The Companions at the Coronation

Rheims - 17th July 1429


The Hostages of the Sacred Ampoule

The Constable of France

The Lay Peers

The Ecclesiastical Peers

The Coronation 

The Hostages of the Sacred Ampoule.

Four lords of France were chose to escort the "Sacred Ampoule" from the Abbey of Saint Rémi to the cathedral of Reims. Those four lords were not literally 'hostages' but they did swear to defend the "Sacred Ampoule" to the death if called upon to do so, thus the title of "The Hostages of the Sacred Ampoule."

The origin of the Holy Oil contained within the "Sacred Ampoule" dates back to the fourth century when the first king of France, Clovis, was anointed and crowned "King of the Franks." A dove came down from heaven bringing with it the oil used by Saint Rémi to anoint Clovis. It is for this reason that a solid gold reliquary was created in the shape of a dove. It was this reliquary that held the crystal ampoule that in turn held the precious "Holy Oil."

The "Sacred Ampoule" was kept in the Abbey of Saint Rémi for safekeeping and was removed only on the day the Dauphin was anointed and crowned King of France.

According to ceremonial custom the four lords met the bare-foot Abbot, in this case Abbot Jean Canard, at the front of the Saint Rémi Abbey. Then they positioned themselves in a square formation around the Abbot. The lords maintained their position during the entire slow procession to the Cathedral of Reims.

The mounted lords and the bare-footed Abbot entered through the main central doors of the Cathedral. The procession ended at the front of the sanctuary where the Abbot transferred the "Sacred Ampoule" over to the Archbishop. The mounted lords then left the cathedral, their mission and vows fulfilled.

At the coronation of Charles VII the four "Hostages of the Sacred Ampoule" were:

The Marshal Jean de Brosse, Lord of Boussac, and of Ste Sévère,
Gilles de Laval, Baron of
Jean de
Graville, the High Master of Crossbowmen,
Louis de
Culant, Baron of Châteauneuf-sur-Cher, Admiral of France.


Shield of arms octroyed to Gilles de Rais by the King after the Coronation:

Or a cross Sable within an orle Azure semy fleurs-de-lis Or.



Shield of arms of Charles d'Albret: quarterly, 1 & 4 of France, 2 & 3 of Albret, Gules.



The Constable of France.

Directly following the "Sacred Ampoule" procession came the "Royal Sword" entourage. The "Royal Sword" blade was engraved with fleur-de-lis in a column from the hilt to its point. The naked blade with its point uppermost was carried and held aloft for the entire ceremony by the Constable.

At the coronation of Charles VII, the honor of carrying the "Royal Sword" should have gone to Arthur de Richemont, Constable of France. But the honor was given to Trémoille's nephew, Lord Charles d'Albret. Richemont had been the Dauphin's favored advisor but was driven in disgrace from the court because of the political intrigues of the Duke de la Trémoille who took Richemont's place.

The traditional "Royal Sword" came from the 13th century. It was called in French "of Charlemagne" surnamed "Joyous". This sword along with the other French coronation regalia was stored in the Abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris. In Joan's time this Abbey was controlled by the Anglo-Burgundians.

Because the fleur-de-lis was the symbol of the French monarchy, it was removed from the blade by the revolutionary French government. This striped sword was used during the crowning of Napoleon Bonaparte. (It has been kept in the Louvre museum since 1852.)

The sword that was used at the coronation of Charles VII became known as "of Charles VII" or "of the Maid." This sword along with the other more ancient coronation regalia disappeared during the French Revolution.


The Lay Peers.

The peers (6 laymen and 6 churchmen) recalled the original coronation of King Clovis when these men made themselves subject to the newly crowned King by holding the crown above the monarch's head during the coronation.

Had France not been in the midst of a civil war, the six lay peers would have been:

The Duke of Burgundy,
The Duke of Normandy,
The Duke of Guyenne,
The Count of Flanders,
The Count of Toulouse,
The Count of Champagne.

Because they were all enemies of Charles VII, substitutes had to be named. They were:

Jean de Valois, Duke of Alençon,
Charles de Bourbon,
Count of Clermont,
Louis de Bourbon,
Count of Vendôme,
Guy de Montfort,
Count of Laval,
Georges de
La Trémoïlle, the Grand Chamberlain,
Raoul de
Gaucourt, Captain of Orleans.

The leading pair were the duke of Alençon who dubbed the Dauphin on the morning of the coronation (the King, although he was 26 years old, was still not a knight) and attached the golden spurs. As for Tremoille in the position of Grand Chamberlain, his role included at the beginning of the ceremony, helping the King thread his fleur-de-lis decorated shoes on which were buckled the golden spurs by Alençon.


Shield of arms of Raoul de Gaucourt: Ermine, 2 barbels addorsed Gules.




 Shield of arms of Regnault de Chartres, Duke and Archbishop of Rheims: quarterly, 1 & 4 Azure, a cross Argent cantonned 4 fleurs-de-lis Or , 2 & 3 again quarterly a & d Argent, 2 fess Gules, b & d on Gules, semy trefoils and 2 barbels Or addorned.

The Ecclesiastical Peers.

Only three of the Ecclesiastical Peers were present. They were:

The Archbishop of Reims, Regnault de Chartres,
The Bishop of Laon, Guillaume de Champeaux,
The Bishop of Chalons, Jean de Sarrebruck.

The absent enemy Bishops were:

The Bishop of Langres,
The Bishop of Noyon,
The Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon.

Substitutes for these missing Bishops were named. They were:

The Bishop of Seez, Robert de Rouvres,
The Bishop of Orleans,
John of Carmichael alias Jean de St Michel,
The Bishop of Troyes, Jean Laiguise.


The Coronation.

For the Christian world of that time, all power was in the Hands of God, Who delegated part of it to man. "The King is the Lieutenant of Jesus Christ in temporal matters, just as the Pope and the Bishops are in the spiritual matters." Through the rite of Coronation, he received the grace to accomplish his mission: "To rule is to serve."

The Anointing with the "Holy Oil" links the King of France with the Kings of Israel and especially to King David. The King is above all the Sovereign of the New Covenant who is to lead another chosen people, the French.

The coronation ceremony that would make Charles VII the true King of France continued with his taking the customary oath. With his hand on the Gospels, the Dauphin swore to respect 'Justice and the Law,' to defend the Church and his people especially the widows and orphans from all enemies both domestic and foreign.

After this the Grand Chamberlain, Georges de La Trémoïlle, put on and laced up the royal shoes, which were covered with fleur-de-lis.

The Archbishop of Reims gave Jean de Valois, the Duke of Alençon, the insignia of Chivalry, consisting of a pair of golden spurs and a sword. With the sword Alençon dubbed the Dauphin, making him the First of the realm's knights. This portion of the ceremony ended with the Duke buckling on to Charles shoes the golden spurs of knighthood.

Following the Solemn High Mass and a long prayer of intercession, Regnault de Chartres preformed the 'Holy Unction' on the Dauphin's person by applying the Holy Oil, through small holes in his linen tunic, to his shoulders, breast, back. The sacred oil was then applied to his hands.

La Trémoïlle once more came forward. This time he dressed the Dauphin in the royal robes, giving to him the other symbols of royalty: the ring, scepter and the "hand of justice."

De Chartres escorted the Dauphin to the main altar. Once more Charles knelt before the Archbishop who applied the last unction of the Holy Oil upon Charles' head. Then he, along with the other Bishops, present placed the crown, which was found in the Cathedral's treasury, upon Charles' head. By this Charles truly became the consecrated King of France.

The newly crowned King sat upon a large wooden throne, which the six lay peers of the realm lifted up for the cheering throng to see. Then the lay and ecclesiastical Peers did him homage.



Shield of arms of Georges de la Trémoïlle, Grand Chamberlain: Quarterly, 1st & 4th Or, a chevron Gules accompanied with three eaglets Azure beaked and armed Gules, 2nd & 3rd Argent, an eagle Gules beaked and armed Azure.




Thanks to Virginia Frohlick (Saint Joan of Arc Center, Albuquerque, NM) for her collaboration.