There are three big gun toisons in the Spanish royal family:
- One made of two old pieces: the fleece from the 17th century and the fleur de lys from the 19th century, passed down from Alfonso XII through his aunt.
- A toison from the early 20th century, from Alfonso XIII.
- The Grand Master toison. A wedding present to Juan Carlos now worn by the current King.
There are also daily use toisons, like the one worn by the Princess of Asturias.
The Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece is a Catholic order of chivalry founded in Bruges by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to Isabella of Portugal. Today, two branches of the order exist, namely the Spanish and the Austrian Fleece; the current grand masters are Felipe VI, King of Spain and Karl von Habsburg, head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, respectively. Each Spanish collar is solid gold and is estimated to be worth around €50,000 as of 2018, making it the most expensive chivalrous order. They’re numbered and must be returned after the death of the knight. Knights and dames of the order are entitled to be addressed with the style His/Her Excellency in front of their name.
Duke Philip the Good chose the legend of the fleece as an example of courage, the fleece itself bestowed good luck and abundance to those who possessed it. The links of the grand master’s necklace have the letter B, in reference to Burgundy. Between the links there’s a flame, symbol of Prometheus, the ultimate guarantor of the fleece, but also the symbol that appears on the duke’s badge with the motto: “Ante ferit quam flamma micet” (“Attack before the flame is seen”). The patron saint of Burgundy and of the Order was Saint Andrew.
The Fleece and the Fleur de Lys
King Alfonso XIII of Spain died in Rome in 1941 and 40 years later, a Swiss bank contacted Don Juan, count of Barcelona, and King Juan Carlos, to tell them that he had a safety deposit box that no one had touched in decades and, complying with the law, it was time to tell the heirs. Inside, they found two amazing toisons.
The first one is made of gold, gilded silver, diamonds, rubies and a sapphire. Dimensions: 6.5 x 11.5 cm. It hangs from a red silk cravat with a vegetal design ring in gilded silver. The center is formed by a fleur-de-lis framed with vegetal elements of different designs, all open-worked and set with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds. From this piece hangs the order itself, formed by the flames and the fleece. There’s a faceted sapphire surrounded by rubies in the middle, the fleece is made of gold and rose cut diamonds: the setting, size and cut of the diamonds show that this piece was made at the end of the 17th century whereas the diamond fleur de lis on top of it was made in the 19th.
Experts suspect that this jewel belonged to Infanta Cristina of Bourbon, wife of the Infante Don Sebastián, who gave it to her nephew Alfonso XII as a present for his wedding in 1878 joining two different pieces from her family. On the back, we can see more modern rivets and settings, from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, possibly made in the Maison Chaumet in Paris for Alfonso XIII.
Alfonso XIII Toison
The second toison is made of gold, enameled silver, diamonds and rubies. Dimensions: 8.5 x 12 cm. It hangs from a red silk cravat through an ornament in the form of two interlaced B letters with rose-cut diamonds. It is followed by the flames formed by a large radiant-cut diamond with a border of 15 diamonds and flanked by two bursts made of rubies of various sizes. It’s also a work of Maison Chaumet from the early 20th century.
The Alfonso XIII and the combined Fleece and Fleur de Lys are the toisons King Felipe wears to attend grand gala events.
Grand Master Toison
The Grand Master toison belonged to King Juan Carlos. It was made in the 1960s and was a wedding present from the Permanent Deputation and Council of Spanish Grandee. It’s also made of sapphires, rubies and diamonds.
Daily Use Toisons
The Royal House has other toisons for daily use, smaller, gilded and embellished with enamel. For example, the one Leonor got in 2018, made of gold, diamonds and a small sapphire, belonged to Don Juan, count of Barcelona.