New from 1694-1702: Induction ceremony documents for the Order of the Golden Fleece. Part II (text)

Robes and collar for a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece: Austria, 1755. ARTstor Slide Collection

By Madhumita Kaushik (Rutgers ’20)

The first part of this post focused on a spectacular unpublished diploma of 25 June 1702 recently found in the HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive in the Villa Aurora in Rome. Here 18 year old King Philip V of Spain (1683-1700-1746), soon after his accession, orders that Prince Antonio Boncompagni (1658-1721) be made a Knight of the famed Order of the Golden Fleece. It has long been the premier Roman Catholic order of chivalry, established in Bruges in 1431.

The diploma is written in French, as the Order was originally founded by the Dukes of Burgundy, and it is the King in his guise as Duke of Burgundy who must actually give out the Golden Fleece. (Even today, the awarding of the Fleece is still performed in French.) However, as we have seen in Part I, the authority of this diploma was on quite unsettled ground due to the new King Philip’s losing his claim on the title of Duke of Burgundy.

Here in Part II,  I turn my attention to some supporting documents from that same dossier (Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi Protocollo 588 No. 37), namely, detailed instructions on how to conduct the actual ceremony of admission to the Order. Since in 1702 the Order of the Golden Fleece was then in tumult, and its induction ceremony was a small, private affair—and, as we shall see, explicitly labeled “secret”—these contemporary instructions are of intense interest.

Detail of Patent (25 June 1702) signed by King Philip V of Spain, directing that Antonio Boncompagni be inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece = Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

There are in fact two sets of instructions. The first, in Spanish with a careful Italian translation separately attached, is dated to Madrid, 17 March 1694. These were prepared for the induction of Francesco Caracciolo (1668-1720), 5th Prince of Avellino, into the Order of the Golden Fleece. The second, for 1702, is also in Spanish, and is closely modeled on the 1694 document, but specifically names Antonio Boncompagni as the inductee. While the document from 1702 bears the name of the author—King Philip V’s secretary Antonio de Villa, Marquis of Rivas—we cannot be sure of the author of the document from 1694. What is clear is that this Spanish diploma dated to 1694 was used as a template for Boncompagni’s 1702 induction. As such, it deserves particularly close examination.

The instructions for the 1694 Golden Fleece induction ceremony offer a roster of roles, to most of which we can readily attach proper names. The most important are the Lord Secretary = the Prince of Caserta, Gaetano Francesco Caetani dell’ Aquila (1656-1716, apparently created a Knight after the death of his father in 1687 left a vacancy in the Order); his deputy = the Duke of ‘Matalon’ [= Maddaloni in Campania], Domenico Marzio Carafa (1645-1703, Knight since 1681); the Commissioner and his Groom (neither identified by name); and the candidate for induction = the Prince of Avellino, Francesco Caracciolo (1668-1720). What of the Sovereign or Grand Master of the Order, King Charles II of Spain (1661-1665-1700), who had been Knight since his accession when he was three years old? Though named in the document, his ill health was a perennial issue, and perhaps in March 1694 he was too sickly to officiate.

Portrait (1685) of Charles II of Spain, wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, by Juan Carreno de Miranda. Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien via ARTstor Slide Gallery.

For the 1694 induction instructions, the Italian translation of the Spanish text is almost word for word, with the exception of the last page, which serves as a sort of report informing that the Lord Secretary will nominate the Prince of Avellino to the Order. Also, the Italian instructions seem to have been written up contemporaneously, with line breaks to show precisely how they have been copied from the Spanish.

The 1694 Instruction begins by giving the Lord Secretary the responsibility of communicating with and giving the collar and pendant of the Golden Fleece to the Prince of Avellino. If the Lord Secretary is unable to do so, the document states, then it becomes the duty of the Duke of Matalon. Interestingly enough, the author then goes on to describe in great detail the proper arrangement for the ceremony, among which are a Missal (i.e., a book that describes the instructions to complete Catholic Mass for the year), a crucifix, a sideboard, covered satin benches, and a canopy. The author delineates this with a hand-drawn map of the ceremony room and includes the exact positions and placements that these objects, as well as the members of the ceremony, must take.

Francesco Solimena (1657-1747), “Portrait of a Gentleman”—clearly a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece—often identified as Francesco Marino II Caracciolo (1688-1727), 6th Prince of Avellino (after 1720), inducted into the Austrian Order in 1721. He was the son of the Francesco Caracciolo inducted in 1694.

The amount of detail in this document shows how confidential and of utmost importance the initiation ceremony is for the Order of the Golden Fleece at that time. For example, each of the questions that the Lords Secretary and Commissioner poses is underlined in the document, as are the exact responses the candidate must give, adding to the gravity of the position as Knight of the Order. The document also describes the exact seating arrangement and entrances and exits of the Lord Secretary and the Lord Commissioner that must take place during the ceremony.

Plan of Assembly room, from “Instruction” (Spanish version) of induction ceremony for Francesco Caracciolo, 5th Prince of Avellino, as Knight of the Golden Fleece, 1694. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

In the 1694 Instruction, it is the “King Our Majesty” (= Charles II) who tells the candidate, the Prince of Avellino, he has chosen him for the honor of the Golden Fleece, and the Prince must, of course, respond with how esteemed he is. Next, the Prince officially enters the gathering, removes his hat and receives the necklace. This is all done with the help and guidance of the Lords Secretary and Commissioner. The Prince must now confirm his worthiness by answering questions posed by the Lord Secretary, who must ask him if he will abide “By the fame of his merits and by the trust that we have that you not only will desire to maintain the honor of the Knighthood, but also that you will endeavor to increase [it] for [its] greater splendor”. The Prince will then declare himself an armed knight before the Lords Secretary and Commissioner, and the King.

The Prince of Avellino will then enter the room with a golden sword and present it, unsheathed, to the Commissioner (or in his place, some other person of “supposition”). The Prince will kneel in front of the Commissioner, who will give him three taps on the shoulder with the sword and ask him, “Do you want to be a Knight?” The Prince will respond, “Yes, sir,” and kiss the sword handle, swearing by God and the Apostle St Andrew, the patron saint of the Order. The sword is then returned to the Groom of the Commissioner. Afterward, the Prince must kneel, his hand over the Missal, with the Lord Secretary, who will ask him to swear several oaths, one by one. The Prince must swear to obey the constitutions of the Order—the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi dossier contains a copy—maintain his honor and the Order’s honor, comply with any punishments or corrections, and finally to fulfill all of the decrees the Order may declare on him.

The first two chapters of a “Short Compendium of the Constitutions” of the Order of the Golden Fleece, presented to Antonio Boncompagni for his induction ceremony in 1702. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

After this is completed, a chosen servant will carry the necklace of the Golden Fleece on a pillow or platter and hand it over to the Prince. The Lord Commissioner receives the Prince and the necklace, saying “may God grant that many years bring him to His honor, and His glory, and exaltation of the holy Church in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” to which the Prince responds, “may God give me grace for it.” Finally, the Lord Commissioner removes the Prince’s hat and embraces him, and the Lord Secretary leads him to his seat.

What is interesting is that the Prince will then embrace the rest of the Knights of the Order in order of their seniority, and all will rise at the end of the ceremony. The ceremony closes with His Lordship the Secretary making use of this “Instruction” to record the Prince of Avellino’s name and age. The Prince will send the Instruction to the author of this document, along with whatever weapons he sees fit to include, and these actions will be recorded in the official archive of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

The 1702 document differs most significantly from its 1694 template in its last page. There the author, the royal secretary Antonio de Villa y Medina, states his titles and dates the instructions that are “sealed with the secret that is in my power.” He also adds that the Duke of Matalon is excused from the ceremony as of 9 June 1702. Instead, the Count of Lemos (= Fernando de Castro Portugal (1666-1742, Knight since 1692) would award the decoration of the Golden Fleece to Antonio Boncompagni. In a later addition to the same page, a second authority certifies that the ceremony was conducted properly, citing two witnesses—the Prince of Montesarchio, Andrea d’ Avalos (1618-1709, newly inducted as a Knight in 1702), and himself, Don Juan Antonio de Alvarado y Colomo, Knight of the Order of St Blaise, and then serving in Naples as secretary of the Count of Lemos (and conceivably as Groom of the Commissioner in the ceremony). The date is given as 12 December 1702—quite late in the year, and almost six months after the King had initially granted the honor to Boncompagni.

Certification of the induction of “Antonio Boncompagni Ludovisio, Duke of Sora”, into the Order of the Golden Fleece, dated 12 December 1702, signed by co-witness Don Juan Antonio de Alvarado y Colomo. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

The reason these documents are so interesting is that we are allowed a glimpse into a secret ceremony. What is important to note is how Catholic the ceremony is, how seniority plays an important role, and how the induction is viewed as an actual knighting. In fact, it is fascinating that these instructions exist at all—not as a book or printed pamphlet, but as handwritten instructions. The document is personalized, as it includes most of the actual names and specific titles of the individuals involved in the ceremony. What is also extraordinary is that we possess these personal instructions, that have somehow made their way from Spain to the hands of the Boncompagni family, perhaps because the Duke of Matalon forwarded the instructions to Antonio Boncompagni himself.

Key for the survival of these documents is the fact that both describe a Golden Fleece ceremony in which the Sovereign of the Order is expected to be absent. In June of 1702, the new King of Spain, Philip V, was resolved to stay in Milan, evidently leaving the other Knights of the Golden Fleece to grapple with how they could conduct the ceremony in Naples and without the king who was head of the Order. Because of these unusual circumstances—the ceremony perhaps had never before been conducted both outside of Spain and without the King, and formal precedents needed to be put in place—the King appointed the Duke of Matalon for the ceremony in his stead, and as a secondary substitute the Duke of Lemos. In the event it was the deputy who officiated over Antonio Boncompagni’s induction into the Order. Indeed, the fact that two sets of instructions for completely different ceremonies exist may be attributed to the Duke of Matalon sending the 1694 Spanish set as an example, as he was designated in the first instance for Antonio Boncompagni’s ceremony and a template was needed for an induction where the King was not to be present.

First paragraph of “Instruction” (original Spanish version) for the knighting of Francesco Caracciolo, Prince of Avellino, in the Order of the Golden Fleece. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

We know that the King awarded more Golden Fleeces to other Knights that same year—in all, eight new Knights entered the Order in 1702—but (as we have seen in Part I) Antonio Boncompagni never ended up receiving the actual collar even after the King returned to Spain. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity, or perhaps there were no more collars left to be distributed during the time of Antonio’s induction. Either way, these Instructions that describe the secret knighting ceremony shed light on the Order of the Golden Fleece and its confidential proceedings, and raise many historical, social, and political questions. They also confirm membership in the Order for Gaetano Francesco Caetani dell’ Aquila (1656-1716, Prince of Caserta after 1687), not otherwise attested in official lists, but apparently knighted in 1687 or soon after.

Below is the word-for-word English translation of the 1694 “Instructions” in Spanish, with original underlining retained and page numbers indicated.

“[1] Instruction that should be observed for His Lordship the Secretary who must be appointed, the Illustrious Prince of Caserta—or in his absence, or hindrance, the Illustrious Duke of Matalón—so that he attend the award ceremony of the Golden Fleece, that must be given by His Excellency in the name of the King and his Royal Order to the Illustrious Prince of Avellino.

The dispatch of his Majesty and the necklace of the Order having reached His Excellency, the Prince of Caserta, for the Lord Prince of Avellino, he [i.e., the Prince of Caserta] will give the order, that His Lordship the Secretary, who must be appointed for the function, to go to the House of the Prince, and tell him that he must communicate with His Excellency [i.e., the Prince of Avellino] an order of His Majesty and then, he will tell him, he will come to see how His Majesty is privileged to give him favor of the Golden Fleece, and he will give the letter of the King Our Majesty to him.

Charles II of Spain, Ducato of 100 Grani, Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies, 1693, with emblem of the Golden Fleece centered on reverse. Credit: Numismatica Varesi, Auction 69—Part 2, Lot 603, 7 Oct 2016.

The Prince of Caserta will mark the day, and time on which the Golden Fleece will be given, and knight the Prince of Avellino. And following the tradition, that His Majesty has when he gives the Golden Fleece by his Royal Hand to any knight, the function will be done in the House of the Prince of Caserta, in the room that I will indicate decorated in the following manner.

There must be a canopy at the front of it, and underneath [2] a sideboard  where an open Missal must be placed over a pillow, and on top a small crucifix to do the Oath, and to the side of the sideboard a chair for His Excellency Prince of Caserta, and other covered satin benches with benches of tapestry or velvet for the Knights (even if they may not be present) to maintain the form of the Assembly; and the aforementioned His Lordship the Secretary, establishing the room well decorated, and the floor assembled in the way that is hereby delineated:

Plan of Assembly room, from “Instruction” (Italian version) of induction ceremony for Francesco Caracciolo, 5th Prince of Avellino, as Knight of the Golden Fleece, 1694. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

[Here appears an image of the map]

Canopy

1 Sideboard where the Missal and crucifix must be  2. Chairs for the Commissioner

3 Benches for Knights                                                   3. Benches for Knights

4 Benches for the ministers of the Order that the Lord Secretary must occupy

The hour being marked, the Prince of Avellino will be found in the House of the Lord Commissioner accompanied by the most splendid members of his family, and he will enter right up to the room, which previously is prepared for the [3] function, where the Lord Secretary will be found, appointed to receive him, and he will then go to make him known to the Lord Commissioner.

His Excellency the Commissioner will leave [from] within his room accompanied by the family until the room of the ceremony, and will sit in the chair underneath the canopy and the Knights of the Order at the front of the benches on the right-hand side, and left, according to their ranking, and all will exit and will leave the room empty, except the appointed Secretary who will sit in the bench, which belongs to the Ministers of the Order; and it is allowed, that through the hollows of the doors on the outside part those who are found there may see the function.

After a short time, there will be a sign by the Commissioner to the Secretary that he may leave the Assembly (in the case that a Knight of the Order is not attending; but if he does attend, this ceremony must be executed) where he will be, in the decorated room, but the Prince of Avellino outside, telling him, that the King Our Majesty [4] as Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece and privileged to appoint His Excellency as Knight of the Order, has given this charge to the Prince of Caserta so that in his Royal Name (as an older Knight than those who reside in Naples) give to His Excellency the Fleece, and orders me to let His Excellency know if the nomination is to be accepted, and if he is to be honored by him. The Prince will respond with how much he has been esteemed by this favor, and that he accepts it with all veneration.

His Lordship the Secretary having his due reverences, will return to respond to the Commissioner, and will order him to enter.

His Lordship the Secretary will go with the Prince, and accompanying him only until the entrance of the room will go to place himself near the sideboard by the right-hand side.

Charles II of Spain, Tarì 1684, Naples mint. Obverse: globe surmounted by crossed cornucopia and fasces; reverse: royal coat of arms encircled by collar of Order of the Golden Fleece. Credit: Bolaffi, Auction 32 Lot 794 (31 May 2018).

The Prince will enter the gathering, and will go to where the Commissioner is seated, and he will remove his hat, and he will return to place himself (in [5] conformity with that which is customary, in cases where the King Our Majesty is not giving the necklace by his Royal hand) and the Prince, standing, and uncovered, will tell him how grateful he is for this honor that His Majesty has done for him, and with the good fortune of receiving the necklace by the hand of His Excellency and the others who have been privileged, and remaining standing, and being uncovered the Lord Secretary will tell him in a loud voice (telling him from this paper or another) the following in the name of His Majesty:

‘By the fame of your merits, and by the trust that we have that you not only will desire to maintain the honor of the Knighthood, but also that you will endeavor to increase [it] for the greater splendor, we have elected to choose and appoint you in this distinguished Order and friendly compan; and before you receive its necklace, it is necessary that you declare that you are [an] armed knight.’ The Prince of Avellino turning towards [6] the Commissioner will tell him ‘Our Lord I request Your Excellency, that in conformity with the Commission that Your Excellency holds from His Majesty and in his Royal name do me the grace in this by his hand.’

At this time, the Groom of his Excellency the Commissioner, will be prepared, or another person will be substituted should it be necessary, and he will enter the room with a golden sword, and unsheathed, and making his due reverences he will go to place it in the hand of the Commissioner, and he will exit the premises of the Assembly until returning to take it in order to leave the room. At this time the Prince of Avellino will kneel down on one knee on the ground together with the Commissioner, who will speak to him these words three times giving him three taps on the left shoulder: ‘Do you want to be a Knight? to which he will respond ‘Yes Sir’; and he will give him the sword handle to kiss that will have the sign of the ♱ and will say, ‘May God make you a good knight and the (7) Apostle Saint Andrew’, and the Commissioner will do the same, and he will return to give the sword to the Groom of His Excellency who will leave the room with it.

Lucas Cranach the Elder & Workshop (ca. 1520-1525), St Maurice. Though an early Christian martyr, he is portrayed wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a reference to Charles V, reigning as Holy Roman Emperor when this work was executed. Credit: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/439081

Afterward, the Prince of Avellino will rise and will go to place himself on two knees on the ground beside the sideboard, placing his hand over the Missal, and at the feet of the Cross of the holy Christ; and His Lordship the Secretary will also kneel down by his side and will tell him (reading from this, or another paper) the following: ‘What is now missing is that you are obliged of your own accord to obey the Constitutions of the Order with the necessary Oath.’

‘Do you swear, with all your power that you will endeavor to defend the sovereignty, Grace, and rights of the Sovereign of this order while you live, and are a Knight of the Order?’ The Prince of Avellino will respond ‘Yes I swear’.

‘That you will employ yourself to maintain the Order in its state and honor, and you will endeavor to increase it without consenting to suffer a decrease of your honor and public [8] esteem?’ = ‘Yes I swear’.

‘If it will happen (that which God does not allow) that you commit some crime for which (according to the statutes of the Order) you deserve to be excluded from the Order, that being required to return the necklace, you will do so, and you will make the restitution to the Sovereign within three months of the request being made, and that after you will not use the necklace nor any other similar necklace, nor will you have ill will because of this toward the Sovereign, Knights, or ministers of the Order?’ ‘Yes I swear’.

‘That you will obey all penalties, and corrections that will be imposed upon you by the Order for other minor cases, and you carry it out in patience?’

‘That you will find yourself present at them [i.e., meetings of the Order] (according to the statutes) and to the Sovereign, or his successors, and to those who will be appointed commissioners by the Sovereign you will obey in all that will be your obligations, and business(es) of the Order?’

‘Yes I swear’.

‘And finally do you swear that you will guard, and obey all of [9] the Constitutions, and decrees of this Order, and even if you offer an oath in general of this sort, that it be valid as if it were a particular oath over each one of our meetings?’ The Prince will respond, ‘So I swear, and so may God help me, and all of his saints’.

The Prince will rise and go to place himself again with one knee on the ground in front of the Commissioner, and at this time there will be a servant of supposition prepared, who will enter the room making due reverences, and will carry on a pillow or platter the necklace that must be placed [on] the Prince, and he will arrive immediately to give it to the Commissioner who will take it by both hands, and will place it on the Prince’s neck, with the oldest Knight of the Order helping him at his back who will attend the function himself saying, or His Lordship the Secretary (saying this), ‘the Order receives you, in its friendly company, as a sign of which [10] it places this necklace on you, may God grant that many years bring him to His honor, and His glory, and exaltation of the holy Church in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.‘ And the Prince will say ‘May God give me grace for it.’

Final two pages of First paragraph of “Instruction” (original Spanish version) for the knighting of Francesco Caracciolo, Prince of Avellino, in the Order of the Golden Fleece. ABL Prot. 588 No. 37. Credit: HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi Archive, Villa Aurora, Rome

The Knight that entered with the necklace will have left from the room, and the Commissioner will remove the hat from the Prince, and afterwards will embrace him, and then His Lordship the Secretary will lead him to be seated and cover him [i.e., with his hat] in place, that is assigned to him after the Knights of the Order, that will attend in the Assembly, whom he will embrace in order of their seniority, and then he will go to do the same on the bench on his own side. And after a short time has passed all will rise with which an end will be given to the function, leaving it to the discretion of these lords of activities after the Ceremonies and compliments that are pleasing to them to make.

His Lordship the Secretary will have the necessity of putting at the end of this Instruction: the day on which this function is celebrated, the name and age that the Prince of Avellino will have, [11] and sending the original Instruction to me with the arms of His Excellency and with the other (men) he will judge worthy of adding so that it is put in the records of this secretary of the Golden Fleece, commanding me all that which should be of the Majesty the Prince’s service.”

The 17th of March 1694

Madhumita Kaushik is a rising senior at the Honors College of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, double majoring in Spanish and English, with a minor in Creative Writing. She has published various research projects over the years, including a linguistics multimedia project in her time as an Aresty Research Assistant, and articles on Indigenous studies, ethnicity, and other historical topics. She hopes to continue publishing in the academic, literary, and creative fields.

Armorial of the Herald of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Flanders, 16th century). Collection: ARTstor

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