Order of the Ermine

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The Order of the Ermine (L’Ordre de l’Hermine) was a chivalric order of the 14th and 15th centuries in the Duchy of Brittany. The ermine is the emblem of Brittany. In the 20th century, it was revived by the Cultural Institute of Brittany as an honor for those contributing to Breton culture.

The Medieval Order[edit]

During his last period of exile at the court of England (1377–1379), the Breton duke John V the Conqueror observed the functioning of the Order of the Garter. Back in Brittany, in 1381, he created his own order. The little we know of this order comes from Guillaume de St-André. In 1448, it became the Order of the Ermine and the Ear of Grain (Ordre de l'Hermine et de l'Épi). The ermine was a natural choice for the badge of his order, since the heraldic representation of its fur is the coat of arms of the Dukes of Brittany. In medieval times the ermine was believed to risk capture or death rather than sully the purity of its white fur and thus a symbol of concern for the uncompromising integrity of one's personal honor.

Lodovico Sforza was member of this order since 1488, and the ermine in Leonardo's portrait Lady with an Ermine may be reference to it.[1]

Ackermann mentions this chivalric order as historical order of France.

Modern Order[edit]

A modern honor by the same name was created in 1972 to honor those who contribute to Breton culture and development. At its head is a Chancellor (Yves Lainé)and two vice-chancellors : Riwanon Kervella and André Lavanant. The siege is chez Institut Culturel de Bretagne, the castle of the Ermine, Vannes.



  • Gustav Adolph Ackermann, Ordensbuch, Sämtlicher in Europa blühender und erloschener Orden und Ehrenzeichen. Annaberg, 1855, p 207 n° 73. "Orden des Hermelins in der Bretagne" - Google Book (Former orders of France : p. 205-214)
  1. ^ Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (The Lady with the Ermine) 1490
  2. ^ Distinctions remises au Parlement de Bretagne
  3. ^ Le Télégramme de Brest, 1er octobre 2008
  4. ^ Ouest France du 12–13 septembre 2009, éditions Bretagne, page 7
  5. ^ Agence Bretagne Presse
  6. ^ Distinctions given at the Festival interceltique.