Happy Birthday to King Harald of Norway, who turns 82 today! Continuing our Royal Orders series, we will be looking at the Norwegian Royal Orders to mark the Birthday of the 3rd King on an Independent Norway.
But first an explanation of Orders in general- Almost every country, monarchy or not, has some form of an honours system that awards chivalry or merit, and is often used in diplomatic exchange of gifts. Each individual order has it’s own history, and in countries with multiple orders, has it’s own rank. The Head of State is usually the sovereign of the order, and has varied authority on deciding their recipients. National Orders are those which must be awarded with consultation from the government, and are official gifts, while the recipients of Dynastic Orders are at the discretion of the Sovereign, and many non-reigning families still award their Dynastic Orders, with no government authority.
Orders of their own countries are awarded to royals at birth, upon reaching the age of majority, upon marriage into the royal family, or after years of dedicated service to the country. Orders of foreign countries are usually awarded during State Visits, and are given according to rank, with the sovereigns receiving the higher order, the heirs the lower order, and the other members of the royal family participating in the visit receiving yet a lower one. However, these rules vary from country to country, and also depend on individual Sovereigns.
Orders are accompanied by a varied amount of insignia, which can include a Sash with a badge worn at the hip, a Star, ornate Collars, Badges to be worn on the shoulders, and smaller Pins, and the awarding of specific items differentiate the different grades in each individual order, and/or depend on the orders themselves. The wearing of the insignia depends on the occasion. The ornate collars of an Order are only worn very rarely at White Tie events or on Uniforms. The Sash and Star are more common and seen at White Tie State Banquets. The smaller badges may be worn when you are wearing the insignia of other orders, or at a Black Tie occasion where Orders are worn. The small pins are worn at formal occasions in the daytime, when you want to honour the occasion without making it too formal. Now that we have an explanation, lets learn about the Norwegian Royal Orders.
The Order of Saint Olav, Norway’s highest decoration, was founded by King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway in 1847 and named after King Olav II, who later became known as Saint Olav. The order is conferred as “a reward for distinguished services rendered to Norway and mankind”. Saint Olav’s Order is composed of five classes, the highest class being the Grand Cross. Holders of the Grand Cross may also be awarded the Collar. The Order’s badge is a white enamelled Maltese Cross cornered by four crowned Os and the central observer displays Norway’s lion bearing a battle axe. The eight-pointed star has an insignia similar to the badge in its centre and the sash is red with white-blue-white stripes in the edges. Royal recipients of the order include not only the Norwegian Royal Family but also Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, the King and Queen of Sweden, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip, Princess Madeleine, the Queen of Denmark, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark, Prince Joachim, Princess Marie, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, the King of Spain, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain, Infanta Elena, Infanta Cristina of Spain and many others.
The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit was founded by King Olav V in 1985 and is awarded to Norwegians and foreigners in recognition of their outstanding service in the interest of Norway. The Order of Merit is divided into three classes and two sub-classes, the highest of which is the Grand Cross. The badge consists of the Cross of Saint Olav with crowns in each of its four corners with King Olav V’s crowned monogram in its centre. The eight-pointed star is centred by an insignia similar to that of the badge and the sash is navy-blue. King Harald V, Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon are all recipients of the order and foreign royal recipients include Princesses Astrid and Claire of Belgium, Princes Laurent and Lorenz of Belgium and Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven.
The Royal Family Order of King Harald V of Norway is a personal distinction given by the King to women in the Royal Family, women who marry into the family will receive the order on the occasion of their marriage. They are worn with Orders at White Tie occasions, and, unlike other Royal Family Orders, at some Black Tie events, Funerals and Christenings. The Order is currently worn by Queen Sonja, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Princess Märtha-Louise and Princess Astrid. Princess Astrid is famous for not only be always wearing King Harald’s Family Order, but also the ones awarded to her by both her grandfather (King Haakon VII) and father (King Olav V).