Order of Saint Michael

Order of Saint Michael
Title page of the Order's statutes, drawn by Jean Fouquet
Charles VIII of France, son of Louis XI, wearing the collar of the Order of Saint Michael

The Order of Saint Michael (French: Ordre de Saint-Michel) was a French chivalric order, founded by Louis XI of France in 1469, in competitive response to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece founded by Philip the Good, duke 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 The Order of St Michael was the highest Order in France until it was superseded by the Order of the Holy Spirit.

As would be expected, the first knights were among the most powerful nobles in France, close relatives of the king and a few from other royal houses in Europe. Its membership was strictly under the king's control, but under Louis' successors the Order was less selective: in 1565, during the Wars of Religion, when loyalties were strained and essential, the formal number was increased to fifty but there may have been as many as seven hundred knights under Henry III in 1574 (Sainty).

The Order of St. Michael dedicated to the Archangel Michael conveyed to every member a gold badge of the image of the saint standing on a rock (Mont Saint Michel) in combat with the serpent. It was suspended from an elaborate gold collar made of cockleshells (the badge of pilgrim, especially those to Santiago de Compostela) linked with double knots. The statutes state that the badge could be hung on a simple chain, and later it was suspended from a black ribbon.

When the Order of St Michael was founded, the famous illuminator Jean Fouquet was commissioned to paint the title miniature of the Statutes, showing the king presiding over the knights (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 19819). The original plan was for the knights to meet yearly at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, but such an isolated location was impractical and the Order met in a chapel consecrated to its use in the royal palace, Paris.

The Order of St. Michael was abolished by the French authorities in 1830. However, in 1929-1930 Jaime, Duke of Anjou and Madrid, and in 1960 Infante Jaime, Duke of Anjou, Segovia and Madrid, granted membership to their confidants.


Notable Recipients

Chain of the order as depicted in the Royal arms of France.


  1. ^ Bradford, Sarah (1976). Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times. Great Britain: Phoenix Press. p. 101. ISBN I-84212-452-8. 
  2. ^ Graves, Michael A.R. (2008). Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  3. ^ Cameron, Jamie (1998). James V: The Personal Rule, 1528–1542. The Stewart Dynasty in Scotland. East Linton: Tuckwell Press. p. 121. ISBN 1-86232-015-4. 
  4. ^ Beer, B.L. (1973): Northumberland: The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland The Kent State University Press p. 114 ISBN 0873381408
  5. ^ a b Hearn, Karen (1995). Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630. Rizzoli. p. 96. ISBN 084781940x. 
  6. ^ Frazer, Robert Watson. (1896). British India, p. 42.


  • Frazer, Robert Watson. (1896). British India. London: G.P. Putnam & Sons.
  • Boulton, D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre, 1987. The Knights of The Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe, 1325-1520, Woodbridge, Suffolk (Boydell Press), (revised edition 2000).

External links

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