
witnessed her reception and mentions it in his Mémoires, p. 146.).

Their younger son Louis-Marie, vicomte de Noailles (1756-1804) was called to the privilege. He
married his cousin the daughter of the duc d'Ayen and had among others a younger son Alfred-
Louis-Dominique (1784-1812), baron of the French Empire, whose only daughter by his cousin
Charlotte de Noailles de Mouchy was Anne-Charlotte-Cécile (d. 1858). She married Charles-
Philippe-Henri de Noailles, duc de Mouchy, and their son Antonin-Just-Léon-Marie (1841-1909)
was grand-cross of St. John. The Gotha Français also names his grandson and successor Henry,
duc de Mouchy (1890-1947) as grand-cross, but does not say if the privilege continued.

Hénault adds that (in his time, c. 1750), there were only three other female grand-crosses: the
"princesse de Rochette in Italy", the princess of Thurn and Taxis (Maria Ludovika von Lobkowicz,
1683-1750), and her daughter Maria Augusta von Thurn und Taxis, duchess of Wurttemberg

Modern Women Knights

Modern French orders include women, of course, in particular the Légion d'Honneur (Legion of
Honor) since the mid-19th c., but they are always called chevaliers. The first documented case is
that of Marie-Angélique Duchemin (1772-1859), who fought in the Revolutionary Wars, received a
military disability pension in 1798, the rank of 2nd lieutenant in 1822, and the Legion of Honor in

Traditionally, French women on whom the Légion d'Honneur or other order is conferred use the
title "chevalier." However, a recipient of the Ordre National du Mérite recently requested from the
order's Chancery the permission to call herself "chevalière" and the request was granted (AFP
dispatch, Jan 28, 2000).

The first woman to be granted a knighthood in modern Britain seems to have been H.H. Nawab
Sikandar Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Bhopal, who became a Knight Grand Commander of
the Order of the Star of India (GCSI) in 1861, at the foundation of the order. Her daughter received
the same honour in 1872, and granddaughter in 1910. The order was open to "princes and chiefs"
without distinction of gender. (Thanks to Christopher Buyers for this item).

The first European woman to have been granted an order of knighthood was Queen Mary, when
she was made a Knight Grand Commander of the same order, by special statute, in celebration of
the Delhi Durbar of 1911. She was also granted a knighthood in 1917, when the Order of the
British Empire was created (the first order explicitly open to women). The Royal Victorian Order
was opened to women in 1936, the Order of Bath and Saint Michael and Saint George in 1965 and
1971 respectively. Queen consorts have been made Ladies of the Garter since 1901 (Queens
Alexandra in 1901, Mary in 1910, Elizabeth in 1937). The first non-Royal woman to be made Lady
Companion of the Garter was Lavinia, duchess of Norfolk in 1990 (†1995), the second was
Baroness Thatcher in 1995 (post-nominal: LG). On Nov. 30, 1996, Marion Ann Forbes, Lady
Fraser was made Lady of the Thistle, the first non-Royal woman (post-nominal: LT).
Knighthood Main Page | Search Heraldica | Heraldic Glossary | Contact

François Velde

Last modified: Oct 21, 2005

History of Orders of Chivalry: a Survey

See also Guy Sainty's Chivalric Orders; this page benefited from his comments, although I remain
responsible for the opinions expressed here.

• Introduction
• 1) 1100 to 1291: the military-monastic orders:
The Crusades provided the conditions for the emergence of a new institution combining
elements of monasticism with elements of chivalry. It was soon imitated in Spain and in
Eastern Europe.
• 2) 1335 to 1470: the monarchical orders of chivalry:
In partial imitation of the monastic orders, kings created institutions designed to reward and
bind subjects to them. Also, at the same time a wide variety of associations came into being,
which are classified here.
• 3) 1560 to present: Honorific Orders :
The emergence of centralized states made monarchical orders unnecessary, and they turned
into honorific orders, rewarding past behavior or conferring distinction rather than
encouraging future loyalty. New honorific orders, many without nobiliary requirement, start
multiplying from 1693.
• References

Orders of Chivalry are, primarily, a historical phenomenon peculiar to Western European
Christendom of the Middle Ages. It is in that context that they are most easily defined and

An Order of Chivalry is a certain type of institution. In the category of orders of chivalry, a number
of institutions have been placed over time. One can distinguish several phases in the history of that
type of institution. The original form, during the Crusades, deserved its name of order, since it
consisted of individuals bound together by a permanent religious rule of behavior. After the
Crusades were over, in the 14th c., monarchs used the trappings of these orders to create a new
institution to serve their purpose of binding vassals to their person. After the Renaissance, the old
monarchical orders (and some monastic orders) became purely honorific orders, and other
honorific orders were created, once more using the trappings of orders of chivalry.

As a result, we have today such disparate institutions as the Order of Malta, The Order of the Holy
Sepulchre, the Garter, the Golden Fleece (one of the two, at any rate), Bath, Calatrava, all using the
name "order of chivalry" or "order of knighthood" even though they are all very different
organizations in history, form and purpose.

1100 to 1350: The Military-Monastic Orders


Orders of chivalry first appear in the context of Western Europe's military activities against non-
Christian populations and states. Starting in the 11th century, Western Europe went into an
aggressive expansionary phase, leading it into conflict with non-Christian populations on two
fronts: in Spain and in the Middle East. These wars were engaged in for a variety of motives, but
they were, at least in some respects, religious wars. The first orders of chivalry inherit this dual
aspect, religious and military.

The first orders of chivalry were associations of individuals, committing themselves to certain
goals and regulated activities. The commitment typically took the form of vows, and the regulation
of activities took the form of a Rule and an institutional structure defined by statutes and managed
by officers. Thus, orders of chivalry were religious orders, in the same sense that purely religious
or monastic orders were created at the same time (Carthusians, Cistercians, Franciscans,
Dominicans, etc). The goals were both the sanctification of their members through their devotional
and charitable activities, as well as participation in the fight against the "Infidels", either by
protecting pilgrims or actively taking part in defensive or offensive military operations.

A lot has been written about the origins of this new institution. As with heraldry, it seems difficult
for some to accept that Western Europe could invent anything on its own; but, as in the case of
heraldry, no convincing evidence has ever been adduced to show that orders of chivalry were an
imported concept. Rather, this institution must be seen in the context of the 11th century, when
monks and clerics were trying to establish a code of conduct for the new professional class of
knights by turning them into "soldiers of Christ." During the Crusades, where religious fervor was
at its peak and military skills at a premium, it was natural that these religious and military
components fused into the military-monastic orders.

The first orders of chivalry in the Middle East (Templars founded as a military order ca. 1119,
Saint-John ca. 1080, militarized ca. Saint Lazarus ca. 1100, Teutonic Knights founded ca. 1190)
were all created by private initiatives, as were the Orders in the Iberic peninsula (Avis in 1143,
Alcantara in 1156, Calatrava in 1158, Santiago in 1164) created in imitation of the orders in the
Holy Land. They typically saw their statutes confirmed or recognized by the Pope after a few years.


Orders of chivalry, like the Church in general, were recipients of many donations, often in the form
of land (e.g., a lord would become a knight and give his possessions to his order). Quickly, the
orders became large landowners throughout Western Europe, far from their center of activity. As a
result, structures were created to manage these estates which had been entrusted to them: these
estates became known as commendatoriae (cf. the English verb "to commend") and their managers
commendatores. Only later was the word corrupted into commander, which gives it a semblance of
military rank which it never was.

As religious orders, these institutions naturally fell under the authority of the Pope, who typically
approved the statutes of the order and thereby gave it a form of official recognition. In practice, the
orders managed their own affairs, but in times of crises or uncertainty, the pope could and often did
intervene directly, either by abolishing an order, merging it with another order (which usually came
down to a transfer of assets to the other order), reforming its statutes, appointing a grand-master,
etc. The large degree of autonomy that the orders had enjoyed for long periods of time sometimes
led them to resent such outside interference. However, only the Order of Saint-John and the
Teutonic Order ever gained enough independence and territorial sovereignty to be thought of as
"sovereign orders", and in both cases this only happened after the 14th century. It should be kept in
mind that the military-monastic orders were, before all, religious orders. They owned land in
various countries, their membership was international, and they managed their own affairs, but so
did the Benedictines and the Jesuits, and no one ever calls them "sovereign".

The military aspect of these monastic orders explains why they are called Orders of Chivalry.
Fighting was a professional activities, and professionals were called knights. Entrance into the
social-professional category of knighthood entailed a number of religious rituals which made the
idea of a monk-knight only an extension of the general idea of knight. The orders simply recruited
individuals who had attained, or could attain, the status of knight. This connection became even
stronger as time passed and knighthood became romanticized even as it was losing its professional

I call these orders military-monastic, to emphasize their dual nature, which sets them apart from
any other organization of the time. While it may appear difficult for modern-day Christians to
understand how one could sanctify oneself by killing, this notion did not seem shocking in a time
which took the expression milites Christi quite literally. Some orders, however, did separate the
tasks, and had fighting knights alongside praying chaplains (e.g., the Order of Saint-John). In fact,
these orders reflected in their structure (chaplains, knights, sergeants) the Three Orders of feudal
society (clergy, nobility and third estate).

At this point, then, orders of chivalry are an association of individuals, typically members of the
knightly class, committing themselves through solemn vows to obey the rules and statutes of a
religious order and to engage as professional soldiers in a permanent religious war, but also in
religious and charitable activities. As religious orders, these associations usually need the approval
of the Pope, and fall to some degree under his authority.

Lesser-known orders in the Middle East, the Iberic peninsula and Eastern Europe include :

• the Sword, founded by Guy of Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1192, disappeared with the
conquest of Cyprus by the Turks in 1571,
• Saint Blasius in Armenia (13th c.-15th c.),
• Saint-John and Saint-Thomas in the Middle East (1254),
• Saint Thomas of Acre founded as a military order by Peter des Roches, bishop of
Westminster, in 1228,
• Mountjoy later known as Holy Redeemer and Montfragüe, founded in 1175 and merged
with Calatrava in 1221,
• Our-Lady of the Rosary in 1209 by the archbishop of Toledo, soon extinct
• Our-Lady-of-Mercy in 1233 in Aragon, played a part in the conquests of Valencia and
Majorca but became a purely religious order in the 14th century,
• Sant-Jordi d'Alfama by the king of Aragon in 1201 (merged with Montesa in 1399),
• Concord in the 1240s by Ferdinand III of Castile, disappeared after his death in 1252,
• Saint-James of the Sword, an offshot of the Spanish order in Portugal in 1275,
• the Sword-Brethren, created in 1197 by a citizen of Bremen, soon militarized by the bishop
of Riga, and merged in 1237 with the Teutonic Order.

After 1291: The Orders look for new missions

A major change occurred in 1291, when Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in Palestine, fell to the
Arabs. The remaining orders of chivalry had to find a new raison d'être, since the Holy Land was
lost with little hope of regaining it. Some orders managed the transition skillfully: the Teutonic
Knights, who had already settled in Eastern Europe and absorbed the native Order of the Sword-
Brethren, transferred all of their activities to Eastern Europe, where they engaged in colonization of
still-pagan areas in Poland and the Baltic, and later in fighting against Orthodox Russia (and even
Catholic Poland). The Order of Saint-John conquered Rhodes in the early 1300s and transformed
itself into a naval power, pursuing the fight against Arabs and later Turks. Remnants of other orders
found refuge in Rhodes under the protection of the Order of Saint-John.

The Templars, which, by virtue of their vast network of fund-collecting, had become bankers of
sorts, resisted attempts at a merger with the Order of Saint-John, a project the Pope and other rulers
insisted on to better marshal resources for new crusades. Impatient with this resistance, irritated at
the disorder and lack of morality which prevailed in the order, and probably mindful of the
Temple's riches, the King of France arrested the Templars, had them tried on trumped-up charges,
and coerced the Pope into pronouncing the dissolution of their order (1312). The Order of Saint-
John became the recipient of the Templars' estates. Two offshoots of the Templars survived in the
form of new Orders: the Order of Christ in Portugal (1318) and the Order of Montesa in Spain
(1319). Since the 18th century, many other groups have sprung up claiming a filiation with the

1335 to 1470: The Monarchical Orders of Chivalry

A new generation of orders

As the Crusades became a thing of the past (the last one floundering in 1271), they became
romanticized, just as chivalry itself. The aura of orders of chivalry was being actively maintained
by the exploits of the Knights of Saint-John ruling their kingdom of Rhodes and fighting the Turks;
but most of all by the popularity of the Arthurian novels, international bestsellers of the time,
detailing the glorious deeds of the Knights of the Round Table. Indeed, the knights of Saint-John,
alone in their kingdom of Cyprus and fighting the nearby Infidels, seemed to many to be the
epitome of the Arthurian myth. The emergence of this myth, that of a group of loyal knights
devoted to a monarch did not take place in a vacuum of by accident. The 13th and 14th centuries
saw the end of feudalism and the emergence of what would become the nation-states of modern
Europe, centered on increasingly powerful monarchs. However, the glue of the feudal system,
personal fealty to one's immediate superior in the hierarchy, needed a substitute. Until such time as
the concept of absolute monarchy became fully developed, monarchs seized on the concept of
orders of chivalry. They thus created institutions which recycled some of the trappings of the
original orders of chivalry, but with the aim to create a close-knit and devoted circle of noblemen
around the person of the sovereign. These were the monarchical orders of chivalry.

These were not the only associations to be called, either at the time or later, "orders of chivalry".
The second generation of orders of chivalry, which might be collectively called lay orders of
knighthood, included a wide variety of institutions and associations.

It should be noted that, at the time, lay devotional confraternities were quite common: these were
lay institutions which grouped members for devotional activities, met regularly, and had some form
of statutes. One might think of them as the medieval (and religious) equivalent of clubs. Also,
princes and lords made a common use in the 14th century of badges and liveries which they
distributed to their servants but also to their followers. The fact that some confraternities, and some
orders of knighthood, also began using insignia and outer marks of membership results in a great
deal of confusion.

D'Arcy Boulton (1987) has proposed a classification of these associations:

1. Monarchical Orders: organizations loosely modeled on lay devotional confraternities, but

whose presidential office (and the control of membership) was attached to a crown or
dominion, and whose main purpose was to foster loyalty to the president (Garter, Golden
2. Confraternal Orders: these are like the first kind, but with an elective presidence and
cooptive membership. Boulton further distinguishes two classes:
• Princely Orders founded by princes. Most were created after the Golden Fleece in
1430. These are similar to the monarchical orders, but the presidency was not
• Order of Saint George, founded by Charles I of Hungary in 1325-6,
• Order of Saint Catherine, founded ca. 1335 by Humbert, Dauphin du
• Order of St. Anthony, founded in 1384 by Albrecht I of Bavaria (although
this order may not have been knightly).
• Society of the Eagle, founded by Albrecht von Habsburg in 1433,
• Selschapp unnser Liuen Frowen (Society of Our Lady, a.k.a. Order of the
Swan, founded in 1440 by Friedrich II of Brandenburg,
• St. Hubertus Orden (Order of Saint Hubert), founded in 1444 by Gerhard V
of Jülich and Berg,
• Ordre du Croissant (Order of the Crescent), founded by René d'Anjou in
• Society of St. Jerome, founded in 1450 by Friedrich II of Wettin, Elector of
• Baronial Orders which were like aristocratic versions of the professional guilds of
the time. Examples:
• Order of Saint-Hubert, in Barrois, 1422
• Noble Order of Saint George of Rougemont, Franche-Comté, 1440
3. Fraternal Orders: these were a form of brotherhood-in-arms, formed for a specific purpose
and a limited duration, binding members with pledges of aid an loyalty. They are similar to
the emprises of the time, and distinguished by the use of the name "order" and of insignia.
Only four are known:
• Compagnie of the Black Swan, created by 3 princes and 11 knights in Savoy in 1350,
• Corps et Ordre du Tiercelet (a kind of falcon), founded by the vicomte de Thouars
and 17 barons in Poitou between 1377 and 1385,
• Ourdre de la Pomme d'Or founded by 14 knights in Auvergne in 1394,
• Alliance et Compagnie du Levrier founded by 44 knights in the Barrois in 1416 for 5
years, converted into a Confraternal order of Saint-Hubert in 1422.
4. Votive Orders: these were a form of emprise or association formed for a specific purpose
and for a definite term, on the basis of a vow (hence the term votive); these were chivalric
games, without the mutual pledges which characterized fraternal orders. Only three are
known, on the basis of their statutes:
• Emprise de l'Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (Enterprise of the green shield with the
white lady), created in 1399 by Jean le Maingre dit Boucicaut and 12 knights for 5
• Emprise du Fer de Prisonnier (Enterprise of the Prisoner's Iron) undertaken by Jean
de Bourbon and 16 knights for 2 years in 1415,
• Enterprise of the Dragon, undertaken by Jean comte de Foix for 1 year.
5. The Cliental Pseudo-Orders: these were not really orders in that they had no statutes, no
limited membership, etc. They were a group bound by a simple oath of allegiance to a
prince who bestowed a badge or insignia. These were in fact glorified retinues, misnamed
orders, which makes them often confused with princely orders:
• Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt (Order of the Broom-Pod), founded by Charles VI of
France ca. 1388,
• Order of the camail or Porcupine, created by Louis d'Orléans in 1394,
• Order of the Dove, Castile, 1390,
• Order of the Scale of Castile, ca. 1430,
• Order of the Thistle of Scotland.
6. Honorific Pseudo-Orders: these bodies of knights required no specific obligations, and
were usually just an honorific insignia bestowed with knighthood, upon a festive occasion
or a pilgrimage. They consisted of nothing else than the badge:
• Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, bestowed by the custodian of the Holy Sepulchre to
knights who made the pilgrimage, starting in the 15th century. It was formally
organized into an order of merit by the Pope in 1868.
• Knights of St. Catherine of Mount-Sinai, bestowed in similar conditions from the
12th to the 15th century.
• Order of the Golden Spur, a papal order, many times reformed.
• Knights of the Bath, in England. The name was used again for an order of merit
created in 1725.

Boulton's classification allows us to concentrate on the most complex, long-lived and influential of
these associations, the monarchical orders of chivalry. The first example is perhaps the Order of
Saint-George founded in 1325 by Charles I of Hungary. Although its statutes did not define a
hereditary presidency, it was clearly intended to function as a monarchical order. another is the
Order of the Sash (Banda) founded in Castile by Alfonso XI in 1330. Alfonso XI in 1330, which
probably lost its formal character in the 1360s and, by 1416, was merely a device or insignia,
persisting until the 1470s. The English king Edward III formed the Order of the Garter, in 1344,
the best known of its kind. The French Ordre de l'Étoile (Order of the Star) soon followed in 1351.

Other monarchs or powerful lords followed suit. Here is a partial list of these orders:

• Saint-George, Hungary (1325-95?),

• Sash or Band, Castile (1330-1474?),
• Garter, England (1344-present),
• Star, France (1351-64?),
• Knot, Naples (1352-62?),
• Collar or Annunziata in Savoie (1362-present),
• Tress, Austria (1365-95?),
• Golden Shield, founded by Louis de Bourbon (1367-1410?),
• Saint George, Aragon (1371-1410?)
• Ermine, Brittany (1381-1522),
• Ship, Naples (1381-6?),
• Salamander, Austria (1390-1463?),
• Jar, Aragon (1403-1516),
• Dragon (Renversé), Hungary (1408-93),
• Golden Fleece in Burgundy (1430-present),
• Eagle, Austria (1433-93)
• Saint Maurice, Savoie (1434),
• Elephant, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (1457?-1523?), later revived
• Ermine, Naples (1465-94),
• Saint-Michel, France (1469-1791).

In the above list, the character of some orders is difficult to ascertain because of the lack of
documentation, and the boundary between monarchical and princely orders is not very sharp.

In fact, Boulton's classification has been criticized as too rigid and detailed. In Germany, in
particular, there were dozens of noble associations in the Middle Ages which combined various
characteristics which span Boulton's categories (see Kruse, Paravicini, Ranft 1991). ein
systematisches Verzeichnis, Frankfurt am Main ; P. Lang 1991). The main lesson to be drawn from
such studies include:

1. In the 14th and 15th centuries, a large variety of associations of noblemen and/or knights
appeared, which were then or later called "orders" or "orders of chivalry".
2. These associations span a whole gamut of arrangements, from rigidly controlled institutions
with detailed statutes to informal associations limited in time. A number were created by or
organized around kings or powerful feudal lords, while others were private initiatives. Their
objectives varied: some were designed to honor recipients as well as bind them to an
individual or authority, others were formed for a specific purpose, military or devotional,
limited or indefinite in time.
3. Almost all used some kind of badge, insignia, or protector saint by which they were known.
This common feature has led to the common denomination of "order of chivalry", and the
term "order of chivalry" has thereby become confused and imprecise.
4. The last ones appear in the1460s, and a handful survive beyond the 1530s.

New wine in old bottles

These institutions were quite different in nature from the military-monastic orders, yet they have
been placed in the same category. The confusion was of course voluntary, so that some of the
prestige and fighting spirit of the famous crusading orders might be acquired by these monarchical
creations. To this end, various outward elements of the military-monastic orders were adapted. For
example, the structure of the institutions were imitated, by copying nomenclature of members and
officers. Members were knights, the head of the order (always the sovereign, whereas the military-
monastic orders typically elected their head) was the grand-master. Insignia were developed, to be
worn by members on their cloaks or in the form of badges, suspended from collars or attached to
vestments. This was a direct borrowing from the military-monastic orders, but the insignia were not
based on the cross anymore, but on an emblem (garter, golden fleece) or the figure of a patron saint
(Saint Michael). Members met regularly in chapters where matters pertaining to the order were
discussed. The orders were placed under the protection of a tutelary saint (in imitation of the
devotion of the order of Rhodes to Saint-John the Baptist), and regularly held religious offices. The
knights swore oaths of allegiance, but to the sovereign rather than to the rule of the order, which
was never monastic in nature. The sovereign usually controlled the membership, at least to some
degree. Occasionally, a crusading spirit was explicitly invoked, as was the case originally for the
Golden Fleece (whose emblem recalled the quest of the Argonauts).

From chivalry to honorific

As time went by, many of these orders simply disappeared precisely because they had been too
closely tied to their founder, or because of political changes such as the absorption of the founder's
domains in a kingdom. Those orders that did survive (in 1525, only four orders survived: Garter in
England, Annunziata in Savoy, Golden Fleece in Spain and Saint-Michel in France) began to
change in nature, because they had outlived their purpose. With the 16th century, the monarchs'
transition from powerful head of the feudal pyramid to absolute ruler of a modern state was
complete, and the need for binding a restless nobility to the sovereign's person became less
pressing. In fact, there are no creations of monarchical orders between 1469 and 1578, due also to
the fact that, by that time, most countries had at least one such order in existence (and a number of
dominions had been united, obviating the need for different orders).

However, the prestige which still surrounded these monarchical orders made them useful for other
purposes, namely honoring individuals or rewarding good behavior. As a sign of this changing
functions, some of the elements borrowed from military-monastic orders were abandoned; for
example, the Order of the Golden Fleece held its last chapter in 1555. Restriction of membership to
the knightly class became meaningless as the knightly class itself had already evolved from a
professional class to a hereditary caste (on the Continent; interestingly, this did not happen in
England, and membership in the knightly class by itself became a reward granted by the sovereign
to individuals who had no military training, starting in the 15th century).

For some of the old military-monastic orders, the transition was at times abrupt. The Spanish
orders, which had lost their primary purpose with the end of the Reconquista in 1492, were quickly
brought under royal control, each time with papal assent (Santiago in 1476, Alcantara in 1474,
Calatrava in 1489, Avis in 1550, Christ in 1551, Montesa in 1587). Some orders (Alcantara,
Calatrava) were relieved of their vow of chastity. Similarly, the Pope approved the merger of the
Order of Saint-Lazarus with Savoie's order of Saint-Maurice in 1572. This merger was effected
only in Italy, however, and the remaining estates of the order in France were joined with the newly
created Order of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel in 1608. The Pope accepted the transfer of assets
but never recognized the Grand Master of the new order as "Grand Master of Saint Lazarus". The
French king never made himself Grand Master of the order, but did keep a close eye on it, making
himself "protector" in 1757 and appointing the Grand Master himself.

Thus, when a military-monastic order had estates over several countries, the fate of various parts
diverged. The Teutonic Order was all at once secularized by the Elector of Brandenburg in 1525,
who, embracing Lutheranism, dispensed with papal assent. In England, Henry VIII simply
confiscated the assets of the Order of Saint-John without any pretence of perpetuating the order.
Restored by Mary in 1557, it was finally abolished in England in 1560. But in German lands, the
Bailiwick of Brandenburg of the Order of Saint-John had already acquired a degree of autonomy,
and some of its priories decided of their own movement to follow the local movement and embrace
Protestantism. The situation was settled by the Treaty of Augsburg in 1648, and the Evangelical
Order of Saint-John or Johanniter Order emerged with Hohenzollerns as Grand Masters, retaining
some of its religious nature. It has subsisted to this day (with an interlude from 1812 to 1852).

The transition from monarchical order to honorific orders proved disastrous in some cases: the
Order of Saint-Michel in France was quickly devalued by being handed out too generously, and
lost all prestige within 100 years of existence. It was replaced in its role as premier French order by
the Saint-Esprit in 1578, with a numerus clausus of 100. This order was the first purely political
order; only its strict nobiliary requirements distinguished it from the next generation of orders. Its
insignia broke with the tradition of monarchical orders, and set a precedent, by borrowing from the
Order of Saint-John (now Malta) and using a Maltese cross, albeit with a dove (to represent the
Holy Ghost) in the middle. This use of the Maltese cross would be much imitated (Saint-Louis,
Bath, etc). Also, the Saint-Esprit used distinctively colored blue ribbons and sashes; again in
imitation of the Order of Malta, and again repeated by many later honorific orders.

1560 to present: Honorific Orders

New orders soon multiplied throughout Europe, to serve the new purpose devolved on some of the
old military-monastic orders or the more recent monarchical orders. In reality, they were honorific
orders, designed either as a reward for past services to the sovereign, or as a way to confer prestige
and distinction, and entailing no real commitment to any course of action, or any loyalty to the
sovereign beyond what was required of any ordinary subject. In this fundamental respect, they
were different from earlier orders, whose possibly honorific character derived from their history
and activities, but was not the raison d'être. In the case of orders without nobiliary requirements,
the distinction between an "order" and a decoration, especially for 20th century creations, becomes
almost arbitrary.

Some of the orders maintained nobiliary requirements and limited membership (Saint-Esprit in
France, Black Eagle in Prussia, Saint-Andrew in Russia, Passion in Saxony, San Gennaro in
Sicily). But many orders followed a pattern set by Louis XIV when he created the Order of Saint-
Louis, with a Maltese cross and red ribbon and sashes; he also imitated Maltese nomenclature with
three ranks: grand-cross, commander and knight. These ranks would be imitated by many later
orders. The Order of Saint-Louis was awarded for military merit; it had no nobiliary requirement,
no limited membership, no chapter, no mandatory activities, etc. Although it was considered and
called an order of chivalry at the time, it was already a new breed of order.

Many such orders were created in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the following list can only be
very partial (an asterisk marks those who were knightly, or more exactly nobiliary orders):

• * San Stefano in Tuscany (1561),

• * Saint-Esprit in France (1578),
• * Mont-Carmel in France (1607),
• * Precious Blood in Mantua (1608),
• * Amarantha in Sweden (1645),
• * Constantinian Order of Saint-George in Parma (1669-present),
• Dannebrog in Denmark (1671, statutes in 1693; 4 ranks in 1808),
• Generosity in Brandenburg (1685; becomes Merit in 1740),
• * Thistle in Scotland (1687),
• * Elephant in Denmark (1693; revival),
• Saint-Louis in France (1693; 3 ranks),
• * Saint Michael in Bavaria (1693),
• * Saint Andrew in Russia (1698),
• * Black Eagle in Prussia (1701),
• * Hunt in Württemberg (1702),
• * Noble Passion in Saxony-Weissenfels (1704),
• * Saint Hubert in Bavaria (1708),
• Eagle of Saint-Michael in Portugal (1711),
• White Eagle in Poland (1713),
• Fidelity in Baden (1715),
• Bath in Great-Britain (1725; 3 classes in 1815),
• Saint Alexander in Russia (1725),
• Saint George in Bavaria (1729; 6 ranks),
• * San Gennaro in Sicily (1738),
• * Seraphim in Sweden (1748),
• North Star in Sweden (1748; 4 ranks),
• Sword in Sweden (1748; 5 ranks),
• Maria Theresa in Austria (1758; 3 ranks),
• Military Merit in France (1759; 3 ranks),
• Military Merit in Württemberg (1759; 3 ranks),
• Charles III in Spain (1771; 5 ranks),
• Vasa in Sweden (1772; 3 ranks),
• Saint-George in Russia (1769; 4 ranks),
• Red Eagle in Prussia (1790; 5 ranks),
• Tower and Sword in Portugal (1808)

This list covers a wide variety of orders, from pure merit orders like the Order of Saint-Louis to
orders which retained more closely the trappings of the monarchical orders of old (Saint-Esprit,
San Gennaro, Constantinian Order); but these differences remain small when monarchical orders
themselves changed as feudalism gave way to absolutism. Santo Stefano is rather unique, in that it
imposed substantial obligations on its members, and engaged in naval activities against piracy in
the Mediterranean.

Some of the more exclusive orders often claimed to be (sometimes accurately) merely revivals of
older orders: thus the Dannebrog was allegedly founded in 1219, the Polish Eagle in 1325, the
Tower and Sword in 1452, the Thistle in 1451, the Elephant in 1462, the Seraphim in 1334, the
Bath in 1399. The Constantinian Order of Saint-George claimed to have been founded by
Constantine in 312! (see some interesting remarks by James Algrant on the true origin of this
order). The aim was again to let some of the prestige of the older monarchical orders rub off on this
new generation of honorific orders. In other cases, such as the Piemontese order of Saint-Maurice
and Saint-Lazarus, transformed into a 5-rank order in 1814, or the Order of Notre-Dame du Mont-
Carmel and Saint-Lazare in France, or the old Spanish orders, remnants of military-monastic orders
were transformed into modern-style honorific orders, with or without nobiliary requirements.
Usually, their estates ceased to support any independent activity of the order, and merely became
added revenues for the king's treasury or a source of perks for recipients of the king's favors
(although the French order of Saint Lazarus briefly engaged in maritime activities similar to those
of Malta and S. Stefano).

It is also interesting to note the trend towards democratizing older orders by opening up their
membership: after the 1720s, purely nobiliary orders have become very rare. Another trend is
discernible, that of naming orders after the sovereign. The Order of Saint-Louis was a transparent
allusion to Louis XIV disguised as a religious dedication, but Maria-Theresa was the first to be
explicit; she was followed by Charles III, and in the 19th century by many sovereigns (queens in
particular). By now, the religious connotations of the orders have completely disappeared, and the
name and profile of the sovereign replaces saints and religious emblems on the insignia.

The 19th century witnessed a lot of political turmoil, and the development of new forms of
government, from military dictatures (Napoleon Bonaparte) to constitutional monarchies and
democratic republics. Yet all governments felt the need to maintain or imitate honorific orders, and
the habit has spread to non-Western countries and, in the 20th century, to Communist countries as
well. It was rather ironic to see a regime such as that of the Soviet Union award something called
the Order of Lenin, where the link with the military-monastic orders of 12th century Jerusalem is
tenuous at best: yet these modern institutions are still called Orders...

The Fate of the Original Military-Monastic Orders

What became of the original military-monastic orders?

• The Order of Saint-John (Malta) lost its territorial sovereignty in 1798. Since then, it has
retained its statutes (although massively expanding membership in recently created
categories) and is dedicated to medical and charitable activities. As a subject of
international law, the order enjoys recognition from a number of countries and institutions.
• The Templars were abolished in 1312.
• The Teutonic Knights abandoned their status as order of chivalry in 1929 and became a
simple religious order instead.
• The Order of Saint-Lazarus split into two branches, one obeying papal orders and merging
with the Savoyard order of Saint-Maurice in 1572, the other falling under the protection of
the French crown in 1608 and merging with Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel. It was abolished
by Louis XVI in July 1791 and not revived when the monarchy was restored in 1814.
Currently, an organization claims to be the Order of Saint-Lazarus. The Savoyard order was
an Italian state order from 1860 to 1946, at which date it ceased to be conferred in Italy; the
heir to the Italian royal dynasty continues to confer it, see that order's website.
• The Portuguese orders (Avis, Santiago, Christ) were all secularized in 1789, and remained
as national orders. Abolished at the fall of the monarchy in 1910, they were recreated as
national orders in 1918. Avis currently rewards military services, Christ rewards civilians
and foreigners, and Santiago rewards accomplishments in arts and sciences.
• The Spanish orders (Santiago, Calatrava, Alcantara, Montesa), secularized in the late 15th
and 16th centuries, briefly abolished in 1873-74, were abolished in Spanish law in 1934,
although this had no effect in canon (Church) law. Their activities were unofficially revived
in 1978, and king Juan Carlos I is their Grand Master (a title first used by Alfonso XIII in
1916) and Perpetual Administrator on behalf of the Holy See. They are thus dynastic orders
of the royal house of Spain but not Spanish state orders.

There are many, many books on the subject. Here are just a few outstanding works, whose
extensive bibliographies should be consulted:

• Boulton, D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre: The knights of the crown : the monarchical orders of
knighthood in later medieval Europe, 1325-1520. Woodbridge, Suffolk : Boydell Press,
1987. Second revised edition (paperback): Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY :
Boydell Press, 2000.
Excellent and thorough work by an academic historian.
• Forey, Alan John: The military orders : from the twelfth to the early fourteenth centuries.
Basingstoke : Macmillan Education, 1992.
One of the foremost historians of the "military orders".
• Kruse, Holger, Werner Paravicini, and Andreas Ranft, eds: Ritterorden und
Adelsgesellschaften im spätmittelalterlichen Deutschland: ein systematisches Verzeichnis,
Frankfurt am Main ; P. Lang 1991.
A broad study of knightly orders, confraternities, societies in late-medieval Germany.

Knighthood Main Page | Search Heraldica | Heraldic Glossary | Contact

François Velde

Last Modified: Mar 12, 2006

The Sovereign Military Order of Saint-John

(a.k.a. Malta)
This page is mainly interested in the heraldic aspects of the Order. The historical overview
provided here is meant as a framework for a better understanding of the heraldry. For more
information see the other resources on the Web.

• Other Resources on the Web
• History of the Order
• Heraldry of the Order
• Armory of the Grand Masters
• Heraldic tour of coats of arms in Rhodes (Greece)
• Heraldic tour of the Knights' Castle in Bodrum (Turkey)
• Heraldic Tour of Malta
• Grant of arms to the Order by the Pope in 1259

Other Resources on the Web

• web site of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
• The Order of Malta By Guy Stair Sainty, and the links there
• the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard's comprehensive page of links related to the Order of
• the Order of Saint John, Knights Hospitaller, the British branch of an Orthodox order of that
name (Russian Grand Priory in exile, founded 1928), whose headquarters are in America
Contains numerous links worth pursuing.
• The Regular order of Saint-John Holy Land, formerly known as "The Sovereign Order of St
John of Jerusalem" until the SMOM sued for usurpation of name and mark. A French off-
shoot founded in 1962 of the American order founded in the 1950s by Pichel (see Guy
Sainty's page on self-styled orders for more information).

History of the Order

This section provides a brief historical sketch and some information on the current state of the
Order. It owes a lot to H.J.A. Sire: The Knights of Malta, New Haven, 1994; Yale University Press.
I have also consulted Berthold Waldstein-Wartenberg: Rechtsgeschichte des Malteserordens, Wien,
1969; Verlag Herold.

Please see Guy Sainty's page as well.

The Origins

The origin of the Order lies in a hospice for pilgrims created next to the Benedictine Abbey of St-
Mary of the Latins in Jerusalem. The abbey was founded ca. 1050 by Amalfitan merchants, and the
hospice ca. 1080 by Brother Gerard, and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Its servants formed a
lay fraternity under the Augustinian rule. With the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 and the
establishment of the Crusader states throughout Palestine, the numbers of pilgrims increased, but
the semi-permanent state of war in the area exposed them to greater dangers. A papal bull of 1113
recognized the Hospitallers of Saint-John as a monastic order, and soon after, perhaps under the
influence of the Templars (founded in Jerusalem in 1120) the Hospitallers turned into armed
guards, and soon into fighting monks, participating alongside the Crusaders and holding fortresses
as well as hospices across the Holy Land. This militarization probably occurred in the 1130s. The
structure of the order is unclear in the 12th century, as there seemed to have been professed fratres
alongside lay confratres, fighting knights in large numbers. Many of them perished in the battles
which led to the fall of Jerusalem in 1189, and the Order fell back to Margat in the county of
Tripoli, and a few years later to Acre.

In 1206 the first Statutes of the Order were issued, which divided the order between priests or
chaplains, knights and sergeants (fighting men who were commoners). The Mastership (a title
copied from the Templars around 1140) was restricted to knights in 1262.

After the fall of Acre in 1291 the Order fell back to Cyprus, then managed to conquer Rhodes ca.
1310 and inherit the Levantine estates of the Templars who had been abolished in 1312. They
stayed in Rhodes until forced out by the Turks in 1522, at which time the Emperor and Spanish
king Charles V gave them the island of Malta (1530) where they established themselves again.

The Order in the Old Regime

The name of the Order, until the 18th century, was Holy Order (or Religion) of [the Hospital of]
Saint-John of Jerusalem, modified in the late 15th c. by the addition of and of the Sepulchre of
Christ to reflect the incorporation in 1489 of the Order of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre
(distinct from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre).

The Grand-Master was made Prince of the Holy German Empire in 1607, a title which carried with
it the rank of Serene Highness; in 1630, the Pope granted the Grand-Master the rank of Eminence,
similar to that of the cardinals. In 1741, the Grand-Master combined the two into Most Eminent
Highness, a style which is still used today.

In 1301, the Order had organized itself in seven Langues: Provence, Auvergne, France, Spain, Italy,
England and Germany, with a Pilier at the head of each, holding one of the top six offices of the
order: Grand Commander, Marshal, Hospitaller, Drapier, Admiral, Turcopolier (Germany did not
have an office; the office of Treasurer was never ascribed to a Langue).

The Langues corresponded to regional groupings of priories, the priories themselves groupings of
commanderies. These consisted in the large number of estates which had been given over time to
the Order (commendatoria meaning trust, and commendator meaning trustee; the words were later
corrupted into commandery and commander). The commanderies could simply be estates, or
houses where lay people were allowed to live and share some of the spiritual life of the Order (the
corrodaries), or men and women who did not meet the nobiliary requirements (the confratres or
donats), or where novitiates prepared for their vows. Some houses were convents of monks and
nuns. The Langues were expected to send a set number of Knights to the main Convent in Rhodes
(and later Malta).

The requirements to be a knight were initially to be of knightly family, but over time they became
more stringent: in the 1350s nobility of both parents, in 1428 nobility of four generations on the
father's side, in 1550 nobility of four quarters (all grandparents). The Langues each had their own
requirements which could be stiffer: the French called for 8 quarters, the Italians 200 years in all
four lines, the Germans 16 quarters, etc. In the 17th century nobility of robe or office was excluded.

Knights entered the novitiate, took simple vows after 1 year and solemn vows after the age of 21.
Professed members (be they knights, chaplains or sergeants) were called "of Justice". The sergeants
wore the "half-cross". Individuals who did not meet the nobiliary requirements but had otherwise
distinguished themselves could be made Knights of Grace (the painter Caravaggio in 1608), while
Knights of Justice who had to renounce their vows and marry for family obligations could become
Knights of Devotion. The Donats were also entitled to the half-cross. In the 1630s there were about
1700 knights in the Order.

After 1789

The French Revolution marked the beginning of a new era for the order. In 1792 the estates of the
order within France were confiscated. This confiscation was extended to their estates in other parts
of Europe as French conquests advanced. In 1798, Bonaparte captured Malta with outrageous ease
and expelled the Order. Some knights who had found refuge in St. Petersburg proclaimed the
married, non-Catholic and non-knight Czar Paul I as their Grand-Master, and most surviving
priories (except in Spain) acknowledged the election (1798) against the Pope's wishes. The Czar
even created an Orthodox priory in 1799, and bestowed membership most liberally. He died
assassinated in 1801. His successor Alexander I declined to assume the grand-mastership and
instead turned to the Pope to name a new grand-master. Pius VII appointed Giovanni Tommasi in
1803, and the Grand-Master reformed the Convent (the heart of the order) in Messina. On his death
in 1805, a new Grand Master was elected but the Pope refused to recognize him, and the
Mastership fell in a 70-year hiatus, the Order being governed instead by elected lieutenants. In the
next years, various attempts at reestablishing territorial sovereignty failed. In 1814, contrary to
expectations, Malta remained in British hands and the order settled in Catania. Various plans to
settle in Elba or Greece floundered. Relations between the Lieutenancy in Messina (and from 1826
in Ferrara) and the knights in France and Spain were severed. Remnants of the Order were finally
offered a home by the Pope in the old Maltese embassy in Rome in 1831. Starting in the 1860s a
number of national associations sprang up in various European countries, replacing the old system
of Langues, and in 1879 the Pope appointed the existing Lieutenant as Grand Master. Good
relations were maintained with the Italian government which accorded extra-territoriality to the
Palazzo Malta, and finally signed a treaty modelled on the Lateran Treaty in 1930.

It was in the period between 1798 and 1961 that the Order thus acquired its present character. In
particular, forms of membership which did not require solemn vows or even proofs of nobility were
created or vastly extended: knights of honor and devotion, conventual chaplains ad honorem,
knights of magistral grace and donats. Among professed knights, a series of three ranks was
created: knight, commander, and bailli-grand-cross. In the category of knights of honor and
devotion, a rank of honorary bailli-grand-cross was created, as well as a rank of grand-cross among
the knights of magistral grace.

Membership grew as follows:

1880 1900 1921 1932 1949

Knights of Justice 99 84 55 65 63
Conventual Chaplains 18 13 7 6 9
Chaplains of Obedience 43 138 37 15 6
Donats of Justice 11 16 9 4 6
-Non Professed-
Knights of Honor 969 1078 1175 1563 1883
Dames of Honor 119 111 155 196 272
Knights of Magistral G. 23 37 95 444 1500
Donats 78 111 294 308 1090
Honorary chaplains 3 9 16 58 150
Total 1363 1597 1843 2658 4979

The growth in Knights of Magistral Grace and Donats (the ranks which do not require nobility) is
particularly striking. As a result, in 1961 the total membership stood at 7557, of which less than 1%
were professed.

The present status and organization of the order dates from 1961.

Current Status and Organization

(Warning: I have not yet found a clear and detailed explanation of the various categories and
ranks in the Order, so the following is likely to be inaccurate.)

The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta
or Sovereign Order of Malta, whose present constitution dates from June 24, 1961, consists of
three distinct entities or categories:

1. A Religious Order: its members, Knights of Justice and Conventual Chaplains, once they
have made solemn vows, are called professed. They are headed by an elected Grand Master
and the Sovereign Council. There are currently 38 Knights of Justice, with 16 quarters of
nobility, recruited from the Knights of Obedience and the Knights of Honour and Devotion.
Among the Knights of Justice one find Knights Commanders and Knights Grand Cross. The
heads of the Langues were called Baillis.
2. A Religious Institute of Laymen: its members, the Knights of Obedience and Donats of
Justice, have promised obedience to their superiors, and submit to religious exercises
prescribed by them. This category was created in 1960, and membership is limited to 500.
Some members are in the Sovereign Council.
3. An International Order of Chivalry: the Grand Master confers knighthoods to mostly
Catholic men and women around the world. There are over 10,000 knights and dames,
grouped in 39 national associations. There are three categories, each with ranks of knights,
commanders, grand-cross and bailli. They are, in decreasing order of nobiliary requirement:
1. Honour and Devotion,
2. Grace and Devotion (created in 1959),
3. Magistral Grace, non-nobles; comprises 60% of the total membership of 11,500 in
the order.

There are also similar ranks for chaplains:

4. Conventual Chaplains ad honorem

5. Magistral Chaplains (or of Magistral Obedience, or Grace)
6. Donats of Devotion (3 classes)

The order also confers a decoration since 1916, the Cross of Malta pro merito melitensi for services
to the Order's charitable works. This decoration has three ranks: Collar (for heads of state), Cross
(including Grand-Cross, Grand-Officer, Commander, Office and Cross of Merit), and Cross pro
piis meritis for members of the clergy (including Grand-Cross and Cross). The insignia of the
decoration is a white cross moline with a red roundle in its center bearing a white Maltese cross.

The Order is governed by the Grand-Master and the Sovereign Council, which includes members
ex officio and elected members. The Order's four oficers are the Grand-Commander, the Grand-
Chancellor, the Hospitaller and the Receiver of the Common Treasury.

The Order considers itself to be an internationally recognized sovereign entity although without
territorial basis. Two of its possessions, the Palazzo Malta, via Condotti, Rome and the Villa Malta,
also in Rome, are given extra-territorial status by Italy since 1869. The order also owns The fortress
Sant'Angelo in Malta since 1991. It mints coins, which do not circulate, but it also prints stamps
accepted by 45 national post offices. The Order enjoys recognition from and has diplomatic
relations with 67 countries (including Spain, Italy, Russia, Austria, Egypt, Brazil), has "legations"
in 6 countries (including France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland), and is a permanent observer at
the UN since 1994.

For all its sovereignty, however, the Order is also an Order of the Roman Catholic Church, and as
such recognizes the authority of the Pope over the Order's professed members in religious matters.
This authority, finally clearly delineated in the 1950s, had been the source of conflicts, most
notably the during 1951-62 interregnum.

The sovereignty of the order is a complex and controversial matter examined in greater detail here.

The Order's main activities are religious and charitable (hospital and medical assistance). The
Order is financed through members' fees and donations, as well as charitable contributions from
well-wishers; these sums are mostly collected and spent by the national associations.

Heraldry of the Order

The Order
Modern arms of the Order, from a panel in the palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes.

The arms of the Order are Gules a cross argent. The full arms show the shield surrounded by a
chaplet and placed over a cross of Malta, all within a mantle and surmounted by a closed crown. In
1776, when the (religious) order of Saint-Antoine in France was united with Malta, a double-
headed eagle displayed holding in each beak a Tau was added behind the shield; the eagle had been
granted to Saint-Antoine by Maximilian I. The eagle appears on 18th century coins from Malta (see
a silver coin of 1790) but disappeared in the 19th century.

The arms of the Grand-Master Pinto de Fonseca (1742-73), from a gold coin. Notice the closed
crown and the Baroque, asymmetric shape of the shield.

Grand Masters

The head of the order was traditionally called Magister Hospitalis Sanctis Johannis Hierosolym
(master of the hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem), although on their seals they are only called
custos until they left Jerusalem in 1291. The name of the order lengthened to "Hospital of Saint
John of Jerusalem and Acre", then "Jerusalem, Acre and Rhodes" after the conquest of that island
in 1308. With that conquest came sovereignty, (immediately indicated by the style "by the Grace of
God" for the Master) and among other rights that to coin money. The order minted coins more or
less continuously until 1798 and the legends and figures reflect changing styles (see Mémoires
Numismatiques de l'Ordre de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, by Edouard-Henri Furse; Rome, 1885).
The arms of the Master first appear on the obverse of coins with Roger de Pins (ca. 1360). They
appear on the obverse, which shows the grand-master wearing a cape with a cross, kneeling before
a reliquary of the True Cross. The shield is behind him on the right of the coin. The reverse of the
Order's gigliati coins shows a cross flory, rather similar to that on French gold coins of the time.
The mention of Acre disappears under Philippe de Nalhac (1396-1421); the title of "Grand
Master" first appears under his successor Antoine Fluvian ("grammastro di Rodi" in Italian on an
imitation of a Venetian sequin; cf. the title given to Pierre d'Aubusson on the gate of Saint
Athanasios, Rhodes: "Rhodiorum Magnus Magister"). In a letter sent in 1423 by Venice to the
Grand Master to express displeasure at the minting of imitation Venetian ducats, he is styled
"reverendissimus dominus Magister Rodi" (cited in Papadopoli: Le Monete di Venezia, 1912; vol.
1, p. 250).

Grand-Masters quarter their arms with those of the order ( Gules a cross argent) since Philibert de
Nalhac. With Jean de La Valette the Maltese cross is first shown on the reverse of some coins. The
distinctive shape of the Maltese cross seems to date from the 16th century. Miniature illustrations
of Caoursin's history of the siege of 1480 show the Grand Master's cape with a cross that is not yet
of the classic shape; the arms of the cross are split and the ends of the arms taper out. In 1581, a
coronet was added above the arms of the grand-master: a row of pearls, later intermingled with
leaves, and then (under Adrien de Wignacourt) only leaves. In 1630 the Grand-Master was given by
the pope the precedence of a cardinal and the style of "Most Eminent Highness". The closed crown
of sovereignty was first used in 1741. At the same time, the arms of the order itself appear in their
modern form on the coins: the shield, the Maltese cross behind it, the chaplet around it and the
closed crown. Since the 18th century, a princely mantle has been placed behind the arms. Two
Grand Masters who were made cardinals, Pierre d'Aubusson and Hugo Loubenx de Verdala, and
displayed the cardinal's hat over their arms.

See also the armory of the Grand Masters with some illustrations.


Arms of Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam as bailli; Rhodes.

Bailliffs (or Baillis) were the heads of the Tongues and holders of the great offices of the order.
Since the 15th century they bear a chief with the arms of the order. Miniatures in Caoursin's
manuscript show the Baillis in session around the Grand Master, each holding a string of beads
with a fiocco at the end; also, the tombstone of the French Bailli Montmirel in the Archaeological
Museum, Rhodes, shows two such strings placed on both sides of his coat of arms.

The insignia comes in four varieties:

1. A white Maltese cross surmounted by a closed crown and above it by a trophy of armour
and flags with an escutcheon of the Order in the center; for Knights of Justice, Obedience
and Honour and Devotion
2. A white Maltese cross surmounted by a closed crown and above it an escutcheon of the
Order with an antique helmet and two swords per saltire above it; for Knights of Grace and
3. A white Maltese cross surmounted by a closed crown and above it a golden tie with an
escutcheon of the Order in the middle: for Knights of Magistral Grace, Donats of Justice,
Chaplains ad honorem, Donats of Devotion 1st class
4. A white Maltese cross surmounted by a closed crown: for Chaplains of Magistral Grace,
Donats of Devotion 2d and 3d class.

Portrait of a commander of the Order of Malta, by Jean-Marc Nattier.

(Source: France, Ministère de la Culture, base de données Joconde).

Only the professed members (and perhaps the Knights and Chaplains of Obedience as well) are
entitled to place a cross of Malta behind their arms. Knights Commanders also surround their
shield with the chaplet from which hangs their insignia. Baillis quarter their arms with those of the
order. Professed Chaplains surround their shield with a chaplet from which hangs their insignia.
Professed knights have the full cross hanging from a black ribbon. The non-professed categories of
knights have their insignia hanging from a black ribbon (with no cross behind the shield), but
Knights Grand-Cross or Bailiffs within each class edge the ribbon with gold and add a chief with
the arms of the Order (chef de la religion) to their coat.

Ecclesiastics who are members of the Order are exempted from the prohibition on display of
exterior ornaments.

See also a heraldic tour of Rhodes and a heraldic tour of the 15th century Castle of Saint Peter in
Bodrum, Turkey.


• Edouard Henri Furse: Mémoires numismatiques de l'Ordre souverain de Saint-Jean de

Jérusalem. Rome, 1885. Reprint: Bologna, Forni, 1967.

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The Teutonic Order

See a much more ddetailed account on the Chivalric Orders web site.

History of the Order

The Teutonic Order was founded in 1190 during the siege of Acre, when a hospital brotherhood
was established to care for the many sick German crusaders. It was given a building after the
conquest of the city, and in 1198 was turned into a military-monastic order on the model of the
Hospitallers of Saint John and the Templars. This creation reflected the growing involvement of the
Hohenstaufen dynasty in the Holy Land.

From the start, the order started a policy of conquering land and building up independent territory:
in the Holy Land, in Hungary in 1211-25, and later in Prussia, after it absorbed the Sword-Brethren
in Livonia. It was in Prussia that the order fought with the Polish dukes of Masovia and Silesia to
subjugate the pagan Prussians and fight against Novgorod. After the fall of Acre in 1291 the Grand
Master went to Venice, and, following the conquest of Pomerelia in 1309, to Marienburg in Prussia.
Thus the Order, by now exclusively nobiliary, came to form an independent political entity. In
1243, Pope Innocent IV had placed the Order's possessions in the Pope's domain, but in practice the
Order was completely independent. Its fortunes began to fade in 1410 with the defeat inflicted at
Tannenberg by Poland-Lithuania, and a revolt in its territories in 1454-66 further diminished it and
it became a vassal of Poland.

The Reformation brought many changes to the Order. In 1525, the Hochmeister Albrecht of
Brandenburg-Anspach secularized the Order's Prussian holdings into the duchy of Prussia, resigned
from the order, became Lutheran, and gav ehomage for the duchy to the king of Poland on April
10, 1525. In Livonia, the Ordenmeister Livlands Gotthard von Ketteler did the same in 1561 and
turned the remnants of the order's estates (most of which had been divided between Sweden and
Poland) into the duchy of Kurland. In the German Empire, the Deutschmeister became Grand
Master in 1530 and the seat of the Order transferred from Marienburg to Mergentheim; the order
survived in Germany, adapting to local politics. The protection of the Habsburg dynasty (which
reformed the order in 1606) proved a mixed blessing: the order survived, but it never regained any
independence, and its efforts were redirected in the Habsburgs' wars against the Turks. With the
treaty of Westphalia in 1648 Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist knights received equal rights within
an order headed since the late 16th century by a Habsburg Grand Master. Some bailliwicks like
Elsass, Burgund, Koblenz, Österreich, Bozen remained Catholic, others like Thüringen, Sachsen
were Protestant, and Hessen was tripartite (Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist). In 1637 the (Protestant)
Dutch knights broke away and formed the Ridderlijke Duitsche Orde, Ballij van Utrecht, which
still exists. In 1809 the order was expelled from most German states, and survived only in Austria.
Reduced to four knights in 1839, it was reorganized by the Austrian emperor as a Catholic
charitable institution. Nuns were introduced (they had existed in the medieval Order). Knights of
honor (1866) and Marianer (1871) were created to attract financial support, while the knights
themselves were essentially noble Austrian officers.

With World War I and the end of the Habsburg monarchy the order lost its last possessions. In 1923
archduke Eugen resigned as Grand Master; in 1929 the Pope reorganized the order as a purely
religious order of priests. No more knights were created and the last one (Friedrich Graf Belrupt-
Tissac) died in 1970. The order suffered during World War II when it was abolished by the Nazis in
Austria and Czechoslovakia, but it survived in Italy and started again after 1945 in Austria and

In its current form, the order has 87 brethren, 294 sisters, 12 honorary knights and 613 Marianer or
associates. The Hochmeister resides in Vienna.

Heraldry of the Order

The arms of the Order were originally Argent a cross sable. The emblem of the Order was a cross
potent sable, thereon a cross flory or, thereon an escutcheon of the Empire. The cross sable was
supposedly granted by the Emperor Henry VI, the cross or by the king of Jerusalem John, the
fleurs-de-lys by Louis IX of France, and the escutcheon by Frederic II Hohenstaufen.
Insignia of the Teutonic Order, from Diderot's Encyclopédie

Insignia of the Teutonic Order, by Arnaud Bunel

Originally, the Hochmeister quartered his arms with those of the order, as did occasionally the
Deutschmeister and the Baillif of Brandenburg. The high officers, baillifs, preceptors and
commanders added the chief of the order to their arms.
Historical source: Udo Arnold, Eight Hundred Years of the Teutonic Order, in Malcolm Barder: The
Military Orders: Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick, Variorum, Aldershot (UK), 1994. A
great book is:800 Jahre Deutscher Orden : Ausstellung des Germanischen Nationalmuseums
Nurnberg in Zusammenarbeit mit der Internationalen Historischen Kommission zur Erforschung
des Deutschen Ordens (edited by Udo Arnold with the collaboration of Irmtraud Frfr. von Andrian-
Werburg, Ronny Kabus, Andrea M. Kluxen; Gutersloh : Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag, 1990.

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François Velde

Last Modified: Jun 01, 2002

Orders of Chivalry in France

See also the page on Orders of Chivalry.

Other resources:

• The French Ministry of Defense has a web page on orders and decorations (in French)
• The Musée des Invalides, Paris has a small section on medals
• The Paris Mint produces all official medals and decorations
• Various makers of decorations are listed here
• Armorial des Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit
complete listing of knights from 1578 to 1789, with depictions of their arms
• some Old Regime orders and decorations are pictured here
• list of the members of the Order of Saint-Louis up to 1817
• database of members of the Légion d'Honneur up to 1954

• Introduction
• Military-Monastic Orders in France
• National Orders
• Ordre de l'Étoile (1351)
• Ordres du Roi: Saint-Michel (1469), Saint-Esprit (1578)
• Mythical Orders
• Orders Founded by Important Lords
• Private Orders
• Orders of Merit
• Saint-Louis (1693)
• Légion d'Honneur (1802)
• Other Orders of Merit
• References

Orders of chivalry come in roughly three flavors:

1. Military-Monastic Orders
2. National Orders
3. Private Orders

Military-monastic orders appears during the first Crusades: their members were usually monks
who also served as soldiers or caretakers to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, or
otherwise assist in the struggle against infidels. The most famous orders in this category are the
Order of the Temple, the Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem (Malta), the Order of the Holy
Sepulchre, the Order of Saint-Lazarus, all four originating in Palestine. These orders typically had
chaplains, knights and sargents, mirroring the tripartite medieval society.

The orders in the Holy Land were often the recipients of many donations, often in the form of
estates, in all of Europe. As a result, they had to create a structure to administer these estates locally
(a commendator was originally a trustee of such an estate, word later corrupted into commander).
Thus, orders such as Malta, Saint-Lazarus and others became by nature far-flung, with estates and
their administrators in various European countries, and the Order itself in the Middle East.

After the final expulsion of the Franks from Palestine in 1291, these orders either found new bases
and activities, or else fell into oblivion. Naturally, their vast estates represented tempting targets,
either for outright confiscation (the Order of the Temple was abolished by the Pope in 1312 at the
instigation of the French king just for that reason; likewise, Henry VIII confiscated the estates of
Malta in England), or else simply subjection of the order to the local sovereign so that its estates
could be used as a source of favors and pensions. This was in essence the fate of the Order of Saint-
Lazarus. Only Malta managed to survive through the ages, although by the 20th century it had lost
its estates everywhere except in Austria.

To the category of military-monastic can also be added the Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Orden) and
the Orders in Spain (Calatrava, Alcantara, Santiago, Montesa), which represented analogs of the
crusading spirit deployed in the colonization of Eastern Europe or the Reconquista of Spain on the

The national orders are orders of chivalry, usually restricted to the nobility, with limited
membership and only one class, which sovereigns created in order to find new ways of binding to
their person the loyalty of an aristocracy whose feudal allegiance was waning. The model for these
orders was that of the Knights of the Round Table around King Arthur. The most famous and one of
the oldest ones is the Order of the Garter in England, created in 1348. These orders proliferated in
the 15th and 16th centuries. From the 18th century to the present, sovereigns and governments have
tended to create orders of merit, without nobiliary requirements and few if any knightly
characteristics (such as ceremonies, oaths, duties).

Private orders are less well-known. A number of them were created for devotional or moral
purposes by private citizens, who often sought the protection or approval of the Pope or of a
sovereign. In fact, military-monastic orders often started as private orders, organized by an
individual or group of individuals; they later gained papal recognition as Orders of the Church and
acquired wealth and influence which placed them above ordinary private orders. In France, a
number of orders were created by important lords, vassals of the king of France such as the dukes
of Orléans, Burgundy or Bourbon. Some of these orders were similar in intent to the national
orders, at a regional level so to speak; others were like private orders, for devotional purposes. I
placed them in a separate category although I tend to think of them as private orders.

Whether Orders of Merit should be included as orders of chivalry is a complex question. I see
them as distinct, because they usually have no nobiliary and religious requirements, and because
they tend to reward past behavior rather than summon for future action. However, in many ways
they extend the traditions of national orders of chivalry, particularly in the names of ranks, types of
insignia, and in their general purpose of both rewarding meritorious subjects and binding their
loyalty to the sovereign. In France, the order of Saint-Louis (1693) was the first of this kind, and
became the prototype for the Legion of Honor.

Military-Monastic Orders in France

The famous Middle-Eastern orders had branches or priories in France since the Middle Ages. The
following orders still maintain a presence in France: Malta, Holy Sepulchre, others?

On Malta, see the separate article on the Order of Malta. As far as France was concerned, three of
the seven "Langues" of the order (Provence, Auvergne and France) were within the kingdom of
France. Each langue was headed by a Pilier (pillar), the pillar of Provence was grand-commander,
the pillar of Auvergne was grand-marshal, and the pillar of France grand-hospitaller. Each langue
was divided in grand-priories and commanderies (89 in Provence, 40 in Auvergne, 134 in France).
The nobiliary requirements in the French langues were four generations of nobility on both paternal
and maternal side. The Maltese cross as worn by French knights had fleur-de-lis between the
branches, and the ribbon was black.

The case of the Ordre de Saint-Lazare is particular. After leaving Palestine, the order survived in
obscurity in several places, including Italy and France. In 1572 the order was placed under the
protection of the duke of Savoie and merged with that house's Order of Saint-Maurice, and became
one of the dynastic orders of Savoie and later Italy, bestowed to this day by the head of the house of
Savoie. The French branch, however, refused to obey the Papal bull and continued in existence. It
was amalgamated in 1608 with the newly created order of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel (founded
by Henri IV in 1604 to publicize his conversion to Catholicism) with the Pope's approval in 1668.
Louis XIV merged into this order the order of Saint-Esprit de Montpellier (1711), and the
fraternities of the Saint-Sépulcre (founded in 1317 by Louis de Bourbon) and Saint-Antoine. The
Order of Saint-Lazare et Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel was placed in 1757 under the French king's
protection, who made himself sovereign head, and made his 3-year old grandson the duc de Berry
(future Louis XVI) grandmaster; later, in 1773. another grandson, the comte de Provence (future
Louis XVIII) became grandmaster at the ripe age of 16. Under French kings, the order was mainly
used as a source of appointments to plum positions, much as abbés-commenditaires who were
abbots only in name and in collecting the revenues of their abbeys. Both orders ceased to be
bestowed after they were abolished on July 30, 1791 and their estates nationalized.

Elsewhere I discuss the 20th century revival of the Order of Saint-Lazarus.

As a French order (1608-1791), the insignia of the united order was as follows. The ribbon of Saint-
Lazare was purple (amaranth) and the Maltese cross or. For Carmel, the ribbon was brown and the
cross purple. The arms of the the combined orders were Argent a cross quarterly vert (Saint-
Lazare) and purpure (Mont-Carmel).
Arms of a knight grand-cross of Saint-Lazare and Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel. Notice the chief
argent bears a cross quarterly vert and purpure. The cross behind the shield is vert fimbriated or, as
is the insignia hanging from the collar.

There is more information on the Order of Saint-Lazarus.

The Ordre du Saint-Esprit de Montpellier was founded in 1195 and given a religious, hospitaller
and military status in 1198. It was suppressed by Louis XIV in 1672, then recreated in 1693 and
finally merged with Saint-Lazare in 1711.

National Orders

Ordre de l'Étoile

The newly-created Order of the Garter probably influenced Jean II's decision to create the Ordre de
l'Étoile in 1351. The existence of the order is known (a miniature shows a meeting of the order,
with knights in red robes lined with vair bearing black stars of 8 points on their cloaks; the motto
was monstrant regibus astra viam), but it seems that most knights, who had sworn never to cede in
battle, were killed at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, and the order did not survive Jean II's years as a
prisoner in London and the hectic times that followed. Charles VI is known to have created an
Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt, but little else is known.

See a miniature from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris representing the foundation of the Order
by Jean II. The large badges, in the form of 8-point stars, are visible pinned to the red mantles of the

Ordres du Roi

On August 1, 1469, Louis XI created the Ordre de Saint-Michel, a saint for whom he had a
peculiar devotion, and which could serve as a good emblem for the recent expulsion of the English
out of France. The collar consists of SSS with escallops (called "coquilles de Saint-Michel" in
distinction to the "coquilles de Saint-Jacques"), from which hangs a medallion showing the
archangel slaying the dragon (as it appears in a 17th century example). The motto was Immensi
tremor Oceani. The order's membership was initially limited to 36, but prestige soon declined,
however, because admission standards became very lax. Louis XIV reduced membership to 100 in

See more information on Saint-Michel on Guy Sainty's Web site.

Portrait of François Ier by Jean Clouet. Notice the collar of Saint-Michel.

On December 31, 1578, Henri III created the Ordre du Saint-Esprit (Order of the Holy Ghost), in
memory of his accession to the throne of Poland (1573) and France (1574) both on Whitsunday.
The order had strict nobiliary requirements and a membership limited at 100 (for French nationals).
Four cardinals and four other prelates were members and were called commandeurs, the other
members were called chevaliers. There were no other ranks or distinctions among members. The
order also had a number of officers (treasurer, chaplain, etc) who were not subject to the nobiliary
requirements. The insignia consisted of a collar of alternating crowned Hs, trophies, and flaming
heraldic flints, from which hung a Maltese cross azure lined argent, on which a dove descending
from Heaven argent was shown. Fleurs-de-lys appear between the arms of the crosses, and pearls
are placed on the tips of the cross. The sash was blue (hence the expression "cordon bleu" to mean
something of first class). The motto was Duce et auspice.

Portrait of Etienne François, duc de Choiseul (1719 - 1785), by Alexander Roslin.

Portrait of the cardinal de Richelieu (Philippe de Champaigne).

The insignia were shown surrounding the coat of arms of a knight. Knights wore a breast plaque
and a blue ribbon (clerics wore the cross hanging from a collar ribbon as shown above).
Henri IV holding the first chapter of the Order of the Saint-Esprit in the church of the Grands Augustins, 1595.
(Painting by Jean-François de Troy. source: France, Ministère de la Culture.)
Conferral ceremony of the Saint-Esprit in 1724, in the royal chapel at Versailles (by Nicolas Lancret).

From that date, the Saint-Esprit was always conferred with the Saint-Michel (both called "les
Ordres du Roi"), although Saint-Michel continued to be conferred alone, especially to artists and
writers. The orders were abolished by decree of June 20, 1790. Louis XVIII awarded both orders
while in exile (although, according to the statutes of the Saint-Esprit, he could not do so until after
his coronation, which never took place). Both orders were reestablished in 1814 upon the
Restoration of the monarchy without the nobiliary requirement, and abolished again in 1830 by

Some pretenders continued to bestow the Saint-Esprit. The comte de Chambord, grandson of
Charles X, wore the cross. The duc d'Orléans (†1926) wore the cross and awarded it to a few
people: his cousin Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (1861-1948), his brother the duc de Montpensier, his
cousin the duc de Vendôme, his cousin Manuel II of Portugal (1889-1932). The comte de Paris
refuses to bestow the order, considering that it can only be done by a ruling monarch. Among the
Spanish Bourbons, various pretenders have considered themselves to be grandmasters of the Saint-
Esprit, and have bestowed the order to various people: Don Carlos duke of Madrid (1847-1919)
who inherited the insignia of the comte de Chambord, his son Don Jaime duke of Madrid (1870-
1931) to Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and to Xavier of Bourbon-Parma in 1927, the eldest son of
Alphonse XIII, don Jaime, duke of Segovia (1908-75) to the duc de Bauffremont, the duc de
Polignac, and his son Don Alfonso duke of Anjou (1936-89) to the present duke of Anjou among

See Arnaud Bunel's Armorial des Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit, a complete listing of knights from
1578 to 1789, with depictions of their arms.
Ordre du Pavillon

"L'ordre du Pavillon a esté institué depuis peu par sa Majesté pour les jeunes Seigneurs qui lui font
la Cour: les Croix sont d'or émaillées: Sur le milieu, on voit d'un côté un Pavillon, et de l'autre, c'est
un anneau tournant qui est le jeu du Roy. Le Cordon auquel est attaché la Croix est rayé de blanc et
de bleu; SM le porte Elle-même sous le Cordon bleu." Source: Nouveau Mercure, nov 1717, p. 187.

Mythical Orders

Mythical orders were supposedly created by earlier kings; all of the following are poorly
documented if not fanciful.

• Charles Martel created the Ordre de la Genette in 732 after defeating the Arabs at Poitiers,
supposedly because many furs of this animal were found in the loot. The genet is a small
carnivore of the civet family (gen. Genetta, fam. Viverridae), whose fur was used in the
Middle Ages (cf. Ducange's Glossarium, vol. 4 p. 54, s.v. geneta, citing a 1244 manuscript
describing the cloak of a countess as "fouranda et orla de geneta"; see also Godefroy's
Dictionnaire de l'ancien français, vol. 4, page 258).

Laroque, in his Traité de la Noblesse, p. 372, calls it Ordre de la Côte de Geneste citing
François La Louette (Histoire de Coucy) and Pierre de Beloy (De l'origine et institution des
divers ordres de chevalerie, 1604). He also cites Pierre de Saint-Julien (De l'Origine des
Bourguignons et Antiquités des Estats de Bourgogne, Paris, 1581; chap. 28) according to
whom the collar was "d'or à trois chaines entrelacées de roses émaillées de rouge, où pendoit
une Geneste émaillée de noir et de rouge, et que ces chevaliers portoient un anneau d'or
auquel estoit gravée l'effigie d'une Geneste". (There may be some confusion with the Ordre
de la Cosse de Genêt.)

• Charlemagne created the Ordre de la Couronne-Royale

• Robert II founded the Ordre de l'Étoile in 1022, that order was then revived by Jean II.
This legend is typical of 17th c. creations of orders by sovereigns, who often preferred to
claim that they were reviving an ancient order.
• Saint-Louis founded the Ordre du Navire (or Navire et Croissant or Deux-Croissants)
before embarking for Tunis in 1269 (Joseph Micheli, Thesauro Militari, cited by Laroque,
op. cit.).

Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt

A rumour circulated in August 2000 that the French pretender, the comte de Paris, planned to
revive this order.

This order is often mentioned in the 17th c. literature. The mythical version is that Saint Louis
founded it in 1234 (alias 1238) upon the occasion of his marriage with Marguerite de Provence.
Diderot's Encyclopédie (s.v. "cosse de geneste") states that its collar was made of "cosses de
genestes" (fruit of the broom plant) intertwined with fleurs-de-lys, and its badge was a cross flory;
and that its motto was "exaltat humiles". It is said to have subsisted until the late 14th c. Pierre
Luyt, in Le plus illustre ornement de la noblesse (Troyes, 1661), states that it was founded on the
day of the coronation of his wife, that the collar was made of "branches ou cosses de genêt,
émaillées au naturel, entrelacées de fleurs de lys do'r encloses dans des losanges cléchées, c'est-à-
dire percées à jour, émaillées de blanc et enchaînées ensemble, d'où pendait au bas une croix
florencée d'or", that members wore a white coat with a purple hood, and gives the same motto.
Citing Pierre de Saint-Julien (op. cit., 1581), he says that St. Louis conferred it on Robert d'Artois
the day after the latter's wedding to Mahaut of Brabant in Sainte-Cornille de Compiègne; and also
on his eldest son Philippe, his nephew Robert d'Artois, and several other noblemen on Whitsunday
1267 in Paris.

Firm evidence of a decoration by that name and design only exists for the period 1380-1422, the
reign of Charles VI. D'Arcy Boulton (The Knights of the Crown) explains the origin and meaning of
the decoration:

Charles V and his grandson Charles VI developed an alternative system of cementing the patrono-
cliental relationship between themselves and their most eminent subjects based on the unlimited
distribution of badges and livery uniforms ? a system that persisted untuil the death of Charles VII,
the son of Charles VI, in 1461. Colette Beaune (Note: ?Costume et pouvoir en France à la fin du
Moyen Âge: les devises royals vers 1400?, in Revue des Sciences Humaines, 183 (1981), pp. 125-
146) has recently demonstrated that, although distinctive livery badges and colors had first been
introduced into France from England in the reign of Jean II himself,[Note: The Company or Society of
Our Lady of the Noble House, commonly called the Company of the Star was the only true Monarchical Collar Order
in France before that of Saint Michael, founded by Jean II in 1352 (its genesis, however, lay in a plan by Jean that
never came to fruition, in 1344). Unfortunately, it died with its founder and there is no evidence at all thatit survived
him, despite claims by a variety of later historians to the contrary.] it was only after the accession of Charles
V in 1364 that they were used extensively in the royal court. She has further shown that, after what
seems to have been a period of experimentation (in which the badge of the defunct Company of the
Swan was treated as sort of pseudo-Order), a truly revolutionary system was finally introduced by
Charles VUI in 1382, under which all members of the compagnie du roy from the king and the
princes of the blood royal down to the humblest servants were constantly dressed in costumes of
particular colors and bearing particular devices.

Through most of the long reign of Charles VI (which lasted until 1422), the king and his councilors
decided at some point in every year what colors and devices would be worn by the court, and had
hundreds of vestments in those colors and bearing those devices, their material, decoration, and cut
varying according to the rank of the recipient, distributed to the courtiers. An appearance of
equality an fraternity was thus imposed upon the members of the king's retinue, similar to that
which had been imposed (supposedly) by Arthur on the knights of the Round table, and by the
founders of the monarchical orders upon their 'companions', but based solely upon their common
clientship to the king rather than upon their common status of knight. Indeed, one of the
advantages of the new system was that it was not restricted to knights, or even to members of the
male sex.

Most of the devices adopted by Charles VI to serve as livery badges were employed for a short
period of time, and reflected the current preoccupations of the king or dominance of one or another
of the political factions of the greater nobility, but certain devices (for reasons that are from clear)
were distributed and displayed over a long period of time, and came to be recognized as standard
symbols of royal authority and favor. Most important among these were the geneste, or broom-
plant, adopted by Charles V as a badge towards the end of his reign,[Three patents conferring the collar
exist in 18th century copies preserved in the Bibliotheque nationale.] and inherited by his son, and the winged
white stag, a modified version of the very similar device of Duke Louis of Bourbon, chosen by
Charles VI himself at some time before 1388. The former device, little used during Charles'
minority, was apparently brought to the fore by the return of the co-called 'Marmousettes' in 1388,
and was displayed thereafter in a variety of forms, including flowers and branches as well as the
more familiar pods (cosses). At about the same time Charles seems to have decided to distribute a
collar composed of paired broom-pods, with a similar pair as a pendant, [Several representations of this
collar survive. One is perhaps that worn by Richard II in the Wilton diptych (London, National Gallery, one of the few
examples of English renaissance art to survive the Reformation), and in several miniatures, although often with other
devices worn also. ] to certain selected members of his entourage, as a sign of his special favor, and
although no corporate statutes are known to have been associated with it at any time, this collar
was referred to as that of the ?Order? of the Broom-Pod. It was perhaps the first honorific pseudo-
order deliberately founded as such. An average of twenty persons a year received the collar in the
four years for which records have been preserved (1388, 1390, 1399, and 1400), and when this is
compared with to the 491 houppelandes embroidered with interlaced sprigs of broom and may that
were distributed to the court as a whole in the last of these years, its honorable character is clear.
In fact, unlike the bestowal of ordinary badges, the bestowal of this collar was normally
accompanied by a royal letter by granting the recipient the right to wear it thenceforth as a sign of
royal favor.

The collar of broom-pods, which was worn by the king himself and distributed on occasion to other
kings and princes as well as to simple squires of his household ? seems to have served the purely
honorific functions of the monarchical orders until Charles' death in 1422, when the country was
temporarily divided between Henry VI of England, the son of his adoptive heir, and his only
surviving son Charles, recognized in the southern half of the kingdom as Charles VII. In his much-
reduced court at Bourges, Charles VII continued to wear livery-colors and badges much as his
father ha done, but he rarely distributed livery-uniforms except to members of his household proper
and of his armed forces. Although he retained the winged stag as a device throughout his reign, I
have found no unequivocal evidence for his use of the broom-pod either as a simple device or as
the badge of a pseudo-order, and he may well have abandoned it altogether, either immediately
after his accession or at some later date.

There is firm evidence of the order's existence under Charles VI. The texts of three patents (cited by
Boulton above) are found in 17th c. copies in the Bibliothèque Nationale, manuscripts, Fr3886, fol.
94. Two of them (dated 1378 and 1406) are copied from André Favyn (Le Théâtre d'honneur et de
chevalerie; Paris : R. Foüet, 1620; reprint 1720; English translation 1623) and Pierre de Saint-Julien
(De l'Origine des Bourgongnons, et antiquité des Estats de Bourgogne; Paris, N. Chesneau, 1581).
The first is reprinted in Douet d'Arcq: Choix de pièces inédites relatives au règne de Charles VI,
Paris, 1863-4; vol. 1, p. 287). The original of the second patent, dated 1391, is said to have been in
Ypres; Laroque (op. cit.) had seen the text and cites it. A copy of a fourth grant, dated 1412 to Pierre
de Févin or Fénin, is in Fr 16166, fol. 103.

"Charles par la grace de Dieu Roy de France, a tous ceux qui ces presentes lettres verront salut.
Scavoir faisons que pour la bone relation qui faite nous a este de Geoffroy de Belleville notre feal
Chambellan, et de sa bone et noble generation, nous luy avons done et octroye de grace speciale
qu'il puisse & luy loise en toutes festes et compagnies porter le collier de la cosse de geneste sans
quil en puisse estre repris en aucune maniere. Done a Tours sous nostre scel le sixiesme jour de
juillet lan mil trois cent soixante et dixhuict, et de notre regne le quatorzieme.

Cette piece est raportee par Andre Favyn en son theatre d'honneur et de chevallerie page 586. Il doit
(?) avoir dans l'original "le collier de nostre ordre de la cosse de la geneste".

Charles pas la grace de Dieu Roy de France, a tous ceux qui ces presentes verront salut, scavoir
faisons que nous pour le bon rapport et grand temoignage qui fait nous a este par aucuns
gentilhomes de nostre hostel dignes de foy de la personne de Victor de Lichtereielve [sic; recte
Liestervelde] escuyer du pays de Flandres, et de la bone et noble generation dont il est issu et
procree, nous de notre certaine science et grace especiale par ces presentes luy avons done congie et
license que doresnavant il puisse porter nostre ordre et collier des cosses genestes et par tous les
lieux, places ou festes et compagnies qu'il ira de bon luy semblera sans quil en soit ou puisse estre
repris en aucune maniere. Donne sous nostre scel du secret a Paris le 17e de decembre lan de grace
mil trois cent nonante huict, et de nostre regne le dixhuitiesme. Par le Roy, signe Ferron.

L'original de cette piece est a Ypre en Flandres.

Charles etc. Scavoir faisons que nous a plein informes de la bone et noble generation dont nostre
ame sergent d'armes Robert de Mauny ecuyer est issu et procree, a iceluy avons done et octroye,
donons et octroyons de grace especiale par ces presentes conge et license que doresnavant il puisse
et luy loise porter le collier de nostre ordre de la cosse de geneste en touts lieux et par toutes places,
festes et compagnies quil luy plaira et bon luy semblera. En tesmoin de ce nous avons fait mettre
nostre scel secret a ces presentes. Done a Paris en nostre hostel de St Paul le 17e de mars lan de
grace mil quatre cent et cinq, et le 26eme de nostre regne, signe par le Roy Ponhieu (?)

Cette piece est rapportee par M de St Julien de Balleure en ses memoires de l'origine des
Bourguignons p. 152."

Luyt also mentions conferral on Louis II d'Anjou and Charles, prince of Tarento (d. 1404), in Saint-
Denis in 1389 on the day of the arrival in Paris of queen Isabeau. (This is questionable since neither
is mentioned by Froissart as having attended the ceremony. They arrived in Paris in April 1388 and
stayed until October 1389. It is known that Charles VI knighted Charles on 2 May 1389 in Saint-
Denis; see the tables to Froissart's Chroniques, in Oeuvres, 1867-77, 23:186).

There appears to have been decorative elements in medieval jewelry (cf. the Inventaires et
documents relatifs aux joyaux et tapisseries des princes d'Orléans-Valois, p. 40, 43, 50, 53):
"gosses", "cosses", "cosses de geneste", "fleurs de geneste" are mentioned as elements of belts,
chains, "hoppelandes", some weighing 7g and enameled, others weighing 1.5g. Cf. this citation
from Barante's Histoire des Ducs de Bourgogne (1854; p. 38), describing the costume of the duke
of Burgundy in : "Les boutonnières étaient faites d'une broderie courante en genêt, dont les cosses
étaient aussi de perles et de saphirs. C'était un souvenir de cet ancien ordre de la cosse de genêt,
qu'avaient institué les rois de France, et qu'ils donnaient encore parfois en récompense à leurs
loyaux serviteurs." (The notion of a badge for servants and retainers is consistent with the motto.)

Chevaliers de la Sainte-Ampoule

Another curious order is the Ordre des Chevaliers Porte-Dais de la Sainte-Ampoule. This order
was supposedly created by Clovis on the occasion of his baptism, during which a miraculous dove
from Heaven brought a flask containing the oil to anoint him. The modern origins of the order are
unclear, but it is a fact that these knights make an appearance in 17th and 18th century coronations
of French kings. The Sainte-Ampoule was a flask containing the Chrême or holy ointment used in
the sacrament of the kings (in French, the ceremony was a "sacre" foremost, and the coronation was
secondary). The Ampoule was kept in the abbey of Saint-Rémi. On the day of the coronation, it was
taken thence to the cathedral in a procession. Four knights held the four posts of the "dais", or
baldachin, over the Sainte-Ampoule, and it is said that the charge of holding the baldachin belonged
to the possessors of the baronnies of Bellestre, Louvercy or Neuvizy, Souastre and Terrier, all vassal
fiefs of the abbey of Saint-Remi (the owners of the baronnies had to be gentlemen-nobles; the bailli
of the abbey could substitute for any missing knight). They seemed to have performed that function
in the coronations of Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. At Louis XV's coronation
on October 25 1722, the knights were de Romanie, Godet and de Sainte-Catherine; the fourth
knight being replaced by Clognet, bailli of the abbey (Buvat: Journal de la Régence, 1875, 2:421).
At Louis XVI's coronation on June 11 1775, they were Charles Deslaires de Gernicourt, baron de
Souastre; Louis-Alexandre d'Auger, baron de Neuvizy, Pierre-Alexandre d'Auger, baron de
Bellestre, and Jean-Charles de Romanie, baron de Terrier.

The knights were clothed in white satin with black coats, with the cross of the Sainte-Ampoule (a
white Maltese cross with the dove flying downwards bearing the flask) embroidered on the coat,
and also a cross hanging from a black ribbon around their necks. (Reference: Le Sacre et
Couronnement de Louis XVI, 1775, fac-simile edition 1989).

Orders founded by Vassals of the King of France

These orders fall in-between categories. They were created by various dukes who were vassals of
France, mostly members of the French royal family. Although their founders were not sovereigns,
some of them were created with the same intention as national orders, that is, to personally bind
vassals to their lord (the best example being the Golden Fleece). But their founders and grand-
masters were not sovereigns, since they were in turn the vassals of the king of France. And some
orders, such as those founded by the duc de Bourbon, clearly had a religious and devotional
purpose, very close to that of the private orders. For these reasons, I am inclined to view them as a
variety of private orders.

(See the page on orders of chivalry for a more detailed discussion of the different types of orders
and confraternities in the Middle Ages.)

• Ordre du Croissant: said to have been created in 1272 by Charles d'Anjou, brother of
Saint-Louis and king of Naples; the Order was revived on 11 Aug 1464 by René d'Anjou of
the second house of Anjou, and placed under the patronage of Saint Maurice; it disappeared
soon after his death in 1481. The collar is reported to have consisted of a gold chain
intertwined with a ribbon of black silk, and the pendant, a silver crescent inscribed with the
motto "Los en croissant". (Laroque cites Philippe Moreau, Traitté, p. 271; Louis de Sainte-
Marthe, Histoire de la Maison Royale, vol. 1).
• Ordre de Sainte-Catherine: created in 1335 by Humbert II, Dauphin de Viennois, who was
not a royal prince. He left his dominions to the eldest son of the king of France at his death
in 1349 and the order did not survive.
• Ordre de l'Écu d'Or: created in 1364 (alias Candlemas 1369 in Moulins) by Louis II duc
de Bourbon for 26 knights; it disappeared after his death in 1410.
• Ordre du Bourdon or de Notre-Dame du Chardon: created by the same in Moulins, 1370
(alias 1368). A thistle was the emblem. It numbered 25 noblemen and the grandmaster, the
duke himself. The motto was "espérance". This may be the same as the previous order.
(Laroque cites Philippe Moreau on the latter).
• Ordre du Porc-Épic: created in 1393 by the duc d'Orléans, brother of Charles VI; the order
disappeared after his grandson became king as Louis XII in 1498, although he made a last
promotion of knights upon his accession. The order's motto was "cominus et eminus". It
numbered 24 knights with four proven degrees of nobility and the duke as grand-master. The
porcupine was the family badge of Orléans with the motto "qui s'y frotte s'y pique". (cited in
Joannes Camerarius, de emblematibus).
• Ordre du Fer d'Or: created on 1 Jan 1415 (o.s.) by Jean duc de Bourbon in Paris (see the
full text of the document creating this "emprise" in Douet d'Arcq: Choix de pièces inédites
relatives au règne de Charles VI, Paris, 1863-4; vol. 1, p. 370). Eight knights and eight
squires bore a prisoner's irons on the left leg. The order disappeared with its founder in
• Ordre de l'Hermine: created in 1381 by Jean IV, duc de Bretagne, or by François II in
1450. The ermine was the badge of the duke of Brittany, an allusion to his arms (ermine
plain). The motto was "À ma vie!". It disappeared when Brittany became part of France in
the late 15th century.
• Ordre de la Toison d'Or (Golden Fleece): created in 1429 by Philippe duc de Bourgogne,
on the occasion of his marriage to Isabelle of Portugal. This order later passed through his
grand-daughter Marguerite de Bourgogne to her husband Maximilian of Habsburg and their
descendants. The order remained in the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs until 1700. After
Louis XIV's grandson became king of Spain, the Austrian branch claimed that the order had
passed to them (alleging that the former Burgundian territories of the Low Countries had
passed to Austria in 1713; although the loss of those territories in 1797 did not prevent the
Austrians from keeping the order). From that date, there have been two orders of the Golden
Fleece. The Spanish order is not an order of chivalry anymore since the 19th century, it is
awarded by the Spanish king as an order of merit to Spaniards and foreigners. The Austrian
order is now held by Otto Habsburg who still awards it on the basis of the original criteria to
Catholic nobles. Also, the duke of Segovia, eldest son of Alfonso XIII of Spain and head of
the house of Bourbon, declared himself grandmaster in 1963 and awarded the order to
various people, including the ducs de Bauffremont and Polignac.

Portrait of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, founder of the Golden Fleece (after Rogier van der Weyden).

Portrait of Philip the Fair, archduke of Austria (anon.).

Portrait of Charles V (after Barend van Orley).

Private Orders
Just as monastic orders (and some of the most famous ones) were created by private individuals of
their own initiative, so were a number of orders of chivalry. In fact, that is how the orders of Saint-
John and the Holy Sepulchre came to be. But such initiatives were usually short-lived, unless they
found a royal or papal patron.

Many of the following examples are, as usual, hard to characterise for lack of documentation.
Some, like Boucicaut's "order", have the hallmarks of an "emprise", an association of noblemen
committing to a particular goal for a particular period of time. Badges might be worn by members
as outward sign of their commitment. Others seem to have been, or evolved into, local nobiliary
associations, which were surprisingly common in 18th century France (St. Hubert de Bar, St.
Georges de Franche-Comté).

Around 1380 a group of noblemen from Poitou and Saintonge, among them the vicomte de
Thouars, created the Corps et Ordre du Tiercelet as a means of mutual assistance and moral
improvement. In the late 14th century, Jean II Le Maingre, called Boucicaut, founded the Ordre de
la Dame Blanche à l'Écu Vert, which disappeared with its founder in 1421. Boucicaut was a
marshal of Charles VI, who fought against the English, then with the Teutonic knights in Poland; he
joined the 1396 Crusade and was captured at Adrianopolis. He took over Genoa in the name of the
king of France and ruled it from 1401 to 1409, starting another crusade in 1403 and reaching
Beyrut. He was captured at Agincourt and died in London. He was one of the most famous knights
of his time.

Around 1431, Philippe de Molans, squire of the duke of Burgundy, founded an order of Chivalry,
the Ordre de Saint-Georges de Franche-Comté, after having brought back relics of Saint George
from a pilgrimage in Holy Land. The members had to be from Franche-Comté and have 16 degrees
of nobility. Also, in May 1416, Louis I, duke of Bar and cardinal, founded the Ordre de la Fidélité,
with a gold greyhound as emblem. The name was changed to Ordre de Saint-Hubert de Bar in
1423. It similarly survived, perhaps as a local nobiliary association, and was abolished in 1824
when a royal ordinance regulated the badges and orders that could be worn (see more details in the
history of the St. Lazarus order).

According to Jean Jovet (Histoire du château de Coucy, Paris, 1984, p. 37-8), Enguerrand de Coucy
founded ca. 1378 the Ordre de la Couronne, whose badge was an upside-down crown. The badge
is shown on a seal of Enguerrand in 1379. The existence of the order is mentioned in the charter
founded the Celestine convent in Soissons. It had knights and squires as well as dames and damsels.
Supposedly, a seal of Charles d'Orléans, nephew of Charles VI, displays the badge of the order
beneath his right arm (he owned the lordship of Coucy).

There is a curious example of the Ordre de la Madeleine, created in 1614 by Jean Lechesne, sieur
de La Charonniere Breton, to combat duelling. It met with royal approval but never created much of
a following and soon disappeared (Andrç Favyn: Thçatre d'honneur et de chevalerie, 1620).

Other orders that I have seen mentioned without having any idea of what they are (some are
probably not orders of chivalry):

• Ordre de Fous (1380),

• Ordre de Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas (1400; probably Altopascio in Italy, where an important
hospital existed),
• Ordre des Dames de la Cordelière (founded in 1498 by Anne de Bretagne, for noble ladies),
• Ordre de la Charité Chrétienne (founded in 1589 by Henri III for invalid soldiers),
• Ordre du Ruban Jaune (1606),
• Ordre du Collier Celeste et du Rosaire (1645),
• Ordre de la Loyauté (1770),
• Ordre d'Albrac,
• Ordre de Constance,
• Ordre du Coq,
• Ordre de la Paix,
• Ordre du Chien founded by the barons of Montmorency (Laroque, citing Philippe Moreau
and André du Chesne),
• Ordre de la Vache of the counts of Foix,
• Ordre du Lion of the barons of Coucy,
• Ordre des Chevaliers de la Table-Ronde in Bourges (1486; citing Jean Chenu);
• two orders cited in a royal edict of Dec 1671, Sainte-Christine de Somport and Saint-Louis
de Bochereaumont.

Orders of Merit
Orders of Merit can be distinguished from orders of chivalry in that they are designed to reward
past behavior, their membership requirements are not nobiliary, they have mild or inexistent
religious associations, they require no oaths, allegiance or ritual ceremonies, and impose no specific
duties on their members. However, they extend the traditions of national orders, borrowing the
names of ranks and the shapes and forms of insignia from them (or even from military-monastic
orders such as Malta), and also serving a similar purpose: by rewarding and honoring good service,
the sovereign found a way to bind more closely to him the loyalty of his non-noble subjects. The
idea of the order of merit was a clever adaptation to modern times, and it proved extremely
successful. It is now widely used throughout the world.


The first such order in France was created by Louis XIV in 1693 and dedicated to Saint-Louis. It
was reserved for French Catholic officers having served at least 10 years in the army. They were not
required to be noble. There were three ranks: chevalier (unlimited), commandeur (limited to 24) and
grand-croix (limited to 8; the limits were later raised). The king was Grand Master, the Dauphin or
heir presumptive was automatically a member.

The badge was a gold Malta cross edged in white, with large fleurs-de-lys between the arms. On the
obverse, a medallion with the effigy of Saint-Louis on a field gules, in armor gold and wearing a
royal ermine-lined mantle, holding a laurel crown in his left hand and the crown of thorns on the
other, surrounded by a bordure azure with the legend "Ludovicus Magnus Instituit 1693". On the
reverse, a sword upright with flaming blade through a laurel wreath, tied with a white scarf, on a
bordure azure the motto bellicae virtutis praemium, the reward of warring valor. The cross was
worn hanging from a short red ribbon on trhe breast for knights, from a red neck ribbon for
commanders, from a large red sash and accompanied by a metal or embroidered breast-star for
grand-cross. In heraldry, a grand-cross placed a Maltese cross or ("croix d'or à huit pointes
boutonnée par les bouts")behind his shield and placed a red riband around the shield, inscribed with
the order's motto "Bellicae virtutis praemium", from which the badge was shown suspended. The
commander was entitled to the riband around the shield with the badge, while the chevalier placed
the badge hanging from a short red ribbon beneath the shield (Edict of March 1694).

Edict of November 1750

In 1750, it was decided that three successive generations of recipients would confer nobility under
certain conditions ( Edict of November 1750). The conditions were for the 1st and 2d generation of
officers to serve at least 30 continuous years, of which at least 20 in the rank of captain, or 18 in the
rank of lieutenant-colonel, or 16 in the rank of colonel, or 14 in the rank of brigadier (art. 4 and 6);
the duration conditions were waived for those in the rank of captain or above killed or maimed in
service (art. 8). The 3d generation had to be born in wedlock, and either received the Order, or
served the prescribed times, or reached the rank of captain and be killed or maimed in service (art.
10). The nobility was transmitted to all legitimate children of the 3d individual, even those born
before he fulfilled the conditions (art. 11).

The order's name was changed to Décoration militaire in July 1791, and abolished on October 15,
1792. It was reestablished in 1814, abolished in 1830, although recipients were allowed to wear it
into the 1860s. In 1814, the conditions for hereditary transmission of nobility with the title of
chevalier were modified and aligned with those of the Legion of Honor (see more details).

Portrait of Jean-François de Mignac (anon.).

Portrait of Louis XV by Carle Van Loo; he wears the insignia of the Saint-Esprit (blue sash and breast plaque), Saint-
Louis (red sash), Toison d'Or (badge hanging from red ribbon).

A Protestant version, called the Mérite militaire, was instituted in 1759. It did not have a
grandmaster, but had the same ranks, a similar cross with a dark blue ribbon. It was reserved for
foreign officers of Protestant religion serving in the French army (Swiss, Germans, Swedes). In
1814, it was extended to Muslims and to French Protestants. Its fate was that of the order of Saint-

This order was a novelty in France (and indeed in Europe), having no nobiliary requirements and
being military in nature. It was explicitly designed as an order of merit, yet it was called an order of
chivalry and even its lowest rank was called "chevalier". The names of its ranks and the design of
its insignia were directly imitated from the Order of Malta. It was to be the inspiration for the
Legion of Honor and a number of other European orders of merit.

The following, besides chronicling the history of the order, contains a complete listing of its
members with biographical information:

• Mazas, Alexandre: Histoire de l'ordre royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis depuis son institution
en 1693 jusqu'en 1830 (completeed by Théodore Anne). Paris: Firmin Didot, 1860-61. (3

The names of 3099 members up to 1817 have been transcribed online.

Another book contains the names from 1693 up to the Revolution. It is available in PDF format

• Jean-François-Louis, comte d'Hozier: Recueil de tous les membres composant l'ordre royal
et militaire de Saint-Louis depuis l'année 1693. Paris, 1817-18.
Vol. 1, vol. 2

Légion d'Honneur

The Légion d'Honneur was created on May 19, 1802 by Bonaparte, First Consul of the French
Republic. Bonaparte himself was head of the Legion (chef de la Légion) and President of the
Council of the Legion, and members were called légionnaires. The ranks were, in decreasing order:
grand-officier, commandant, officier and légionnaire. The badge was the well-known five-branch
star, worn from a red ribbon. It was gold for the first two ranks and silver for the other two. The
Legion was conceived as a military institution, as the names of the ranks indicate; members were
organized in cohorts which were distributed geographically. This elite group would serve as a cadre
for the civil society.

With the Empire, the nature of the institution began to change. On Jan. 30, 1805 a new rank was
created above the other: it was called "la grande décoration de la Légion-d'Honneur", later called
grand-cordon (from the red sash) or grand-aigle (from the badge which hung from the bottom of
the sash, and the breast plaque). It was limited to 60 members and conferred only to grand officers,
not counting members of the imperial family and foreigners who could receive it without being
members of the Legion. This rank was created in imitation of that of grand-cross in other orders;
Napoleon wanted to be able to award it to foreign sovereigns and their highest officials, so as to
receive in exchange the grand-cross of various national orders of Austria, Prussia, Spain, etc.

At the Bourbon restoration in 1814, Louis XVIII made clear early on that he intended to maintain
the institution: an explicit promise to that effect was contained in the Charte of June 1814, and an
ordinance of July 19, 1814 confirmed it, while making the king its "sovereign head and grand-
master" (chef souverain et grand-maitre). Later, by an ordinance of March 26, 1816, the Legion
took the name of Royal Order of the Legion of Honor. The rank of grand-aigle was changed to
grand-croix, that of commandant to commandeur, and légionnaires were henceforth known as
chevaliers. The badges and decorations were altered to their present status.


The Order has a grand-maître. From lowest to highest, it has three ranks: chevalier, officier,
commandeur ; and two dignities, grand-officier and grand-croix. The insignia consists of a five-arm
cross with (currently) the profile of the French Republic surrounded by a wreath of oak and laurel.
The motto is Honneur et Patrie.

Knights and officers wear the cross hanging from a red ribbon, commanders from a red ribbon
around the collar, grand-officers and grand-cross from a red sash with a breast plaque. On business
suits, the ranks are represented by small threads and/or a button woven into the lapel next to the
button-hole. Chevalier is indicated by a red thread, officier by a red button, commandeur by a red
button on a silver thread, grand-officier by a red button on a silver and gold thread, and grand-croix
by a red button on a gold thread.

The term grand-croix, borrowed from the Order of Saint-Louis, itself imitating Malta, originally
designated the insignia, but has come to mean the rank and the holder of the rank as well. In
modern French, it is not an adjective, and it is invariable. In imitation of the Order of Saint-Louis, a
decree of 1810 conferred the hereditary title of chevalier de l'Empire to the third generation of
recipients in male line; this provision was confirmed as an ennoblement by ordinance of October 8,
1814. The decree has never been rescinded, but since 1875 the French government does not grant
the necessary letters patent. There exists a private association of individuals who meet the criteria
for the "honneurs héréditaires", 295 families in all. (See also an anonymous but accurate article on
this topic.)

As can be seen, Napoleon's creation, as amended by Louis XVIII, was closely modeled on the order
of Saint-Louis, including the style of the cross, the names of the ranks, the color of the ribbon and
the hereditary honors. The five rays of the star was the only major break with other orders of Merit.
The Legion of Honor, however, survived every change in regime. Successive heads of state have
acted as grandmasters. Currently, the French president is grandmaster upon inauguration (and also
becomes grand-cross automatically). To this day, the Legion of Honor is the most prestigious civil
or military award in France.

Nominations to the rank of knight are made by presidential decree from lists proposed by the
various ministers: the honors are announced every year on January 1 and July 14, and the usual
number of nominations is about 2900 annually. Twenty years of public service or 25 years of
professional activity are normally required, as well as passing an enquiry of good moral standing.
Promotion to the rank of officer requires a minimum of 8 years as knight, and additional
meritorious achievements; 5 years are required to become commander, 3 years to become grand-
officer and 3 years to become grand-cross. Jumping ranks is not allowed, except for the French
president upon inauguration as noted, but the time requirements can be waived, and promotions
through all the ranks within the same day have occurred (in 1873).


When Charles de Gaulle became president and Grand Master of the Order, its membership had
risen to 300,000. He decided to reduce its numbers and bring it down to 125,000 by the end of the
20th century, an objective that has been reached.

The following numbers are for French nationals only. They come from the annual reports on the
Legion of Honor found in annexes of the annual budgetary laws (see the National Assembly's web

Membership by grades (Dec. 31)

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Grand'croix 59 60 61 60 63 56
Grands officiers 338 323 322 321 322 329
Commandeurs 3,772 3,686 3,664 3,610 3,479 3,508
Officiers 23,381 22,631 22,702 22,330 21,468 21,849
Chevaliers 88,868 86,852 87,426 87,058 85,029 87,161
Total 116,418 113,552 114,175 113,379 110,351 112,903
Note that, until 1998 or so, the numbers are over-estimated because the chancery did not have the
means to accurately check which members were still alive.
Two thirds of the members are military (active or retired). Among the civilians, 30% are from the
public sector and 25% from the business sector. Local elected officials represent 10%, medical and
social work account for 13%, sports and entertainment 8%.

Annual appointments and promotions

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Grand'croix 4 6 4 5 4 5 4 4 5 7 6
Grands officiers 13 18 18 16 16 21 18 18 20 26 33
Commandeurs 131 124 131 138 188 156 159 136 151 128 152
Officiers 639 605 702 658 698 655 667 735 638 642 708
Chevaliers 2058 2007 2111 3335 2964 2901 3027 3058 3007 2956 3,159
Total 2845 2760 2966 4167 3870 3737 3875 3951 3821 3759 4,058
In 2002, the 4058 nominations and promotions consisted of 2051 civilians, 1151 military on active
duty, 499 retired military, and 170 veterans.

The president of the Republic sets annual quota for nominations and promotions by decree, every
three years. The quota are not exactly enforced, as the following table shows.

Planned: 1991-93 1994-96 1997-99 2000-02 2003-05

GC 4 4 4 6 6
GO 16 16 16 24 24
C 129 129 133 144 144
O 690 690 730 730 730
Ch 1940 1940 2910 2910 2910
Actual: 1991-93 1994-96 1997-99 2000-01 2003-05
GC 5 4 6
GO 17 18 23
C 152 150 140
O 686 686 640
Ch 2803 2995 2982
The quota are currently equally split between civilian and military for the three top grades; officiers
are split between 384 civilians and 346 military, while chevaliers are split between 1710 civilians
and 1200 military.

Foreigners can be appointed, to any rank, and they are not subject to any of the time requirements.
A few Americans who received the order in the 19th century: Thomas A. Edison (commander in
1889), Alexander Graham Bell (officer in 1881), the astronomer Simon Newcomb (officer in 1896),
the sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens (officer in 1901), the painter John Singer Sargent (knight in
1889, later promoted officer). The quota of foreigners for each grade is also set by decree of the
President, but the quota do not apply to conferrals to foreign heads of state, their aides and to
members of the diplomatic corps (article R131 of the code). The quota are as follows, in annual
numbers per period of three years:
1994-96 1997-99 2000-01 2003-05
grand'croix 3 3 2 2
grands officiersj 15 15 7 7
commandeurs 81 96 37 40
officiers 198 213 91 101
chevaliers 333 429 213 233
Only a few women have made it to grand-officers: the writers Louise Weiss and Colette, the wives
of the marechal Lyautey and the general André. The World War II flyer Maryse Bastié was the first
woman promoted commandeur for actions in combat. Until recently, no woman aside from foreign
queens had been made grand-cross; Pamela Harriman (1925-97), US ambassador to France, was
made grand-cross (posthumously, although the president had already informed her of his decision
shortly before her death). The first French woman to be made grand-croix was Geneviève de
Gaulle-Anthonioz, founder of ATD-Quart Monde, a humanitarian NGO, in 1998; she was followed
by Germaine Tillion, a member of the WWII Resistance, in 1999. In 2000, general Valérie André
became the first woman military to receive the grand-croix.

The Order has been awarded to moral entities. A large number of cities have received it. A number
of undergraduate schools and colleges have also received it, as has the French Red-Cross, the abbey
of Notre-Dame des Dombes, and the French railway company SNCF. In the army, regiments have
received it since 1859. They wear it, along with any other decorations, hung from a "cravate"
attached to the mast of the regimental flag, and members of the unit wear a red "fourragère"
(lanyard or shoulder-braid). The Code of 1962 does not mention the possibility of awarding the
Order to moral entities (such a possibility was never mentioned in legislative texts either) and it is
understood that the practice has ceased.

The Order is managed by a Chancery and a Council of the Order; they are situated in Paris:
Chancellerie de la Légion d'Honneur
1, rue de Solférino
Paris 75007
At the same address is the Museum of the Order, in the Hotel de Salm (a beautiful private mansion
from the 1780s in unusual neo-classical style, whose floor plan was copied by the Museum of the
Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park). It is a delightful museum for anyone interested
in orders and decorations (including pre-1789 orders).

Please do not ask me to look up your ancestors' names to find out if they were awarded the Legion
of Honor. Write to the Chancery at the above address, or use the brand new on-line database for
any name prior to 1954.

The Council also manages protocol questions regarding French and foreign orders and decorations.
A French citizen needs to be authorized by presidential decree to receive or wear a foreign order,
except for the Order of Malta and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre which are recognized by France.
Foreign decorations not awarded by a sovereign power cannot be worn. Decorations or insignia
which are similar to French orders and decorations are also illegal (see further details).

For more information on the order and its composition, you can read (in French) the Report on the
Order in annex of the Budget law of 2004.

Other French Orders of Merit

There are other orders of merit in France: by order of precedence, they are:

• the Croix de la Libération (created in 1940 by de Gaulle, no new members since 1946, 147
members in Sep 2000; single rank of compagnon),
• Médaille militaire (created by Napoleon III in 1852 (purely military award, not an order, it
has no rank; 200,000 members and 3500 awards annually),
• Ordre National du Mérite (created by de Gaulle in 1963 to replace seventeen ministerial
orders of merit created under the 3d and 4th Republics, it has the same organization as the
Legion of Honor with five grades, its badge is a 6-pointed cross hanging from a deep blue
ribbon, and it has currently about 190,000 members, with about 4700 new members each
• various military awards (starting with the Croix de Guerre),
• the remaining "ministerial orders" (Palmes académiques, Mérite agricole, Mérite maritime,
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres),

The order of precedence continues with various commemorative medals in the order of their
creation, and then authorized foreign orders and decorations.


16th-18th c. references

Information on French orders, especially the mythical and dubious ones, comes largely from
articles by Gastelier de La Tour in Diderot's Encyclopédie, which were later copied uncritically in
19th c. encyclopaedias. He cites a number of works, primarily:

• Beloy, Pierre de : De l'origine et institution des divers ordres de chevalerie, tant

ecclésiastiques que profanes; Montauban: Denis Haultin, 1604 (the author was a magistrate
in the parlement of Toulouse; cf. Bayle's Dictionnaire)
• Caramuel, Juan: theologia regularis : videlicet, in Sanctorum Benedicti, Basilii, Augustini &
Francisci regulas commentarii historici, scholastici, morales, iudiciales, politici; Lyon:
Laurent Anisson, 1665 (4th ed.; contains the rule of the order of the Templars, but there are
modern editions)
• Favyn, André: Théâtre d'honneur et de chevalerie, ou l'Histoire des ordres militaires des
roys et princes... de l'institution des armes et blasons... duels, joustes et tournois et de tout
ce qui concerne le faict du chevalier de l'ordre; Paris: R. Foüet, 1620 (translated in 1623
into English)
• Geliot, Louvan : Indice Armorial, ou, sommaire explication des mots usitez au blason des
armoiries; Paris: P. Billaine, 1635 (expanded into La vraye et parfaite science des armoiries
by Pierre Palliot, Paris, 1660)
• Giustiniani, Bernardo: Historie cronologiche dell'origine degl' ordini militari e di tvtte le
religione cavalleresche; Venice, 1692;
• Le Mire, Aubert : Origines equestrium sive militarium ordinum; Antwerp: Martin, 1609
• Mendo, Andrés, SJ: de Ordinibus militaribus disquisitiones canonicae, theologicae, morales
et historicae pro foro interno et externo; Lyon: Boissat, 1668 (2d ed.)
• Menestrier, François : De la Chevalerie ancienne et moderne (reprinted in Collection des
meilleurs dissertations, notices et traités particuliers relatifs à l'histoire de France, vol. 12,
Paris 1838);
• Mennens, François : Deliciae equestrium sive militarium ordinum et eorundem origines,
statuta, symbola et insignia; Cologne: J. Kinck, 1613 (2d. ed. 1638)
• Michieli: Trésor militaire,
• Sainte-Marie, Honoré de (1651-1729): Dissertations historiques et critiques sur la
chevalerie ancienne et moderne, seculière et regulière; Paris: Pepie et Moreau, 1718

Modern references

See also the references in the general essay on orders of chivalry.

• Cardinale, Hyginus Eugene: Orders of knighthood, awards, and the Holy See, ed. and rev.
by Peter Bander van Duren. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, 1985 : Van Duren.
This book was reedited a couple times by Van Duren, who considerably altered the sections
on the Order of St. Lazarus (of which he is a member).
• Colleville, Ludovic, comte de, and François Saint-Christo: Les ordres du roi; répertoire
général contenant les noms et qualités de tous les chevaliers des ordres royaux militaires et
chevaleresques avant existé en France de 1099 a 1830 ... Avec une histoire des Ordres du
Saint-Esprit, de Saint-Michel, de Saint-Louis, etc. Paris, Chez Jouve [1924]. 2 v.
(xxxviii,711 p.)
Contains a complete list of members of the ordres du Roi and Saint-Louis. For genealogies
of the members of the Saint-Esprit, consult Père Anselme: Histoire généalogique et
chronologique de la maison royale de France... Paris: 1733, 9 volumes, and the
continuation by Pol Potier de Courcy, Paris: 1884-1890. both reprinted by the Editions du
Palais-Royal in 1967.
• Favier, Jean: Dictionnaire de la France médiévale. Paris, 1993; Fayard.
Excellent general reference on medieval France, with bibliographical information in each
• Ordres de chevalerie et récompenses nationales. Paris, 1956; Administration des monnaies
et medailles.
Catalogue of an exhibit, with many illustrations.
• Pinoteau, Hervé: Études sur les ordres de chevalerie du roi de France : et tout spécialement
sur les ordres de Saint-Michel et du Saint-Esprit. Paris: Léopard d'Or, 1995.
Very solid work. For the state of the orders in 1830 and their "survival" under the legitimist
pretenders, see by the same author Etat de l'Ordre du Saint-Esprit en 1830 ; et, La
survivance des ordres du roi; Paris : Nouvelles Editions latines, 1983.
• Popoff, Michel: Armorial de l'Ordre du Saint-Esprit. Paris: Léopard d'Or, 1995.
Listing of the knights of the order up to 1789, with their coats of arms.
• D'Hozier, Jean-François: Recueil historique des chevaliers de l'Ordre de Saint-Michel .
Paris: Léopard d'Or, 1998 (vol. 1: 1469-1560).
Listing of the knights with coats of arms and brief notices, based on an 18th c. manuscript
by a French king of arms.
• Herman, Charles Wendell: Knights and Kings in Early Modern France: Royal Orders of
Knighthood, 1469-1715. Dissertation, University of Minnesota.

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