Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood established in 1896 by Queen Victoria. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the sovereign of the order, the order's motto is Victoria, and its official day is 20 June. The order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel in London.
There is no limit on the number of individuals honoured at any grade, and admission remains at the sole discretion of the monarch, with each of the order's five grades and one medal with three levels representing different levels of service. While all those honoured may use the prescribed styles of the order—the top two grades grant titles of knighthood, and all grades 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 to citizens of those realms by government policy.
CreationPrior to the close of the 19th century, most general honours within the British Empire were bestowed by the sovereign on the advice of her British ministers, who sometimes forwarded advice from ministers of the Crown in the Dominions and colonies. 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 organisation 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.
In 1902, King Edward VII created the Royal Victorian Chain "as a personal decoration for royal personages and a few eminent British subjects" and it was the highest class of the Royal Victorian Order. It is today distinct from the order, though it is officially issued by the chancery of the Royal Victorian Order.
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 open to foreigners from its inception, the Prefect of Alpes-Maritimes and the Mayor of Nice being the first to receive the honour in 1896.The reigning monarch 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 from that date until her death in 2002. Queen Elizabeth II then appointed her daughter, Anne, Princess Royal, to the position in 2007. Below the Grand Master are five officials of the organisation: the Chancellor, held by the Lord Chamberlain; the Secretary, held by the Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen; the Registrar, held by the Secretary to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood; the Chaplain, held by the Chaplain of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy; and the Genealogist.
Thereafter follow those honoured with different grades of the order, divided into five levels: the highest two conferring accolades of knighthood and all having 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 number of any grade, and promotion is possible. The styles of knighthood are not used by princes, princesses, or peers in the uppermost 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 and Members , 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 would henceforth be Lieutenants with the post-nominals LVO.
List of officersThe current officers of the Royal Victorian Order are as follows:
- Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II, since 1952
- Grand Master: Anne, Princess Royal, since 2007
- Chancellor: William Peel, 3rd Earl Peel, as Lord Chamberlain, since 2006
- Secretary: Sir Michael Stevens, as Keeper of the Privy Purse, since 2018
- Registrar: Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Segrave, as Secretary of the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood
- Chaplain: Thomas Woodhouse, as Chaplain of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, since 2019
Insignia and vestments
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 • F.D., 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 wide, for Dames Grand Cross, for Knights and Dames Commander, and for all other members.
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., Def. Fid., and Ind. Imp.. 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.
Chapel and associationsSince 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 organisation. 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.
The Royal Victorian Order Association of Canada exists for all Canadians appointed to the order or who have received the Royal Victorian Medal; it is the only such organisation in the Commonwealth realms. Founded by Michael Jackson, the group has, since 2008, gathered biennially.
Eligibility and appointmentMembership 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 Governors-General. All living citizens of any Commonwealth realm, 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 organisation provides 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.
As it was deemed by the Canadian Cabinet to be an honour within the gift of the monarch, the appointment of Canadians to the order resumed in 1972 and eligibility was extended to those who render services to the monarch's representatives in the country; officials within the provincial spheres being included after 1984. Originally, the Queen chose inductees herself, though the Governor General of Canada and the Canadian Secretary to the Queen could provide suggestions, some passed to them by the lieutenant governors. The practice of notifying the Prime Minister of Canada of nominees ended in 1982, to distance the order as far from politics as possible.
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.
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 the United Kingdom.
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 for the USSR. 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.
PrecedenceAs 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:
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
- Grand Master: Anne, Princess Royal, appointed Dame Grand Cross in 1974; Grand Master since 2007.
|The Duke of Kent||Royal Family||1960|
|Princess Alexandra||Royal Family||1960|
|The Duke of Gloucester||Royal Family||1974|
|The Duchess of Kent||Royal Family||1977|
|The Dowager Duchess of Grafton||Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth II||1980|
|The Earl of Airlie||Lord Chamberlain||1984|
|Dame Elmira Minita Gordon||Governor General of Belize||1985|
|The Duchess of Gloucester||Royal Family||1989|
|Sir William Heseltine||Principal Private Secretary to the Queen||1990|
|Sir Antony Acland||British Diplomat||1991|
|Sir Christopher Mallaby||British Diplomat||1992|
|Sir Brian Fall||British Diplomat||1994|
|Sir Matthew Farrer||Private solicitor to the Queen||1994|
|Dame Catherine Tizard||Governor-General of New Zealand||1995|
|The Lord Fellowes||Principal Private Secretary to the Queen||1996|
|Sir Shane Blewitt||Keeper of the Privy Purse||1996|
|The Lord Camoys||Lord Chamberlain||1998|
|Major General Sir Simon Cooper||Master of the Household||2000|
|The Lord Luce||Lord Chamberlain||2000|
|Vice Admiral The Lord Sterling of Plaistow||Chairman of the Golden Jubilee Weekend Trust||2002|
|The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres||Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother||2002|
|Prince Michael of Kent||Royal Family||2003|
|Sir John Holmes||British Diplomat||2004|
|Sir Peter Torry||British Diplomat||2004|
|The Earl Peel||Lord Chamberlain||2006|
|The Lord Janvrin||Principal Private Secretary to the Queen||2007|
|Sir Donald McKinnon||Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations||2009|
|The Countess of Wessex||Royal Family||2010|
|Sir Hugh Roberts||Surveyor of the Queen's Works of Art||2010|
|The Duke of York||Royal Family||2011|
|The Earl of Wessex||Royal Family||2011|
|Sir Michael Peat||Principal Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales||2011|
|The Duchess of Cornwall||Royal Family||2012|
|Sir Alan Reid||Keeper of the Privy Purse||2012|
|The Lady Hussey of North Bradley||Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen||2013|
|Dame Mary Morrison||Woman of the Bedchamber||2013|
|The Lord Ricketts||British Diplomat||2014|
|The Lord Geidt||Principal Private Secretary to the Queen||2017|
|The Duke of Edinburgh||Consort of Queen Elizabeth II||2017|
|Sir Stephen Lamport||Receiver-General of Westminster Abbey||2018|
|Lieutenant Colonel Sir Andrew Ford||Comptroller, Lord Chamberlain's Office||2018|
|The Lord Vestey||Master of the Horse||2018|
|The Duchess of Cambridge||Royal Family||2019|
|Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank||Former Chief of the Defence Staff||2019|
|The Lord Chartres||Dean of the Chapels Royal||2019|
|Sir Michael Oswald||National Hunt Racing Adviser||2019|
;Honorary Knights and Dames Grand Cross:
|Crown Prince Akihito||Former Emperor of Japan||1953|
|Prince Harald||King of Norway||1955|
|Princess Beatrix||Former Queen of the Netherlands||1958|
|Mengesha Seyoum||Prince of Ethiopia||1965|
|Albert, Prince of Liège||Former King of the Belgians||1966|
|Hereditary Grand Duke Henri||Grand Duke of Luxembourg||1976|
|Crown Prince Mohammed||King of Morocco||1980|
|Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco||Princess of Morocco||1980|
|Prince Muhammad bin Talal||Prince of Jordan||1984|
|Cecilia Kadzamira||Former Official Hostess of Malawi||1985|
|Princess Lalla Asma of Morocco||Princess of Morocco||1987|
|Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco||Prince of Morocco||1987|
|Prince Felipe||King of Spain||1988|
|Khaled Al-Duwaisan||Kuwaiti Diplomat||1995|
|Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn||King of Thailand||1996|
|Princess Sirindhorn||Princess of Thailand||1996|
|Princess Chulabhorn||Princess of Thailand||1996|
|Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah||Crown Prince of Brunei||1998|
|Emeka Anyaoku||Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations||2000|
|Haitham bin Tariq||Sultan of Oman||2010|
|Kamalesh Sharma||Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations||2016|
;Honorary Knights and Dames Commander:
|Princess Seble Desta||Princess of Ethiopia||1965|
|Prince Abdullah||King of Jordan||1984|
|Teuku Mohammad Hamzah Thayeb||Indonesian diplomat||2012|
|Lim Sung-nam||South Korean diplomat||2013|
|Bernard Émié||French diplomat||2014|
|Foo Chi Hsia||Singaporean diplomat||2014|
|Diego Gómez Pickering||Mexican diplomat||2015|