Each of the spurs is engraved four times with a belt displaying the French word Esperance (Hope) in gothic script, the symbol of the Order of the Belt of Hope.
The Order of the Belt of Hope (La Ceinture d'Esperance) was created by the Duke Louis II of Bourbon on Christmas day 1366, to celebrating his release after eight years of captivity in England. Like many of these first orders of chivalry, this was not a formal order with an official foundation, status, treasury, etc., but was rather a private circle of people sharing and displaying a common emblem. The Duke was the Great Master of the order, and was rewarding this way the fidelity and the chivalric behavior of a few knights chosen by him.
A chronicler says that some months later he created the Order of the Golden Shield, its members wearing a golden shield as a brooch bearing the word allen (in contemporary French allant, meaning energy, moving forwards). It seems that Louis II purposed his two orders, giving the Belt of Hope as a personal token to his close friends and relatives, and distributing the Golden Shield to his vassals and trustful relationships, binding them to him.
The belt itself is a symbol of bond, symbolizing the union of its members, and it recalls also the English Order of the Garter from which it is inspired. Unlike the Garter, however, the belt is open, perhaps a reference to the end of the Duke's captivity. The belt may also refer to the belt of the Virgin, or the belt given to a knight during his knighting.
It seems that the original color of the belt was green (the color of hope), but it is often colored blue like the Garter. It is likely that the order did not survive Louis's death in 1410, unlike another military order founded by him in 1370, Our Lady of the Thistle (Notre-Dame du Chardon), also called Order of Bourbon. These spurs may have been given by the Duke to one of the few members of the Belt of Hope, as we know through inventories that he distributed many objects bearing this motto to other lords and princes.
Inscription: Engraved four times on each spur: 'esperance' (hope)
Chateau du Bouchat, near Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, Allier, France.
Ex coll.: Comte de St. Genys, Saint Aubin-sur-Loire; Sir Guy Francis Laking, London; Clarence H. Mackay, Roslyn, L.I.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor," August 3, 1931–September 27, 1931, no. 122.
New York. Brooklyn Museum. "Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor," June 12–October 31, 1933, no. 122 lent by Clarence H. Mackay.
Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 4–July 3, 1955, no. 80.
Christie, Manson & Woods. Catalogue of The Collection of Arms and Armour and Objects of Art Formed by Sir Guy Francis Laking, Bart.. London: Christie, Manson & Woods, April 19–22, 1920. p. 23, no. 143 (described), pl. facing p. 23 (ill. pair).
Laking, Guy Francis, Sir, Charles Alexander Cosson, and Francis Henry Cripps-Day. A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries. Vol. III. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1920. pp. 167, 169; fig. 972.
Grancsay, Stephen V. A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue. Louisville, Ky.: Speed Art Museum, 1955. no. 80, ill. (39.159.2).
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Byrne, Blanche. "The Spurs of King Casimir III and Some Other Fourteenth Century Spurs." The Journal of the Arms & Armour Society 3, no. 4 (December 1959). pp. 106-115.
Schwennicke, Detlev, Wilhelm Karl Isenburg, and Frank Freytag von Loringhoven. Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln Zur Geschichte Der Europäischen Staaten 3, pt. 1 (1984). p. 72 (Bourbon genealogy, including Duke Louis II).
Pyhrr, Stuart W. "S.J. Whawell and the Art Market." The Eleventh Park Lane Arms Fair: Sunday 6th February 1994: the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London W1 : 10.30 AM–6.00 PM (1994). p. 23.