Habsburg Royal Orders

Happy Birthday to Archduke Karl von Habsburg, who turns 58 today! The Grandson of the last Emperor and Empress of Austria-Hungary, and the Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, Archduke Karl is the Sovereign of the Dynastic Orders of the former Holy Roman Empire, Austria and Hungary, which we are featuring today.

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 Habsburg Royal Orders-

Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece

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The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded in 1430 by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy as a way to acknowledge his wedding to Infanta Isabella of Portugal. As a result of the Spanish War of Succession, there are currently two sections of the order: the Spanish branch (which we will discuss later this month) and the Austrian branch. The current Grand Master of the Austrian branch is Archduke Karl of Austria, a grandson of Charles I, Emperor of Austria, a position he has held since 2000. The badge is usually worn with a necklet, but it can also be worn with the order’s Collar. The Austrian fleece is only awarded to Catholic royals and nobles, the exception being King George IV of the United Kingdom. Both Austrian Orders examined on this article are now dynastic orders of the House of Habsburg, as they are still in existence while the Austrian Empire doesn’t anymore.

Order of the Starry Cross

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The Order of the Starry Cross was founded in 1668 by Eleonora Gonzaga, Dowager Holy Roman Empress. The order, that was also approved by Pope Clement IX, should only be bestowed to Catholic high-born ladies, and after receiving the order they should dedicate themselves to their faith and live a virtuous life. The order’s motto is “Salue et Gloria”, meaning “Hail and Glory”. The order is composed of four grades, the highest grade (Special Class) being reserved for the Grand Mistress. The badge is to be worn suspended from a black ribbon, though many Archduchesses wore it suspended from Diamond Bow Brooches. The present Sovereign of the order, Archduke Karl, is separated from his wife, Archduchess Francesca, and as such the current Grand Mistress is his sister, Archduchess Gabriela.


This article has been written by Gabriel Aquino 

One thought on “Habsburg Royal Orders

  1. Thank you for this explanation of orders and how they are given. The pin of the Order of the Golden Fleece is surprisingly small compared to other orders.

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