Knights of the Faith

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KNIGHTS OF THE FAITH

Knights of the Faith was a Catholic and royalist secret society in France during the Restoration period. Its

founder was Ferdinand de Bertier, whose father, the last intendant of Paris, was slaughtered by a revolutionary mob (July 22, 1789). Convinced that freemasonry was responsible for the french revolution and his father's death, Bertier decided to fight it with its own methods. To this end he created in 1810 a kind of counterMasonry dedicated to the defense of throne and altar. The hierarchy of the Chevaliers de la Foi, as they were known, comprised the following grades: charity member (Associé de Charité), equerry, hospital knight, and knight of the Faith. Only the last grade knew the full scope of the organization. In each civil department of France members formed a "banner." The society was governed by a council of nine members presided over by a grandmaster, Viscount (later Duke) Mathieu de Montmorency. The Holy See refused to approve it as a military religious order. In the last months of the rule of Napoleon I, the Knights prepared public opinion for the return of the Bourbons, and were instrumental in arranging the royalist coup in Bordeaux (March 12, 1814) that helped to convince the Allied governments of the feasibility of restoring the old dynasty. After 1815, the society organized the ultraroyalist party that fought bitterly against the moderate policies of Louis XVIII and his favorite minister Élie Decazes. At the end of 1822, when royalists came to power, two knights, Montmorency and Joseph de Villèle, entered the ministry. When their protector, Charles X, became king (1824), they were able to press their reactionary and religious program. Villèle tried to rule the majority of the elected chamber by using the vote of some 100 members affiliated to the Knights, although other leading knights disagreed with him because they considered the outcry against the congregation injurious to religion. One of these organizations was confused with the other because notable Rightist political figures such as Montmorency, Armand de Polignac, and Ferdinand de Bertier belonged to both of them. To end this mix-up and weaken Villèle's position, the founders dissolved the knights (January 1826). In a way, the Knights of the Faith prefigured the later opus dei.

Bibliography: g. de bertier de sauvigny, Un type d'ultraroyaliste: Le Comte Ferdinand de Bertier et l'énigme de la Congrégation (Paris 1948).

[g. de bertier de sauvigny]