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Saint Vincent's Reading List XXXIX: The Royal and Noble World

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 3/18/2013 9:12:00 AM

Les Noms, Surnoms, Qualitez, Armes, et Blasons des Chevaliers et Officiers de l'Ordre du S. Esprit : creez par Louis le Juste, XIII du nom, roy de France et de Navarre, a Fontainebleau, le 14 May 1633, by Pierre d' Hozier; engravings by Abraham Bosse. Melchior Tavernier: Paris, 1634.

Call number: SpC. 929.710944 H872n1634

Coat-of-arms of Jean-François de Gondi, member of the Order of the Holy Spirit. In 17th century France, the persona of the king was the point of convergence for the systems of national identity, culture, power, economics, wealth, and religion. One of the most important relationships within this system was between the king and the nobility. Even in an absolutist monarchy, the king needed to be cognizant of the role, dignity, and influence of the nobility; a nobility which was loyal to, dependent upon, and under the control of, the king provided a stabilizing force for the monarchy.

One of the most powerful symbolic expressions of the relationship between king and noble was the Order of the Holy Spirit, or l'Ordre du Saint-Esprit, the most important order of chivalry in France. Henry III created the order in 1578. He dedicated the new honor to the Holy Spirit to commemorate his accession to the Polish throne in 1573 and the French throne in 1574, both of which took place on the Feast of Pentecost. As such, the installation of new members always took place on the Feast of Pentecost.

The new order was designed to recognize the highest nobility and members of royalty, and supplanted the Order of Saint Michael originally founded by Louis XI in 1479. However, all the members of the Order of the Holy Spirit were also automatically members of the Order of Saint Michael.

The King served as the order's head, and appointed all of its officers, episcopal members, and its hundred knights. The religious nature of the order was palpable. The symbolism of the distinctive Cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit, suspended from the famous Cordon Bleu (or blue ribbon), reinforces the mysteries of the Christian faith.

Since public dress was an important element of self-identification in this society, the members of the Order were entitled to wear a distinctive habit and insignia, and could add the insignia of the Order to their personal coat-of-arms. When one reads the names of various nobles in the correspondence of Vincent de Paul, most were members of the Order, including many members of the Gondi family.

The present volume was published to commemorate the induction of new knights of the order in 1633 by King Louis XIII.



St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.


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