Royal Victorian Order
Royal Victorian Order Breast Star of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order Awarded by the
sovereign of the Commonwealth realms
Type Dynastic order Royal house House of Windsor Motto VICTORIA Day 20 June Eligibility All living citizens of the Commonwealth realms. Awarded for Personal service to the sovereign. Status Currently constituted Sovereign Elizabeth II Chancellor The Earl Peel Grades (w/ post-nominals) Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCVO)
Knight/Dame Commander (KCVO/DCVO)
Established 21 April 1896 Precedence Next (higher) Dependent on state Next (lower) Dependent on state Ribbon bar of the order for members (top) and for honorary members (bottom)
The Royal Victorian Order (French: Ordre royal de Victoria)[n 1] is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys. Established in 1896, the order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel, its official day is 20 June, and its motto is Victoria, alluding to the society's founder, Queen Victoria. There are no limits on the number of inductees, and admission remains the personal gift of the monarch, with each of the organisation's five hierarchical grades and one medal with three levels representing different levels of service. While all members receive the ability to use the prescribed styles of the order — the top two levels grant titles of knighthood, and all accord distinct post-nominal letters — the Royal Victorian Order's precedence amongst other honours differs from realm to realm, and admission to some grades may be barred by government policy. Though similarly named, the Royal Victorian Order is not related to the Royal Victorian Chain.
Prior to the close of the 19th century, most general honours within the British Empire were bestowed by the sovereign on the advice of his or her British ministers, who sometimes forwarded advice from ministers of the Crown in the Dominions and colonies (appointments to the then most senior orders of chivalry — the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle — had been made on ministerial advice since the 18th century and were not restored to the personal gift of the sovereign until 1946 and 1947, respectively). Queen Victoria thus established on 21 April 1896 the Royal Victorian Order as a junior and personal order of knighthood that allowed her to bestow directly to an empire-wide community honours for personal services. The organization was founded a year preceding Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, so as to give the Queen time to complete a list of first inductees. The order's official day was made 20 June of each year, marking the anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne.
After 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into being and the Dominions of the British Empire became independent states, equal in status to Britain, the Royal Victorian Order remained an honour open to all the King's realms; thus, as with the monarch who conferred it, the order ceased to be purely British. The order was also open to foreigners since its inception, the Prefect of Alpes-Maritimes and the Mayor of Nice being the first to receive the honour in 1896.
Officers and grades
The reigning monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms is at the apex of the Royal Victorian Order as its Sovereign, followed by the Grand Master; the latter position was created in 1937, and was occupied by Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) from that date until her death in 2002. Queen Elizabeth II then appointed her daughter, Anne, Princess Royal, to the position in 2007. Succeeding these two individuals are the five officials of the organization: the Chancellor, occupied by the Lord Chamberlain; the Secretary, occupied by the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen; the Registrar, occupied by the Secretary to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood; the Chaplain, occupied by the Chaplain of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy; and the Genealogist.
Thereafter follow the members of the order, who are divided into five hierarchical grades — the highest two conferring accolades of knighthood and all having accordant post-nominal letters — and, lastly, the holders of the Royal Victorian Medal in either gold, silver, or bronze. Foreigners may be admitted as honorary members, there are no limits to the population of any grade, and promotions are possible. The styles of knighthood are not used by princes, princesses, or peers in the upper most ranks of the society, save for when their names are written in their fullest forms for the most official occasions. Retiring Deans of the Royal Peculiars of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey are customarily inducted as Knights Commander; clergymen appointed to the higher levels of the Royal Victorian Order do not use the associated styles, however, and honorary members are not permitted to hold them at all.
Prior to 1984, the grades of Lieutenant and Member were classified as Members (fourth class) and Members (fifth class), respectively, but both with the post-nominals MVO. On 31 December of that year, Queen Elizabeth II declared that those in the grade of Member (fourth class) would henceforth be Lieutenants with the post-nominals LVO.
Grades of the Royal Victorian Order: Grade (English) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Commander Commander Lieutenant Member Medal Grade (French)[n 1] Commandeur Lieutenant Membre Medaille Prefix Sir/Dame Sir/Dame Post-nominal letters GCVO KCVO/DCVO CVO LVO MVO RVM Insignia
Insignia and vestments
Upon admission into the Royal Victorian Order, members are given various insignia of the organization, each grade being represented by different emblems and robes. Common for all members is the badge, which is a Maltese cross with a central medallion depicting on a red background the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria surrounded by a blue ring bearing the motto of the order — VICTORIA — and surmounted by a Tudor crown. However, there are variations on the badge for each grade of the order: Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear the badge on a sash passing from the right shoulder to the left hip; Knight Commanders wear the badge on a ribbon at the neck; male Commanders, Lieutenants, and Members wear the badge from a ribbon on the left chest; and women in all grades below Dame Grand Cross wear the badge on a bow pinned at the left shoulder. For Knights and Dames Grand Cross, Commanders, and Lieutenants, the Maltese cross is rendered in white enamel with gold edging, while that for Knights and Dames Commander and Members is in silver. Further, the size of the badge varies by rank, that for the higher classes being larger, and Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commander have their crosses surrounded by a star: for the former, an eight-pointed silver star, and for the latter, an eight-pointed silver Maltese cross with silver rays between each arm. The medal bears the effigy and name of the reigning sovereign at the time of its awarding, as well as the phrase DEI • GRATIA • REGINA (or REX) • F.D. (by the grace of God, Queen (or King), Defender of the Faith), and on the reverse is the Royal Cypher upon an ornamental shield within a laurel wreath. Bars may be awarded to each class of medal for further services, and should recipients be awarded a higher level of medal or be appointed to a grade of the order itself, they may continue to wear their original medal along with the new insignia.
The order's ribbon is blue with red-white-red stripe edging, the only difference being that for foreigners appointed into the society, their ribbon bearing an additional central white stripe. For Knights Grand Cross, the ribbon is 82.5 millimetres (3.25 in) wide, for Dames Grand Cross 57.1 millimetres (2.25 in), for Knights and Dames Commander 44.4 millimetres (1.75 in), and for all other members 31.7 millimetres (1.25 in).
At formal events, or collar days, of which there are 34 throughout the year, such as New Year's Day and royal anniversaries, Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear the Royal Victorian Order's livery collar, consisting of an alternating string of octagonal gold pieces depicting a gold rose on a blue field and gold oblong frames within which are one of four inscriptions: Victoria, Britt. Reg. (Queen of the Britains), Def. Fid. (fidei defensor, or Defender of the Faith), and Ind. Imp. (Empress of India). The chain supports a larger octagonal medallion with a blue enamel surface edged in red and charged with a saltire, over which is an effigy of Queen Victoria; members of the order suspend from this medallion their insignia as a badge apendant. Though after the death of a Knight or Dame Grand Cross their insignia may be retained by their family, the collar must be returned. Knights and Dames Grand Cross also wear a mantle of dark blue satin edged with red satin and lined with white satin, bearing a representation of the order's star on the left side.
Since 1938, the chapel of the Royal Victorian Order has been the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, in central London, England. However, the population of the order has grown to the point that the Savoy chapel can no longer accommodate the gathering of members held every four years, and St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle is now employed for the event.
The Sovereign and Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the order are allotted stalls in the Savoy chapel's choir, and on the back of each stall is affixed a brass plate displaying the occupant's name, coat of arms, and date of admission into the organization. Upon the occupant's death, the plate is retained, leaving the stalls festooned with a record of the order's Knights and Dames Grand Cross since 1938. There is insufficient space in the chapel for the display of knights' and dames' banners and other heraldic devices.
Eligibility and appointment
Membership in the Royal Victorian Order is conferred by the reigning monarch without ministerial advice on those who have performed personal service for the sovereign, any member of his or her family, or any of his or her viceroys. All living citizens of any of the Commonwealth realms, including women since 1936, are eligible for any of the five levels of the order, save for Canadians: As admission to the top two levels of the organization provide for an honorary prefix, Canadians are not normally appointed to these levels as long as the monarch's Canadian ministry adheres to the Nickle Resolution of 1919. The appointment of Canadians to the order resumed in 1972 and eligibility has been extended to those who render services to the monarch's representatives in the country. It was reported in 2008 that some in the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall wished to eliminate the Royal Victorian Order from the Canadian honours system and sometimes contested when a Canadian was appointed; however, no formal changes were ever planned. In Canada, the order has come to be colloquially dubbed as the "Royal Visit Order", as the majority of appointments are made by the sovereign during her tours of the country. Similarly, foreign members will generally be admitted as honorary members of the Royal Victorian Order when the Queen is making a state visit to the individual's country or a head of state is paying a state visit to one of the Queen's realms.
Persons have been removed from the order at the monarch's command. Anthony Blunt, a former surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, was in 1979 stripped of his knighthood, after it was revealed that he had been a spy. Also, William Pottinger, a senior civil servant, in 1975 lost his membership in both the Order of the Bath and the Royal Victorian Order when he was jailed for corruptly receiving gifts from the architect John Poulson.
Precedence in each realm
As the Royal Victorian Order is open to the citizens of sixteen different countries, each with their own system of orders, decorations, and medals, the RVO's place of precedence varies from country to country. Some are as follows:
Country Preceding RVO grade Following Australia
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG/DCMG) Knight/Dame Commander Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE/DBE) Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) Commander Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Lieutenant Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Companion of the Imperial Service Order (ISO) Member Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) Medal British Empire Medal (BEM) Canada
Order of precedence
Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (COM) Commander Officer of the Order of Military Merit (OMM) Officer of the Order of Military Merit (OMM) Lieutenant Member of the Order of Military Merit (MMM) Member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (MOM) Member Venerable Order of Saint John (GC/K/D/C/O/M/SB/SSStJ) Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) Medal Sacrifice Medal New Zealand
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (K/DCMG) Knight/Dame Commander Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE/DBE) Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) Commander Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Lieutenant Companion of the Queen's Service Order (QSO) Companion of the Imperial Service Order (ISO) Member Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) New Zealand Bravery Medal (NZBM) Medal Queen's Service Medal (QSM) United Kingdom England and
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE/DCIE) Knight/Dame Commander Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE/DBE) Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) Commander Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Lieutenant Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Eldest son of Knight Bachelor Member Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) Scotland
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE/DCIE) Knight/Dame Commander Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE/DBE) Sheriffs Commander Companion of the Order of the Bath (COB) Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Lieutenant Companions of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Eldest son of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire Member Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) Northern Ireland
Order of precedence
Knight/Dame Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) Knight/Dame Grand Cross Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE/DCIE) Knight/Dame Commander Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE/DBE) Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) Commander Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Lieutenant Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Eldest son of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire Member Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
In the United Kingdom, the wives of male members of all classes also feature on the order of precedence, as do sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders; relatives of Dames, however, are not assigned any special precedence. As a general rule, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.
Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross
- Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II
- Knights and Dames Grand Cross
- Prince Edward, Duke of Kent KG GCMG GCVO ADC(P) FBCS, appointed 1960
- Princess Alexandra LG GCVO CD, appointed 1960
- The Earl of Snowdon GCVO RDI, appointed 1969
- King Michael I
- Princess Anne, Princess Royal LG LT GCVO QSO GCL CD FRCVS FRS, appointed 1974
- Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO SSI, appointed 1974
- The Duchess of Kent GCVO, appointed 1977
- Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC, appointed 1980
- The Duchess of Grafton GCVO, appointed 1980
- Sir Ninian Martin Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC, appointed 1982
- Queen Beatrix, appointed 1982
- Grand Chief Sir Tore Lokoloko GCL GCMG GCVO OBE, appointed 1985
- The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO, appointed 1989
- Sir Antony Arthur Acland KG GCMG GCVO, appointed 1991
- Sir Clifford Darling GCVO, appointed 1991
- Sir Ewen Alastair John Fergusson GCMG GCVO, appointed 1992
- Sir Christopher Mallaby GCMG GCVO, appointed 1992
- Sir Howard Felix Hanlan Cooke ON GCMG GCVO CD, appointed 1994
- The Lord Waddington GCVO DL QC PC, appointed 1994
- Sir Robert Corbett GCVO CB, appointed 1994
- Sir Brian Fall GCVO KCMG, appointed 1994
- Sir Matthew Farrer GCVO, appointed 1994
- Sir Ian Knowles GCVO GBE, appointed 1994
- Dame Catherine Tizard ONZ GCMG GCVO DBE QSO, appointed 1995
- Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue GCVO, appointed 1996
- The Lord Fellowes GCB GCVO QSO PC, appointed 1996
- Sir Shane Blewitt GCVO, appointed 1996
- Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, appointed 1996
- Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, appointed 1996
- Princess Chulabhorn, appointed 1996
- Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, appointed 1998
- Sir Simon Cooper GCVO, appointed 2000
- The Lord Luce KG GCVO PC DL, appointed 2000
- Sir Brian Henry McGrath GCVO, appointed 2000
- Sir Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple Bt GCVO, appointed 2001
- The Lord Sterling of Plaistow GCVO CBE, appointed 2002
- The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres KT GCVO PC, appointed 2002
- Prince Michael of Kent GCVO CD, appointed 2003
- Sir John Eaton Holmes GCVO KBE CMG, appointed 2004
- Sir Peter James Torry GCVO KCMG, appointed 2004
- Sir Walter Hugh Malcolm Ross GCVO OBE, appointed 2005
- The Earl Peel GCVO PC DL, appointed 2006
- The Lord Janvrin GCB GCVO QSO PC, appointed 2007
- Sir Donald Charles McKinnon ONZ GCVO PC, appointed 2009
- The Countess of Wessex GCVO, appointed 2010
- Brigadier Sir Miles Garth Hunt-Davis GCVO CBE, appointed 2010
- Prince Andrew, Duke of York KG GCVO CD ADC(P), appointed 2011
- Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO SOM ADC(P), appointed 2011
- Sir Michael Peat GCVO, appointed 2011
- King Harald V
- Queen Margrethe II
- Prince Henrik
- The Prince of Asturias
- Grand Duke Henri
- King Albert II
- List of people who have declined a British honour
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