Swedish Royal Orders

Happy Birthday to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who turns 72 today! Continuing our new Royal Orders series, we will be taking a look at the Swedish 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 about the Dutch Royal Orders

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 Swedish Royal Orders.

The system of Royal Orders in Sweden is slightly different from that of other monarchies. From the four Royal Orders, that together form the Orders of His Majesty The King, that exist in Sweden, two of them are dormant, which means that new members can’t be introduced to them, and the other two can only be awarded to foreigners and stateless people, with the exception of members of the Swedish Royal Family. In Sweden there are no dynastic orders. The Order of Vasa is not included here.

Order of the Seraphim

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The Order of the Seraphim was founded by King Frederik I on 23 February 1748, when the order was founded the Knights had the duty of supervising hospitals and mental asylums in Sweden. The Order of the Seraphim has only one grade: Knight for men and Member for women. Another distinction in the order is that only men usually receive the Collar, the exception being Crown Princess Victoria and foreign female Heads of State. The badge is a white-enameled Maltese Cross with a Patriarchal Cross in each arm of the Maltese Cross and Seraphim in between the arms, the central disc is blue-enameled with the three crowns of Sweden and “IHS” written in white. The reverse is also blue-enameled with “FRS” written in white (FRS means Frederik, King of Sweden in Latin) and the badge hangs from a golden royal crown. The star of the order is similar, but almost entirely in silver and with no crowns on top. The sash is Blue Seraphim and is meant to be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip and the collar has 11 blue-enameled Patriarchal Crosses alternating with 11 golden Seraphim. Royal recipients of the order are the members of the Swedish Royal Family, foreign monarchs, their consorts and heirs to the throne.

Order of the Polar Star

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The Order of the Polar Star was founded by King Frederik I on 23 February 1748, and was founded to reward Swedish citizen for their merits in many different fields until 1975 when the law changed and Swedes were no longer eligible to receive honors from their State, the order’s motto is “It knows no decline”. The order has five grades: Commander Grand Cross, Commander 1st Class, Commander, Knight 1st Class and Knight. The badge is a white-enameled Maltese Cross with crowns in the spaces between each arm of the Cross, the central disc is blue-enameled with a white five-pointed star with the order’s motto written in it, and the reverse is just the same. On top of the badge there’s a royal crown. The star is composed by a silver Maltese Cross with a five-pointed star in the center and straight silver rays between the arms of the cross. This order currently has two different sashes: Swedish Princes wear the original black sash while since 1975 other members wear a blue sash with yellow stripes in the edges and the collar is a gold chain with seven five-pointed stars alternating with seven monograms of King Frederik I. Royal recipients include Princes Daniel and Carl Philip of Sweden and Princess Madeleine’s husband, Christopher O’Neil, who are all Commanders of the order and only wear the necklet. Many foreign royals who don’t qualify for the Order of the Seraphim are Grand Crosses, including Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Benedikte of Denmark; The Duke of Gloucester; Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Princess Martha Louise of Norway; among many others.

Order of the Sword

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The Order of the Sword was founded by King Frederik I on 23 February 1748 as a way to reward Swedes for their military merits and although it still exists, the order has been considered dormant since 1975. In 1975 the order had five grades: Commander Grand Cross, Commander 1st Class, Commander, Knight 1st Class and Knight. The badge is a white-enameled Maltese Cross that is shaped in X format with a blue-enameled central disc containing three crowns and one sword, the reverse disc is also blue with an upright gold sword in the center of a gold laurel wreath and “For Fatherland” written in Latin, on the badge’s top there’s a royal crown. The star is a silver Maltese Cross with the insignia in the center similar to that of the badge. The sash is yellow with blue-stripped edges, Sweden national colors. King Carl VXI Gustaf, who is the Grand Master of the Swedish Orders, is the only person that can currently be seeing wearing the insignia of the order, as he did on Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding when he wore a necklet of a Commander.

 King Carl Gustaf’s Portrait Brooch

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King Carl Gustaf’s Portrait Brooch is a personal distinction given by the King to women in the Royal Family either on their 18th birthday or when they marry into the family. They are worn with Orders at White Tie occasions, and just by themselves at some Black Tie events and Christenings. The portraits are actually not the same in all orders because each time a new brooch was awarded, a new portrait was taken. It can be seen on Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine, Princess Sofia and all the King’s sisters.


Thank you to Gabriel Aquino, you can follow him on Twitter @gabriel1aquino!

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