Pair of Rowel Spurs


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373

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. However, the emblem was kept as a personal badge by his successors. 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.

Pair of Rowel Spurs, Copper alloy, gold, textile, French

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