Dutch Royal Orders

Happy Birthday to King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who turns 51 today! Continuing our new Royal Orders series, we will be looking at the Dutch Royal Orders to mark the King’s Birthday. This article has been written by fellow Royal Watcher and a twitter friend, Gabriel Aquino, who has also written another upcoming article.

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 Dutch Royal Orders.

Military William Order

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The Military Order of William was instituted on 30 April 1815 by King William I of the Netherlands as a way to reward those who excelled in the military service of the Kingdom, being currently the highest and oldest honor in the Netherlands. The order’s motto is “For Bravery, Leadership and Loyalty”. There are four classes in the order: Knight Grand Cross, Commander, Knight 3rd Class and Knight 4th Class. The badge consists of a white-enamelled Maltese Cross in gilt, being silver only for the Knights 4th Class, with a green enamelled Burgundy Cross appearing between the arms of the Maltese Cross, hanging from a royal crown. The central disc has a golden firesteel in its centre and the order’s motto is written in the arms of the Maltese Cross. The central disc, without the royal crown is used at the center of the eight-pointed star of the Grand Cross and alone the central disc is the breast star of the Commander. The Sash is orange with blue stripes near the edge, representing the union between the Houses of Orange and Nassau (blue). Royal recipients of the order include Prince Bernhard, Queen Wilhelmina (after her abdication) and the reining monarch, who as Grand Master of the Order wears the insignia of a Grand Cross.

 Order of the Netherlands Lion

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The Order of the Netherlands Lion was founded by King William I on 29 September 1815 and it is the highest civilian honour in the Netherlands, currently being used to recognise merits of Dutch citizens in the fields of the arts, science, sport and literature. These days the order is composed of three classes: Knight Grand Cross (which is the only grade that may be awarded to foreigners), Commander and Knight. Up to 1960 a medal for Brothers was awarded as a fourth grade. The badge of the order features a white-enamelled Maltese Cross with the monogram of King William I filling the spaces between the arms of the Cross, the central disc is in blue and bears the order’s motto: “Virtue Ennobles”, the reverse is in gold and shows the lion from the Dutch coat of arms, with a royal crown on top. The Grand Cross’s star consists of the badge, with no crown on top, in the centre of a eight-pointed star. The sash, blue with orange stripes near the edges, is to be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip. The Order of the Netherlands Lion is mostly awarded to members of the Royal House in the Netherlands, foreign monarchs and their consorts. However, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary both became recipients of the order during the Dutch State Visit to Denmark in 2015.

Order of Orange-Nassau

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The Order of Orange-Nassau was founded by Queen Regent Emma, on behalf of young Queen Wilhelmina, on 4 April 1892 with the aim to reward “everyone who has earned special merits for society” with civilian and military divisions. Since 1996, the order is composed of six classes: Knight Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, Knight and Member. The badge is a blue-enameled Maltese Cross, with white-enameled borders, bearing the Monarch’s coat of arms surrounded by a white ring with the national motto (I shall maintain) written in the ring, while in the reverse Queen Wilhelmina’s monogram can be seen. On top of the badge there’s a royal crown. While the civil division has a wreath of laurel between the arms of the cross, in the military there are crossed swords. The badge hangs from an orange sash with blue and white borders that must be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip and the eight-pointed star of the Grand Cross bears the central ring from the badge. Royals who usually receive the Order of Orange-Nassau are heirs to the throne and their spouses.

Order of the House of Orange

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The Order of the House of Orange was founded by Queen Wilhelmina on 19 March 1905. Along with the Order of the Golden Lion of Nassau and the Order of the Crown, the Order of the House of Orange is a dynastic order in the Netherlands and is used to reward people for their services to the Royal House. Originally containing 18 grades, Queen Juliana had it changed in 1969 and now there are only three classes: Grand Cross, Grand Cross of Honor and Cross of Honor. The red-enameled Latin Cross the composes the badge is surrounded by a golden laurel wreath, the central disc has the national motto written in it and the horn of Orange, in the reverse Queen Wilhelmina’s monogram can be found. The eight-pointed star of the Grand Cross has in its center the same center of the badge and the sash in orange and it is supposed to be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip. Royal recipients of the order included those who made approved marriages to members of the Dutch Royal House. Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven and Princess Laurentien are both Grand Crosses.

Order of the Crown

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The Order of the Crown was founded by Queen Juliana in 1969 when she abolished most of the 18 classes of the Order of the House of Orange and the Order of the Crown was created to reward only foreigners for their services to the Royal House. The order has five grades: Grand Cross, Grand Cross of Honor with Plaque, Grand Cross of Honor, Cross of Honor with Rosette and Cross of Honor. The badge is the same as in the Order of the House of Orange, except that here the Latin Cross is white-enameled. The eight-pointed star bears the same central disc as that of the badge and the orange sash has stripes with the Dutch flag near the edges. The Order of the Crown is very frequently awarded to royals who don’t qualify for the higher orders and recipients include the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince Charles, Princess Alexandra, Princesses Astrid and Märtha Louise of Norway and Prince Joachim and Princesses Marie and Benedikte of Denmark, among many others.


Thank you once again to Gabriel Aquino, you can follow him on twitter @gabriel1aquino.

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