Armorial button, early 19th c.

For the uniform of Officers of King Henry I of Haiti. 

Armorial Military Button King Henry Christophe of Haiti
Armorial Military Button King Henry Christophe of Haiti

Description

Created with Sketch.

This flat button was originally designed for use on the military uniforms of Haiti during the reign of King Henry I (1811-1820). Almost certainly produced in England, the obverse depicts the greater arms of the Kingdom of Haiti, first adopted in 1811. 

The coat of arms consists of a dark-blue shield adorned with golden stars. At the center of the shield is a phoenix rising from its ashes, accompanied by the phrase "JE RENAIS DE MES CENDRES" (I am reborn from my ashes) written on a ribbon. The shield is crowned with a royal crown and encircled with the collar of the chivalric Order of St. Henry, which the King founded. Supporting the shield are two crowned lions standing on a ribbon with the motto "DIEU MA CAUSE ET MON ÉPÉE" (GOD MY CAUSE AND MY SWORD) inscribed on it. 


Despite the effects of abrasion and oxidation over the years, a significant amount of gilt remains on the surface, offering a glimpse of its former golden sheen. The button’s shank, however, is missing. The reverse is marked “TREBLE GILT” over a wreath. 

 

These buttons exemplify King Henry’s meticulous attention to quality even in the smallest details, a characteristic that has been well-documented. They also symbolize the authority and grandeur of the Haitian monarchy, and were an important part of his strategy to establish legitimacy as the King of Haiti, alongside the creation of a titled nobility, the production of royal regalia, and the construction of palaces and fortresses to buttress his nascent kingdom. 

 

Another military button featuring King Henry’s crowned phoenix is also present in our collection. Commonly referred to as “Phoenix buttons,” they were originally intended for use on Haitian military uniforms during the reign of King Henry I. However, these buttons arrived after the King’s death and were subsequently purchased by US trader Nathaniel Wyeth for trade in the Northwestern United States. They have since been discovered alongside Native American artifacts during archaeological excavations.

Medium & Techniques

Created with Sketch.

Gilded brass

Measurements

Created with Sketch.

⌀ 24.5mm

Weight

Created with Sketch.

5.11 grams 

People involved

Created with Sketch.

Henry I, King of Haiti (Henri Christophe)(1767-1820)

Provenance

Created with Sketch.

Acquired from Ilya Zlobin of Tusted Coins (New York, NY)