Commonwealth Royal Orders

Happy Commonwealth Day! Instead of the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, due to the ongoing pandemic, the Queen was joined by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Countess of Wessex in ‘A Celebration for Commonwealth Day’, and to mark the day we are going to be featuring the  Commonwealth 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 Commonwealth Royal Orders.

Order of Canada

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Created in 1967 to coincide with the centennial of the Canadian Confederation, the Order of Canada is the country’s highest domestic decoration and the Queen is its sovereign, although the order is administered by the Governor-General of Canada, as its chancellor. Divided into three different grades – companion, officer and member- the order is used to award Canadians for their accomplishments in the service of Canada or outstanding merit, but can also be awarded to foreigners for their actions that benefited Canada or Canadians. Awards follow the order’s motto: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM–Latin for “They desire a better country”. The insignia of the order consists of a snowflake os six points with a red annulus, surmounted by the Royal Crown, at its centre which bears a stylized maple leaf circumscribed with the motto of the Order. To date, the order has been awarded to over 7,000 people.

Order of Military Merit (Canada)

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The Canadian Order of Military Merit was found in 1972 as a replacement for what was previously a grouping of the Order of Canada reserved for the military. The order, which follows the same grades awarded by its predecessor, is used to acknowledge the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for their achievements beyond what would be expected of them in the course of duty. Queen Elizabeth II is the order’s sovereign and her representative in Canada, the Governor-General, is its chancellor. Given its military nature, the order has the Chief of Defence Staff as the Principal Commander. The order’s official website describes the insignia as “the badge of the Order is a blue-enamelled, straight-end cross (four arms, narrow at the centre, wider at the ends) with an annulus in red surmounted by St. Edward’s Crown. The annulus bears the inscription MERIT.MÉRITE.CANADA”.

Order of Australia

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Created by the Queen in 1975, the Order of Australia is the order of chivalry utilized by the Government of Australia to recognize Australians for their outstanding service or exceptional achievement. The order is divided into a general and a military division, and foreigners may be appointed on an honorary basis. Nominations are made by the Governor-General of Australian, on the recommendation of the Council for the Order of Australian, for different ranks: Companion, Officer, Member and Medal. In 2015 the Government decided to no longer award the rank of Knight/Dame. The insignia seeks to explore the Australian environment by exposing golden wattle flower, native from Australia, and with the blue representing the sea, all topped by St. Edward’s Crown. The only royal members of the order, besides the Queen, are the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.

Order of New Zealand

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Created in 1987 by the Queen, the Order of New Zealand seeks “to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity”. Created to follow the model of the British Order of Merit, the Order of New Zealand has only one rank, but there are three types of membership: ordinary (of which there can only be 20 at any given time), additional and honorary, which are all appointed by the Queen, following the recommendations of the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The New Zealand Government’s website describes the insignia as “the badge of the Order consists of an oval medallion in gold and coloured enamels, bearing in the centre the design of the shield of the New Zealand Coat of Arms within a Kowhaiwhai rafter pattern. The ribbon is red ochre (kokowai) with a narrow white stripe towards either edge. The badge is either worn from a neck ribbon or from a ribbon bow on the left shoulder.” Both the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother were made additional members of the order.

New Zealand Order of Merit

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The New Zealand Order of Merit was found in 1996 after the Government decided it longer desired to indicate New Zealanders to British honors, and it ranks right after the Order of New Zealand. There are thee types of membership: ordinary, additional and honorary, which is reserved for those who are nationals of a country that has the Queen as head of state, and is currently divided into five levels: Knight/Dame Grand Companion, Knight/Dame Companion, Companion, Officer and Member. Between 2000 and 2008, the Queen, following the wishes of the Government of New Zealand, abolished the Knight/Dame nomenclature. The insignia differs according to the level of membership but the badge mostly consists of a cross in white enamel set in silver-gilt (gold) with, in the centre, a medallion comprising the New Zealand Coat of Arms in coloured enamel, within a circle of green enamel bearing the motto of the Order and surmounted by a Royal Crown.

This article was written by Deputy Editor Gabriel Aquino!


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