Saturday, January 17, 2015


This Order of the Golden Militia, but better known as the Order of the Golden Spurs, claims prior antiquity to all other knightly Orders. The presumption that it was founded by Constantine, and confirmed by Pope Sylvester, at whose hands the Emperor even received the insignia, rests upon the testimony of several not unimportant writers, though it seems more probable, as some other authors affirm, that its origin falls in the reign of Paul III. or his successor, Pius IV (in 1559).

Its existence previous to the reign of Paul III. is, at all events, not historically evidenced. The Knights, who formerly bore in the patent the title of 'Lateran Court Palatines', possessed, at one time, numerous rights and privileges, and had even precedence in rank to the Maltese and Teutonic Knights, and the Order therefore commanded then a very high position in public opinion.

In process of time, however, the various alterations effected in the statutes, added to the lavish distribution of the Order, greatly detracted from its value and respect, while the words in the nomination patent : "That the new Knights were to partake of all the advantages and privileges peculiar to the Order", became an empty form. The Order was confined to no rank or station, and was usually conferred by the Popes, on the anniversaries of their accession, during their procession from the Vatican to the Lateran, on their pages and other attendants of their household.

The right of nomination was even vested on certain prelates and Cardinals, while the Ducal house Sforza-Besarini professed to be in possession of a power granted by Pope Paul III (1539), (which the succeeding Popes seemed to have confirmed) to invest with the Order any one whom they should deem worthy of it.

That, under such circumstances, the Order gradually became depreciated in public esteem may easily be imagined from the vast extent to which the distribution was carried ; and no wonder that it fell so low, that no one coveted its possession, until Pope Gregory XVI again succeeded in imparting
to it a dignified character, by the new regulations he made in 1840 respecting its distribution.

He decreed that henceforth the Order should be granted, as a public acknowledgment, only to those who had really distinguished themselves, either in their zeal for the Catholic religion and the Holy Chair, or in civil virtues, or in the arts and sciences. He, moreover, divided the Order into two classes : Commanders and Knights. He retained the form of the insignia as prescribed by Pope Benedict XIV, and the only innovation he introduced consisted in the Cross : he ordered that in the round blue and white enamelled middle of its obverse, the effigy of Sylvester was to be exhibited, while the reverse should show the words : 'Gregorius XVI restituit' (Restored by Gregory XVI). The Order is now worn suspended by a black ribbon with white stripes by the Commanders round the neck, and by the Knights upon the left breast (No. 12).

The number of the first class he fixed at one hundred and fifty ; and of the second class at three hundred (both, exclusive of foreigners). Every nomination that does not emanate direct from the Pope is considered null and void. The costume of the Order consists of a red military coat, white breeches, sword and spurs.

Source : the book of orders of knighthood and decorations of honour of all nations, sir Bernard BURKE, 1858

No comments:

Post a Comment