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What is the Order of the Golden Fleece?

While the Princess of Asturias may only be 18-years-old, she was admitted to one of the oldest chivalric orders at only ten. She is the newest member of the Order of the Golden Fleece. 

The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded in 1430 by the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, to celebrate his marriage. The Catholic order was initially limited to 24 member knights, but by 1516, there could be up to 50 member knights in addition to the sovereign. 

This order was unique, as knights of the order held different privileges than other knights. The group would discuss members’ conduct and deeds at each meeting and would meet out any needed punishments. 

The reference to the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology was not without criticism initially, but the order clarified that it was Gideon’s fleece referenced in the Bible. 

The order split into two branches, a Spanish branch and an Austrian branch, in the early 18th century after the War of the Spanish Succession. 

King Felipe VI of Spain is the current Grand Master of the Spanish branch of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Several past and present monarchs are members of the order in 2023: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harald V of Norway, Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Akhito, Emperor Emeritus of Japan, Beatrix, Princess of the Netherlands, and King Albert II of Belgium. 

Princess Leonor is the newest and youngest member of the order. 

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