We’ve seen some incredible historical items pass through eBay, from Annie Oakley’s gold coin charm bracelet to a memory jug featuring Civil War soldiers. But rarely, if ever, have we talked about an item that is “fit for a king.” Today’s remarkable listing is just that, this Original King Louis XVI of France Order of the Holy Spirit Uniform Grand Cross:
As you can see from the above photo collage, there is visual proof that this medal, the Breast Star of the French Ordre du Saint-Esprit (translated as the Order of the Holy Spirit), was regularly worn by the King during many ceremonial and other state occasions. Take a look at the listing for more more wall decor and paintings that depict the King wearing this uniform Grand Cross.
The item itself is enclosed in a very old frame, which is completely sealed with red wax. There is a note in French, below the actual items that reads:
“Nous certifions que cette plaque de l’ordre de du Saint Esprit.
A appartenu à votre frère le Roi Louis XVI, qu’il fit
retirer de son hôtel par Cléry, son valet de chambre
Le 15 novembre 1814
Which is translated as:
“We certify that this plate from the Holy Spirit order
has belonged to your brother King Louis XVI; he had it
withdrawn from his hotel by Cléry, his valet.
November the 15th, 1814″
The seller even calls out to curators from the Louvre and the National Museum of France to “acquire this actual, authentic National Treasure, a relic of the last monarch of the most opulent, infamous, and tragically doomed royal regime in modern history.” If you are not up to speed on your French history, King Louis XVI was beheaded during the French revolution. The following history of the item, related by the seller, puts this Cross with the King before the tragic event:
“The Order of the Holy Spirit was instituted by Henri III, King of France, in 1578, as the highest chivalric award. It was awarded only to French royalty, the highest ranking members of the French church and knighthood, and certain foreign monarchs with whom the French crown was allied. Sources list a total of only 222 Orders ever awarded, and the Order was abolished during the French Revolution, with the beheading of Louis XVI and his notorious wife Marie Antoinette. Though the Order was briefly revived later under post-revolution pretenders to a defunct throne, the Order of the Holy Spirit we offer here is the last one belonging to an actual King of France.
The Order itself is a Maltese cross approximately 4 inches wide, with a dove in the center and fleur-de-lis between the four wings of the cross. The eight points of the cross represent the Beatitudes, the four wings of the cross represent the Gospels, the twelve petals represent the Apostles, and the dove signifies the Holy Spirit.
The Order is mainly constructed of embroidered heavy thread, which is described in the reference sources as, and appears to be, silver bullion, and of course the workmanship is of the highest quality imaginable.
The account of this Order’s provenance in the old note enclosed in the frame and quoted above is entirely credible. According to Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama, a massive and recent study widely considered one of the foremost works on the subject, on the morning of his execution by guillotine, Louis was attended by Clery, his valet:
“He [Louis] dressed simply [and] asked the valet to give his wedding ring to the Queen along with a packet containing locks of hair from all the family. A royal seal, taken from his watch, was to be passed to his son as a sign of succession.” Page 668.
Certainly then, while in captivity, awaiting his shocking destiny, Louis would have given his cherished Order of the Holy Spirit to Clery to convey to someone else, someone loyal and trusted, someone loved…”
Surprisingly, the bidding on this item is only up to $952 so far, although there are several days left in the auction. The seller notes that a medal from the same time period belonging to George Washington, recently sold by the Sotheby’s auction house for $5.3 million.
It will be interesting to see what the final price will be on this unique and one-of-a-kind historical item.
Good luck bidding!