The most powerful conservative secret society in Napoleonic France, the Chevaliers du Foi or Chevaliers of Faith were organized in 1810 by Ferdinand de Bertier (1782–1864), whose father, the Intendant of Paris, was murdered by a mob just after the fall of the Bastille. A royalist and devout Catholic, Bertier became involved in conspiracies against Napoleon’s regime in his youth. In 1809, after the pope was arrested by Napoleon’s police and imprisoned in France, Bertier was thrown into prison for helping to circulate copies of the bull of excommunication against all those involved. See French Revolution.

After his release in 1810, Bertier joined a Masonic lodge to find out how it worked, and then launched his own secret society, the Chevaliers of Faith. Officially, the Chevaliers existed to carry out works of charity and piety, and members of the lowest level of initiation, Associés de Charité (Charitable Associates), learned no more than this. At the second level, Ecuyer (Squire), members learned that the order sought to re-establish medieval traditions of knighthood. Only at the third level, Chevalier, did initiates discover the existence of a political agenda within the order, and the nature of that agenda was revealed step-by-step in the three sub-grades of Chevalier, Hospitalier, and Chevalier of Faith; only members of this last sub-grade knew that the order aimed at Napoleon’s overthrow.

By 1813 the Chevaliers of Faith had a large following in several regions of France, and they played a significant role in the collapse of Napoleon’s regime the next year. Allied armies found themselves provided with detailed intelligence and guidance, and many historians hold that the Chevaliers stage-managed the Bordeaux rising in March 1814 that proclaimed Louis XVII King of France and got the Restoration under way. In the aftermath of Napoleon’s final defeat, the Chevaliers seem to have faded quietly away, their work done.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006