The Institution of the Knights of Our Lady
On this day, December the 27, over half a millennia ago, the Institution of the Knights of Our Lady was founded. If you have never heard of the Institution of the Knights of Our Lady, don’t be ashamed. There is a sad, but true reason that you likely haven’t. I will tell you more about that later on. If your curiosity has been sparked, then please keep reading.
The Order of the Knights of Our Lady and the Duke of Bourbon
The Institution of the Knights of Our Lady or The Knights of the Thistle of Our Lady happened 650 years ago today in the year 1370. It was instituted by Louis II, who was the Duke of Bourbon.
The Duke of Bourbon who was known as ‘the good’ was born in the year 1337. When he was just nineteen years old, his father, Peter of Bourbon was killed and Louis assumed the Duchy. He lived on for 73 years until his death in 1410. This was an impressive age to reach in that time period.
It was in the year 1370 that Duke Louis of Bourbon created the Knights of the Thistle of Our Lady or the Knights of Our Lady for short. This order of knights consisted of a mere 26 individuals.
The Order of the Knights of Our Lady
There is quite the record on what these noble knights chose for their attire. The girdle they wore was a blue velvet with the word ‘hope’ embroidered on it in gold thread. Their buckle also was of fine gold, and it bore, in green enamel, the head of a thistle. Their motto was ‘Allons,’ and on the collar of the order was the word ‘Esperance.’
Pendent to the collar was an oval badge, enameled green and red, and thereon the image of the Virgin, encompassed by the sun, and crowned with twelve stars of silver, with a crescent of the same under her feet. Her garments were enameled purple and sky-blue; and at the bottom of the badge a green thistle.
Each knight, upon his election into the order, received a golden shield with the device, Esperance, traversed with a band set with pearls, on which were embroidered the words Allon, which implied, “Allons tous ensemble au service de Dieu, et unisons nous pour la defense de Notre pays,” or in English, “Let us go together to the service of God, and unite ourselves for the service of our country.” The habit of the order was of blue silk, lined with red satin, and embroidered with gold.
On the day of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, which was the grand festival of the order, the knights of the Thistle wore a sumptuous robe of pink damask, and a mantle of sky blue, embroidered with gold, over which they wore the grand collar of the order, composed of diamonds and fleurs-de-lis of gold, with the word Hope. From the end of the collar hung an oval medallion with the figure of Mary, below which was seen the head of a thistle, in green enamel, relieved with white.”
In 1371, a year after he instituted the Knights of Our Lady, Duke Louis married Anne of Auvergne, and by her they had four children. In the year 1390, Duke Louis initiated a crusade against the declining Hafsid dynasty who ruled a large portion of North Africa at the time. His intention was to end the Barbary pirates who operated from the port city of Mahdia, but he was not successful in his attempt.
Unfortunately, The Order of the Knights of Our Lady disappeared completely soon after the death of Duke Louis of Bourbon, which is why you are not likely to have heard of it before.