Royal Victorian Order

Royal Victorian Order

The Royal Victorian Order (RVO) is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry in the Commonwealth realms. Created by Queen Victoria on 21 April 1896, with the motto Victoria and 20 June as the official day, the order was established to recognise those who have served the monarch with distinction, each being appointed to one of the five grades and granted the right to use the according prefixes and/or post-nominal letters.

Creation

When the Royal Victorian Order was created at the end of the 19th century, most general honours were bestowed by the sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister and other ministers. The then two most senior orders of chivalry in the United Kingdom the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle were within the sovereign's personal gift, as had been since medieval times, but were limited by ancient regulation to a combined forty commoner-members. The establishment of the RVO as a junior, and personal, order of knighthood allowed the sovereign to bestow honours for personal service directly to a much wider community world-wide, at a time when the British Empire was at its zenith. The order was founded a year preceding Victoria's Diamond Jubilee so as to give the Queen the opportunity to compile the first list of inductees.

Composition

The monarch is the Sovereign of the order, and appoints all other members. Following the Sovereign, is the Grand Master; Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was Grand Master since the creation of the office in 1937 until her death in 2002, after which Queen Elizabeth II appointed her daughter, the Princess Royal, to the position in 2007. Below these two personages are five officials of the order: 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.

Grades

There are five grades (levels) of the Royal Victorian Order, in order of precedence:

Individuals may also be awarded the Royal Victorian Medal, which entitles them to the post-nominal letters RVM. Further, 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.

The styles Sir and Dame are not used by peers, princes, or princesses, except when their names are written out in their fullest forms. Nor do honorary members and clergymen receive the accolade of knighthood. Retiring deans of St George's Chapel, Windsor, and of Westminster Abbey, both Royal Peculiars, are customarily inducted as Knights Commander. Promotions in grade are possible for all members.

Insignia and vestments

The Royal Victorian Order uses a number of symbolic decorations that members will wear at formal events or collar days. Each level of the order is represented by different insignia and robes, though the one insignia used by all members is the badge, in the form of a Maltese Cross with a central medallion depicting Victoria's royal and imperial cypher, VRI (Victoria Regina Imperatrice), on a red background and surrounded by a crown-surmounted blue ring bearing the motto of the order. The badge is, however, worn in a different fashion for men and women in each grade: Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear it on a sash that passes from the right shoulder to the left hip; male Knight Commanders and Commanders wear it on a ribbon with red-white-red edges around the neck; male Lieutenants and Members wear it from a ribbon on the left chest; and women in all grades below Grand Cross wear the badge from a bow on the left shoulder. The size of the badge also varies by rank, that for the higher classes being larger, and the badges for those in the grades of Lieutenant and higher are enamelled, while those for Members are made of frosted silver. On the aforementioned collar days or other state events such as coronations, the badge is worn suspended from the collar.

Collars are worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross. Made of gold, the collar consists of octagonal pieces alternating with oblong frames, wherein each octagonal piece depicts a gold rose on a blue field and each frame contains one of the following inscriptions: Victoria, Britt. Reg. (Queen of the Britains), Def. Fid. (Defender of the Faith) or Ind. Imp. (Empress of India). In the centre is a medallion bearing Victoria's effigy. The collar is not to be confused with the Royal Victorian Chain, which is a decoration that is not a part of the Royal Victorian Order. As well, collars are returned upon the death of their owners, but other insignia may be retained. Knights and Dames Grand Cross also wear a mantle of dark blue stain edged with red satin, and bearing a representation of the order's star on the left side.

The star may be used only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dame Commanders, though, again, it differs in form for the two grades: for the higher rank the star is an eight-pointed silver star with a white enamelled Maltese Cross at the centre; for the lower grade, the star is an eight-pointed silver Maltese Cross, with silver rays between the arms, and a smaller frosted silver Maltese Cross at the centre. In both cases the oval-shaped central medallion depicts the same symbols as found at the centre of the order's badge.

The Royal Victorian Medal shows Victoria's effigy on the obverse, and the words Royal Victorial Medal on a scroll beneath the Queen's royal and imperial cypher on the reverse. It is worn in the same fashion as the badge: from a ribbon on the left chest in the case of men, and from a bow on the left shoulder in the case of women. Except for honorary awards, the ribbon is the same as the ribbon of the order, but for honorary awards, that may be made to foreigners, are denoted by a white stripe down the centre of the ribbon.

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

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)

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 Decoration (MSM) Medal Korea Medal

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)
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 (OBE)

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 (OBE)

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 (OBE)

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.

Eligibility and appointment

Membership in the Royal Victorian Order is conferred on those who have performed personal service for the sovereign; there are no numerical limits on membership, and all living citizens of any of the Commonwealth realms are eligible for any of the five levels of the order, save for Canadians: As admission to the top two levels of the RVO provide for an honorary prefix, Canadians are not normally appointed to the classes of Knight or Dame Grand Cross or Knight or Dame Commander 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. Some in the Chancellery at Rideau Hall wish to eliminate the RVO from the Canadian honours system and sometimes contest when a Canadian is appointed; however, no changes are planned.

Women have been eligible for appointment since 1936, and foreigners may be admitted as honorary members, normally, bestowed by the sovereign during his or her state visits.

Removal

  • Anthony Blunt, a former surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, was stripped of his knighthood in 1979 after it was revealed that he had been a spy.
  • William Pottinger, a senior civil servant, lost both his membership in the Order of the Bath and Royal Victorian Order in 1975 when he was jailed for corruptly receiving gifts from the architect John Poulson.
  • Cyril Littlewood was stripped of his MVO after being convicted of sexual abuse in 2004.

Chapel

The chapel of the Order since 1938 is The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, in central London - a Royal Peculiar. Every four years the order holds a religious service in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle; St George's is used instead of Savoy because it can accommodate more people.

The Sovereign and the Knights and Dames Grand Cross are allotted stalls in the choir of the Chapel of the Savoy. To the back of the stall is affixed a piece of brass (a stall plate), displaying its occupant's name, arms and date of admission into the order. Upon the death of the occupant the stall plate is not removed and so the stalls of the chapel are festooned with a colourful record of the order's Knights and Dames Grand Cross since 1938. There is insufficient room in the chapel for banners and other heraldic devices of the Knights and Dames Grand Cross to be displayed.

Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross

See also

Additional reading

  • McCreery, Christopher; On Her Majesty's Service: Royal Honours and Recognition in Canada; Dundurn Press (Toronto); 2008; ISBN 1550027425

External Links

References

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