Order of the Holy Spirit
Founded by King Henri III in 1578, the Order of the Holy Spirit (L’Ordre du Saint-Esprit) is the highest order of knighthood in France, taking precendence over the older, reformed Order of Saint Michael. The name of the order commemorates the two coronations of King Henri, first as king of Poland in 1573 and then as king of France the followin year: in each case, Henri’s coronations took place on Pentecost.
The Order of the Holy Spirit is confined to the most powerful and influential nobles and prelates in France. It is also conferred on foreign princes. Like its predecessor, the order serves as a fraternal bond between the sovereign and the grands, a recognition of both status and obligation to the crown.
Rather than create a separate college of priests, the Order of the Holy Spirit includes eight ecclesiastical members, all of whom are high prelates – bishops, archbishops, or cardinals – along with the corporation’s four officers and a statuatory limit of one hundred knights. All members of the Holy Spirit are also members of the Order of Saint Michael, and are styled as “Knights of the Royal Orders.” All members must be noble and members of the Church.
The device of the order is a white eight-pointed (Maltese) cross with a small gold fleur-de-lis between each of the arms. A dove is superimposed over the cross. The device is normaly worn around the neck suspended from a blue ribbon (le cordon bleu); during ceremonial events the blue ribbon is replaced with a gold collar, composed of the letter H surmounted by a crown recognizing the founder of the order, for the officers of the order. The ceremonial mantle of the knights is of black velvet embroidered with a representation of the collar and covered by a green velvet cape.