Happy Birthday to King Constantine of Greece, who turns 78 today! One of the longest reigning former monarchs, King Constantine became King 54 years ago, and today we are taking a look at the Orders of which he is Sovereign. This article has been written by fellow Royal Watcher and a twitter friend, Gabriel Aquino, who has also written about the Dutch Royal Orders and Swedish 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 Greek Royal Orders-
Even though the Greek monarchy was abolished in 1973, members of the deposed royal family are frequently present for European royal events due to their close relationships to other royal houses. For instance, King Constantine’s sister is Queen Sofía of Spain and Queen Anne-Marie’s sister is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, not to mention that Queen Anne-Marie is also a first cousin to King Carl XVI Gustaf. When attending these events, members of the Greek Royal Family can be seen wearing their dynastic orders that are awarded to this day by King Constantine.
The Order of the Redeemer, the highest order awarded by the Greek king, dates back to 1829, the final year of the Greek War of Independence, but the Order wasn’t officially implemented until May 1833 when the Regency Council in Greece signed a decree on behalf of King Otto. When founded the order had five classes: Grand Cross, Grand Commander, Commander, Gold Cross and Silver Cross. The badge consists of a white-enameled Maltese Cross, surrounded by a green-enameled wreath with a crown on top. The central disc features an image of Jesus, the Redeemer, while on the reverse the Greek coat of arms can be seen. The eight-pointed silver star has the same central disc from the badge, and the sash is light blue with white stripes on the edge (blue and white are Greece’s national colors). Nowadays, the Order is worn by King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie, theirs sons, Princess Alexia and Prince Constatine-Alexios, who wore it for the first time last week at Crown Prince Frederik’s 50th birthday gala celebration. Another version is also awarded by the Greek Republic.
The Order of Saints Olga and Sophia was created in January 1936 by King George II as a way to honor the memory of his grandmother and his mother, Queens Olga and Sophia, respectively. The order was the third most important order in the kingdom and was reserved only for women. It was composed of four classes: Dame 1st Class (Grand Cross), Dame 2nd Class, Dame 3rd Class and Dame 4thClass. The badge has a white-enameled cross in it, surrounded by a navy circle with a crown on top. The eight-pointed star has the same insignia as that of the badge, with no crown on top of it. The sash is navy with white stripes near the edges, being worn from the right shoulder to the left hip. These days we can see the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia on Crown Princess Marie Chantal, Princess Theodora, Princess Tatiana and Princess Maria-Olympia, who wore it for the first time last week at Crown Prince Frederik’s 50th birthday gala celebration. In the past, Queen Sofía of Spain and Princess Irene have also been seen wearing this order.
Men in the Greek Royal Family also have the tradition of wearing the medals of not only the Order of the Redeemer, but also other orders such as: the Order of Saints George and Constantine, the Order of George I, the Order of the Phoenix and the Order of Beneficence. The adjacent of the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia, the Collar of the Order of Saints George and Constantine is sometimes worn by male members of the Royal Family, most often on Crown Prince Pavlos.
The Commemorative Badge of the Centenary of the Royal House of Greece can often be seen on the Greek royals, and it was awarded to those who attended the centenary celebrations in 1963, but King Constantine’s children appear to have received the badge as well.