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Chivalric Solidarity or Royal Supremacy? The Symbolic 'Revival' of the Order of the Golden Fleece

Fri, March 23, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside Complex, Chart Room B


Founded back in 1430, the Order of the Golden Fleece was perhaps the most iconic dynastic institution in the Low Countries. It rallied a selective group of high noblemen, promoting shared values and loyalty. Intricately linked to a tradition of princely representation it was also an inexhaustible storehouse of political imagery. The Dutch Revolt in the second half of the sixteenth century seriously disrupted this venerable company. Its officers became estranged, the amount of knights rapidly declined, and original objectives were questioned. Nevertheless, the Order’s Burgundian heritage and enduring material memory retained a strong political potential. On the basis of visual evidence and vernacular literature, the present paper explores how both royalists and dissidents exploited the signs and prescriptions of old to criticize − and even redress − royal policy. As such the (sometimes contradictory) use of the Order’s symbolism ensured the Netherlands’ status as ritualistic nerve centre.