When the Queen passed away last month, it brought to an end what was probably the most exclusive Honour of the United Kingdom, a piece of splendid insignia given to select female members of the Royal Family at the sole discretion of the Queen. With discussion about the Royal Family Order for King Charles III, it is a great opportunity to feature the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II!
Awarded by the Sovereign to female members of the Royal Family, Royal Family Orders have been awarded since 1820, and they have usually been the first Honours awarded to Royal Ladies, with the most notable being the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert. The colour of the ribbon of the Order has changed with each reign. The late Queen was the last surviving holder of the Royal Family Order of King George V, while her cousin, Princess Alexandra, is the last surviving holder of the Royal Family Order of King George VI.
The Orders feature a portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II painted on ivory (and more recently glass), the picture was taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding a few months after the Queen’s Accession in 1952, depicting her wearing a Norman Hartnell Gown with the George IV State Diadem with the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace, Bahrain Pearl Earrings, and Wedding Gift Bracelet as well as the Order of the Garter.
The portrait is bordered by diamonds and surmounted by a Tudor Crown in diamonds and red enamel. The reverse, in silver-gilt, is patterned with rays and depicts the royal cypher and St Edward’s Crown in gold and enamel. The frame is suspended from a chartreuse yellow bow, which is pinned on the left shoulder. Those who have the Royal Family Orders from previous Reigns wore them all layered on their left shoulder, as we will see this Order worn with new Royal Family Orders into the next Reigns.
While in the early years of her reign, the Order was given to all the female members of the Royal Family, and then given on marriage into the Royal Family or reaching the age of majority, though in recent years, the Order was only given after years of dedicated service, at the discretion of the Queen. Here is the list of recipients:
Other Honours: Royal Victorian Order (1977)
Other Honours: Royal Victorian Order (1989)
Other Honours: Royal Victorian Order (2010)
Other Honours: Royal Victorian Order (2019)