The treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece
The order of the Golden Fleece is a chivalry order founded in 1430 by duke Philipp III, duke of Burgundy. The official objectives of the order have been ever since the preservation of the catholic faith, the protection of the church and the promotion of knightly conduct. Another politically more important rule of the order that contributed essentially to the stability of Burgundy, a territory that was trapped between the interests of its mighty neighbours France and Germany in the 15th century, was that the order's souvereign was not allowed to declare war without the authorization by the other knights.
Moreover, the originally 30 knights of the order were not allowed to belong to any other order of knights besides the Order of the Golden Fleece. In exchange, they had a series of important privileges: they had the right to go first of all others except for incoronated sovereigns at the occasion of courtly ceremonies, they were exempt of all taxes and subject to no other jurisdiction than the one of the order itself. Whilst these provisions were widely abolished subsequently, the Order of the Golden Fleece exists until today, its members are still bound by an inseparable oath and the fundamental principles of equity and fraternity are still honoured.
The separation of the order's branches
After the extinction of the burgundian dynasty, Maximilian I of Hapsburg inherited the role of the order's sovereign. His successors were his son Philipp of Spain and his grandson Charles V who transferred the order's primacy to the Spanish branch of the Hapsburgs. When the Spanish family branch ceased to exist after the death of Charles II in 1700, both Charles VI of Austria and Philipp V of Spain claimed the dignity of being the sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Ever since, there are two independant branches of the chivalry order; the sovereign of the Austrian Fleece being the head of the Hapsburg family.
The Order of the Golden Fleece today
The Order of the Golden Fleece still exists today. Since November 30th 2000, the sovereign of the Austrian branch of the order is Archduke Karl of Austria. Among the knights can be found celebrities such as Christoph Cardinal Schönborn (archbishop of Vienna), Frances prince of Bavaria (head of the Wittelsbach dynasty), Jean Grand Duke of Luxembourg, King Albert II of Belgium, Hans Adam II (Prince of Liechtenstein), Duarte Pio (Duke of Braganza and head of the Portuguese dynasty) as well as many other members of the catholic nobility in Europe.
The order's treasure in Vienna's treasury museum
The imperial treasury museum in Vienna shows various objects from the treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece, for example the Cross of Allegiance, the Neck Chain of the Herald of the Order, a Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece from the foundation time of the order as well as the Liturgical Vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Not all pieces belong to the collection of the imperial treasury museum itself, some objects being loaned to the museum by the knightly order.
If you want to learn more about the Order of the Golden Fleece or about the exposed pieces from the order's treasure in the Vienna treasury museum, you can do so during one of our interesting guided tours through the imperial treasury museum in Vienna.