Happy Birthday to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who turns 78 today! Continuing our new Royal Orders series, we will be taking a look at the Orders of Europe’s Oldest Monarchy to mark it’s Sovereign’s Birthday!
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 hip, 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 Danish Royal Orders.
Originating from a religious group who awarded a badge of an elephant in the 15th Century, the Order of the Elephant was formally established by King Christian V in 1693. The Sash, of light blue silk, is worn over the left shoulder, with the badge, a white-enameled elephant, with a a tower on it’s back, and a Moor holding a spear on its neck, resting on the right hip. The Star is an eight-point silver star, with a cross of diamonds on a red disc, surrounded by a silver wreath of laurel leaves. The Collar of is made of gold, in alternating links of towers and elephants suspending the Badge, and can only be worn on three days every year- the New Year’s Court, the Sovereign’s birthday, and the birthday of Valdemar the Victorious. In addition to the Sovereign and their spouse, the Order of the Elephant is granted to all children of the sovereign and their spouses, Foreign Heads of State, and Foreign Royalty.
Instituted by King Christian V in 1671, the Order of Dannebrog was formally established in 1693, and by the 19th century, was awarded in Four Classes. The sash of white edged with a narrow stripe of red is worn over the left shoulder, with the badge resting on the right hip. A similar ribbon is used for the Neck Badge and Bow. The Badge of the Order features a white-enameled gold Dannebrog cross, edged in red, with a crown and the monogram of the reigning Sovereign and the inscription Gud og Kongen (God and King), with the monogram of King Christian V. The Star is an eight-point star with the Dannebrog cross at the center. The Collar is made of gold, in alternating links of the cyphers of Kings Valdemar II and Christian V. The Breast Cross is similar to the Badge, made of faceted silver, and without the crowns and monograms. There is also a Cross of Honour of the Order, which is worn by members of the Royal Family and can be awarded to others who already hold the Order of Dannebrog. That badge is all silver and worn on a ribbon or bow with rosette on the left chest. The First, Second and Third Classes are used to recognize Danish citizens for military or civil service, while the special class with the rank of Grand Commander is only awarded to Royals with ties to the Danish Royal House, who are already members of the Order of the Elephant. The Order of Dannebrog is the secondary Order of Denmark, worn by male members of the Royal Family as a Neck Badge with the Star, and by female members as a Badge on their left chest, with Queen Margrethe wearing a special diamond encrusted star from the Crown Jewels. In addition, the Order is awarded to the parents of individuals marrying into the Royal Family.
More of a personal award than a state decoration, Queen Margrethe II’s Royal Family Order features a diamond-framed portrait of the Queen hanging from a white and red edged ribbon bow. Worn by female members of the Royal Family, it is awarded at the Queen’s discretion. Crown Princess Mary received hers before her wedding, while Princess Marie only started to wear it in 2012. Queen Margrethe, Princess Benedikte, and Queen Anne Marie wear the portrait of their father in an identical setting.