Order of the Holy Spirit

Last updated
Order of the Holy Spirit
Ordre du Saint-Esprit
Cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit (heraldry).svg
Badge of the Order
Awarded by the Royal Standard of the King of France.svg King of France
Type Dynastic order
Established31 December 1578
Royal house House of France
Religious affiliation Catholicism
RibbonLight blue
Motto Latin: Duce et Auspice
StatusAbolished in 1830 after the July Revolution
Recognised as a dynastic order of chivalry by the ICOC
Founder Henry III of France
Grand Master Disputed:
Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou
Jean, Count of Paris
Next (lower) Order of Saint Michael
Ordre du Saint-Esprit Chevalier ribbon.svg
Ribbon of the Order

The Order of the Holy Spirit (French : Ordre du Saint-Esprit; sometimes translated into English as the Order of the Holy Ghost), [1] is a French order of chivalry founded by Henry III of France in 1578. Today, it is a dynastic order under the House of France. [2]


It should not be confused with the Congregation of the Holy Ghost or with the religious Order of the Holy Ghost. [1] It was the senior chivalric order of France by precedence, although not by age, since the Order of Saint Michael was established more than a century earlier.

Although officially abolished by the government authorities in 1830 following the July Revolution, its activities carried on. It is still recognised by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry. [3]


Prior to the creation of the Order of the Holy Spirit in 1578 by King Henry III, the senior order of chivalry in France had been the Order of Saint Michael. [2] The idea flashed to him in Venice, where he had seen the original manuscript of an Order of the Saint Esprit or Droit Desir founded in 1353 by Louis of Anjou, titular king of Jerusalem and Sicily and husband of Joanna, queen of Naples and countess of Provence, and placed under the protection of St. Nicholas of Bari, whose image was reproduced on the pendant of the collar. Henry III realised that the Order of St. Michael had inflated and degraded during the civil wars, and therefore decided to place the new order of the Holy Spirit alongside it and to attribute them together; for this reason who was created knight of the Holy Spirit was called chevalier des ordres du roi. [4] [5] Its membership was initially restricted to a small number of powerful princes and nobles, but this increased dramatically due to the pressures of the Wars of Religion.

At the beginning of the reign of Henry III, the Order of Saint Michael had several hundred living members, ranging from kings to bourgeois. Recognising that the order had been significantly devalued, Henry III founded the Order of the Holy Spirit on December 31, 1578, thereby creating a two-tier system: the new order would be reserved for princes and powerful nobles, whilst the Order of Saint Michael would be for less eminent servants of the Crown. The new order was dedicated to the Holy Spirit to commemorate the fact that Henry III was elected as King of Poland (1573) and inherited the throne of France (1574) on two Pentecosts.

The new order was also identified with the "Order of the Knot" (Ordre du Nœud, also known as Ordre du Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir "Order of the Holy Spirit of the Right Will") which had been founded in 1352/3 by Louis I of Naples. This had been one of the short-lived chivalric orders popular among the high nobility at the time. The statutes of the 14th-century order are preserved as BNF Fr 4274. An elaborate facsimile of this manuscript was produced under Louis XIV. [6]

During the French Revolution, the Order of the Holy Spirit was officially abolished by the French government, along with all other chivalric orders of the Ancien Régime, although the exiled Louis XVIII continued to acknowledge it. Following the Bourbon Restoration, the order was officially revived, only to be abolished again by the Orleanist Louis-Philippe following the July Revolution in 1830. Despite the abolition of the order, both the Orléanist [2] and Legitimist [7] pretenders to the French throne have continued to nominate members of the order, long after the abolition of the French monarchy itself.


Louis Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers was the first knight to receive the order Saint-esprit.jpg
Louis Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers was the first knight to receive the order
King Louis XVI in the habit of the Order of the Holy Spirit, by Alexandre Roslin. Roslin Louis XVI of France.jpg
King Louis XVI in the habit of the Order of the Holy Spirit, by Alexandre Roslin.

The King of France was the Sovereign and Grand Master (Souverain Grand Maître), and he made all appointments to the order. Members of the order can be split into three categories:

Initially, four of the ecclesiastic members had to be cardinals, whilst the other four had to be archbishops or prelates. This was later relaxed so that all eight had to be either cardinals, archbishops or prelates.

Members of the order had to be Roman Catholic and had to be able to demonstrate three degrees of nobility. The minimum age for members was 35, although there were some exceptions:

All knights of the order were also members of the Order of Saint Michael. As such, they were generally known by the term Chevalier des Ordres du Roi (i.e. "Knight of the Royal Orders"), instead of the more lengthy Chevalier de Saint-Michel et Chevalier du Saint-Esprit (i.e. "Knight of Saint Michael and Knight of the Holy Spirit").


Louis Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain is wearing the cross and star of the Order of the Holy Spirit Louis Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain (1643-1727),.jpg
Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain is wearing the cross and star of the Order of the Holy Spirit

The order had its own officers. They were responsible for the ceremonies and the administration of the order.

Officers of the order were as follows:

Vestments and accoutrements

The symbol of the order is known as the Cross of the Holy Spirit (this is a Maltese Cross). At the periphery, the eight points of the cross are rounded, and between each pair of arms there is a fleur-de-lis. Imposed on the centre of the cross is a dove. The eight rounded corners represent the Beatitudes, the four fleur-de-lis represent the Gospels, the twelve petals represent the Apostles, and the dove signifies the Holy Spirit. The Cross of the Holy Spirit was worn hung from a blue riband ("Le cordon bleu"). [8]

Cordon Bleu

Due to the blue riband from which the Cross of the Holy Spirit was hung, the knights became known as Les Cordons Bleus. Allegedly, the banquets after ceremonial occasions were so famous that the expression cordon bleu became synonymous with high quality haute cuisine and, over time, extended to refer to other distinctions of the highest class. The culinary magazine La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu refers to the ribbon, as well as the eponymous network of hospitality and culinary schools. [9] In modern English usage, cordon bleu ( /ˌkɔː.dɒ̃ˈblɜː/ , also US: /ˌkɔːr.dɒ̃ˈbl/ ) is used as an adjective for chefs who are able to cook food to the highest standard as well as the food itself. [10] Blue Riband sporting events are also sometimes associated with the cordon bleu.[ citation needed ]

Habit and insignia

Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois in the habit of the Order Callet - Charles-Philippe de France, comte d'Artois (futur roi Charles X).jpg
Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois in the habit of the Order
Prince Philippe, duc d'Orleans wearing the breast star of the Order DukeOrleans.jpg
Prince Philippe, duc d'Orléans wearing the breast star of the Order

The badge of the Order is a gold Maltese cross with white borders, each of the eight points ending in a gold ball (points boutonnées) and with a gold fleur-de-lys between each adjacent pair of its arms. At the center of the cross, was set a white dove descending (i.e., with its wings and head pointing downward) surrounded by green flames. The back of this cross worn by the knights was the same as the front except with the medallion of the Order of Saint Michael at the center rather than the dove and flames (those of ecclesiastical members were the same on the back as on the front). During the ceremonies, the cross of officers and commanders officers was attached to a collar of links of gold fleur-de-lis alternating with links consisting of a white enameled letter H (the first initial of name of the founder) crowned with a gold French royal crown, with identical crowns on either side of it or alternately with a trophy of weapons. Each of these links was surrounded with red enamel flames forming a square around it. [11] [12] More generally, the cross was suspended from a large ribbon of color moirée blue sky, hence the nickname cordon bleu the knights wore.

For the ceremonies of the Order and when the knights of the Order made their Communion, the knights wore a long black velvet mantle sprinkled with embroidered gold and red flames and with a representation of the collar round its edges embroidered in gold, red and silver. Like the royal mantle, this mantle opened on the right side and just as an ermine shoulder cape covered the top of the royal mantle, a shoulder cape of pale green velvet with the same embroidery but smaller was worn over this mantle and formed the upper part of it. Both the mantle proper and the shoulder cape were lined with a yellowish orange satin. [13] The mantle was worn over a white coat (with the star of the Order embroidered on the left breast), waistcoat and puffed hose, heavily embroidered with silver. A black hat with a white plume completed the dress. The star of the Order had the same design as the front of the badge, but embroidered in silver (later a medal star in silver was used) on both the knights' coats and their vests.

Portraits of some Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit wearing their insignia as a saltire or a sash.

Portraits of some Commanders of the Order of the Holy Spirit wearing their insignia in saltire.

Special privileges

In France, red or green sealing wax was used for the royal seal on documents requiring a royal seal. Only in documents relating to the Order of the Holy Spirit was white wax used for this royal seal.

See also


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies</span> King of the Two Sicilies

Ferdinand II was King of the Two Sicilies from 1830 until his death in 1859.

The National Order of the Legion of Honour, formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour, is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, it has been retained by all later French governments and regimes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prince Louis, Duke of Nemours</span> 19th century French prince

Prince Louis of Orléans, Duke of Nemours was the second son of King Louis-Philippe I of France, and his wife Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archduke Franz Karl of Austria</span> Austrian archduke (1802–1878)

Archduke Franz Karl Joseph of Austria was a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. He was the father of two emperors: Franz Joseph I of Austria and Maximilian I of Mexico. Through his third son Karl Ludwig, he was the grandfather of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria – whose assassination sparked the hostilities that led to the outbreak of World War I – and the great-grandfather of the last Habsburg emperor Karl I.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Saint Lazarus</span> Roman Catholic military order founded by crusaders around 1119

The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, also known as the Leper Brothers of Jerusalem or simply as Lazarists, was a Catholic military order founded by crusaders around 1119 at a leper hospital in Jerusalem, Kingdom of Jerusalem, whose care became its original purpose, named after its patron saint, Lazarus. It was recognised by King Fulk of Jerusalem in 1142 and canonically recognised as a hospitaller and military order of chivalry under the rule of Saint Augustine in the Papal bull Cum a Nobis Petitur of Pope Alexander IV in 1255. Although they were centred on their charism of caring for those afflicted with leprosy, the knights of the Order of Saint Lazarus notably fought in the Battle of La Forbie in 1244 and in the Defense of Acre in 1291. The titular seat was successively situated at Jerusalem, Saint-Jean-d'Acre and - after the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem - split in two main branches in Italy and in Château Royal de Boigny-sur-Bionne in France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Saint Michael</span> French dynastic order of chivalry, founded by King Louis XI in 1469

The Order of Saint Michael is a French dynastic order of chivalry, founded by King Louis XI of France on 1 August 1469, in competitive response to the Order of the Golden Fleece founded by Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, Louis' chief competitor for the allegiance of the great houses of France, the dukes of Orléans, Berry, and Brittany. As a chivalric order, its goal was to confirm the loyalty of its knights to the king. Originally, there were a limited number of knights, at first thirty-one, then increased to thirty-six including the king. An office of Provost was established in 1476. The Order of St Michael was the highest Order in France until it was superseded by the Order of the Holy Spirit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of chivalry</span> Order, confraternity or society of knights

An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights, typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades and paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.

Commander, or Knight Commander, is a title of honor prevalent in chivalric orders and fraternal orders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette</span> French nobleman

Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette (1554–1642), created Duke of Épernon, was a powerful member of the French nobility at the turn of the 17th century. He was deeply involved in plots and politics throughout his life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Antoine de Mesmes (premier président)</span> French magistrate (1661–1723)

Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux (1661–1723) was a premier president of the Parlement of Paris and member of the Académie française. As premier president he presided at the rescinding of the will of Louis XIV and in 1720 at the remonstrance against the regent, Philippe of Orléans, for allowing Law's disastrous financial scheme and appointing Guillaume Dubois as archbishop of Cambrai.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of the Star (France)</span>

The Order of the Star or Company of the Star was an order of chivalry founded on 6 November 1351 by John II of France in imitation of the Order of the Garter founded in 1348 by Edward III of England. The inaugural ceremony of the order took place on 6 January 1352 at Saint-Ouen, from which it is sometimes called the Order of Knights of the Noble House of Saint Ouen.

This page is a list of the orders of chivalry and orders of merit awarded by France, in the order they were established or incorporated in France, and their origins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Jacques de Mesmes</span> French magistrate (1630–1688)

Jean-Jacques de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux, vicomte de Neufchâtel (1630–1688) was a French magistrate, intendant of Soissons, and Président à mortier of the Parlement of Paris. He developed the town of Avaux-la-Ville, which is now called Asfeld. He was a member of the Académie française. He was brother of Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, the diplomat, and father of Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, the premier president of the Parlement of Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">François Quesnel</span> French painter

François Quesnel was a French painter of Scottish extraction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cordon bleu (dish)</span> Meat and cheese dish

A cordon bleu or schnitzel cordon bleu is a dish of meat wrapped around cheese, then breaded and pan-fried or deep-fried. Veal or pork cordon bleu is made of veal or pork pounded thin and wrapped around a slice of ham and a slice of cheese, breaded, and then pan-fried or baked. For chicken cordon bleu, chicken breast is used instead of veal. Ham cordon bleu is ham stuffed with mushrooms and cheese.

The Order of Military Merit, which was initially known as the Institution of Military Merit, was a French military order that was created on 10 March 1759 by King Louis XV for non-Catholic military officers who had assisted the French state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Saint Lazarus (statuted 1910)</span>

The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is a Christian ecumenical fraternal order statuted in 1910 by a council of Catholics in Paris, France, initially under the protection of Patriarch Cyril VIII Jaha of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In the 1920s it expanded its jurisdiction enrolling members from other countries in Europe and in the Americas. It re-established the office of grand master in 1935 linking the office to members of the Spanish royal family. It assumed an ecumenical dimension in the 1950s to expand its membership to individuals of other Trinitarian Christian denominations in British Commonwealth countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Antoine de Mesmes (diplomat)</span> French diplomat (1640–1709)

Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, called d'Avaux (1640–1709), was a French diplomat in the service of Louis XIV. He is probably best known for accompanying King James II of England in his Irish expedition. He also negotiated for France the Peace of Nijmegen, which ended the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678). He was French ambassador in Venice, The Hague, Stockholm and finally The Hague again.

Joseph-Marie-Antoine Delaville Le Roulx was a French historian whose speciality was the Knights Hospitaller. He was a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.


  1. 1 2 Moeller, Charles (1910). "Orders of the Holy Ghost". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 7. Retrieved 21 December 2012. A distinction must be drawn between this order and the Royal Order of the Holy Spirit founded in France by King Henry III, in 1578, to supersede the Order of St. Michael of Louis XI, which had fallen into discredit, and to commemorate his accession to the throne on Pentecost Sunday. This was a purely secular order of the court.
  2. 1 2 3 Cardinale, Hyginus Eugene; van Duren, Peter Bander (1984). Orders of knighhood, awards and the Holy See (Rev. ed.). Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire: Van Duren. pp. 154–56. ISBN   0905715233. The Royal House of Bourbon-Orléans, The Order of the Holy Ghost: The Order was founded in 1578 by Henry III, King of France (1574-1589) to mark his election to the Crown of Poland and elevation to the throne of France....The Order of St. Michael of France.
  3. http://www.icocregister.org/2016.ICOCRegister.pdf [ bare URL PDF ]
  4. SpazioSputnik.it. "Statuts de l'Ordre du Saint Espirit – RIALFrI" (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  5. Chesterfield.), Philip Dormer Stanhope (4th earl of; Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope Earl of; Carey, Charles Stokes (1872). Letters Written by Lord Chesterfield to His Son. W. Tegg.
  6. « Statuts de l'Ordre du Saint-Esprit au droit désir ou du Noeud, étably par Louis d'Anjou, roy de Naples et de Sicile, en 1352, 1353 et 1354 » (Reproduction fac-simile, exécutée sous Louis XIV, de l'original conservé sous le n° 4274 du fonds français gallica.bnf.fr)
  7. État présent de la maison de Bourbon. Quatrième édition. Paris, Le Léopard d'or, 1991; p. 222: «  Louis XIX, Henri V, Charles XI et Jaques I continuèrent à donner l'ordre dans la discrétion et en 1972, Jacques-Henri VI suivit leur exemple, sont fils Alphonse II faisant de même. » L’État présent… donne ensuite le nom de quatre chevaliers, créés par lettres patentes de 1972 et 1973.
  8. Now You Know Royalty – Page 108 Doug Lennox – 2009 "Why is a first-class chef called a "cordon bleu"? This term comes from our French kings. The cordon bleu was the blue ribbon worn by Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit, the French equivalent of the Order of the Garter, founded in 1578 by ..."
  9. "The History of Le Cordon Bleu". cordonbleu.edu. Retrieved 2022-09-21.
  10. "cordon bleu". Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus.
  11. File:Collier de l'ordre du Saint-Esprit .jpg
  12. File:Elements collier Saint-Esprit.svg
  13. File:Portrait of Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (known as Philippe Égalité) in ceremonial robes of the Order of the Holy Spirit by Antoine François Callet.jpg