Sunday, May 28, 2023

L'Ordre du Saint-Esprit

Louis XV conferring the cordon bleu

Louis the Dauphin wearing the Saint-Esprit

The Order of the Holy Spirit was the highest of French orders of chivalry. The Ordre du Saint-Esprit was founded by Henri III in 1578 to celebrate his succession to the throne on Pentecost Sunday. According to Heraldica:

The main [orders of chivalry] under the Old Regime were the Ordre de Saint-Michel (created in the 15th c. by Louis XI) and the Ordre du Saint-Esprit (Holy Ghost), created in 1578 with a limit of 100 on the number of knights: it was the most prestigious order in France, usually forbidden to foreigners (but the Spanish Borbons were often made knights in the 18th c.). Both were abolished in 1789, recreated in 1815 and abolished in 1830. A recipient of the Saint-Esprit always received Saint-Michel at the same time (they were collectively known as les ordres du Roi) though the converse was not true, of course. There was no requirement of nobility for Saint-Michel, but there were stringent ones for Saint-Esprit. The pendant of the Saint-Esprit was a Maltese cross azure, bordered argent, with a dove displayed pointing downward, and fleurs-de-lis between the branches of the cross. The necklace is made of alternating elements all shown surrounded by flames: the letter H surrounded by royal crowns (for Henri III, founder), a fleur-de-lis, and a military trophy. The sash of the Saint-Esprit was blue, and it was called in French le cordon bleu, though how the expression came to mean a first-rate cook I do not know.
Princes of the royal family were given the cordon bleu at birth but were not formally received into the Order until age twelve. The King of France was the Grand Master; below is a picture of young Louis XVI receiving the homage of the Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit, among whom unfortunately were his Orleanist cousins. How ironic, since the purpose of the Order was to unite the princes to their king.



tubbs said...

re Cordon Bleu
...And please pardon my poor French spelling -I remember reading a bio of Louie(14)'s second (morganatic) wife. She was sent packing as soon as the king died. She opened up a finishing school for impoverished young ladies (St Cyr, lated converted into the French military academy).
She awarded blue ribbons for the Home-Ec projects, including recipes. Thus it was explained to me chicken 'cordon bleu'. It all sounds too funny to me. And finishing schools then would not have taught skills left to the menial labor (servants) of the house.
I'm anxious to hear more about the Order of the Holy Spirit. I suppose it ranked up there with the St. George/Garter and the emperor's Golden Fleece.
And what was that old Canadian Explorer/Colonial bigwig donning in the beginning of the movie "BlackRobe"? I seem to remember the sash being blue. I hope some of your good readers can fill us in more.

elena maria vidal said...

That's interesting. Here is my post on Madame de Maintenon, who retired to St. Cyr, the school which she had founded.

I can see Madame de Maintenon teaching recipes at St Cyr to her noble pupils just as she had them taught lace-making.

May said...

That is such a beautiful decoration, with all that blue. And the painting is magnificent! You can somehow sense the young king's underlying sweetness. I would love to have a reproduction of it (the painting, of course) and hang it on my wall...

Here is a post about two princes, Orléans and Condé: