26 September 2011

Royal Splendor 101: Sashes and Stuff, Part 2

Previously, in my quest to fill the interwebs with even more useless information, we went over some of the basics of the insignia associated with orders of chivalry, and how they work in a royal's own country. Now we're adding another layer of complexity to the game: what happens when countries get together and different sashes start flying around. How does it all work? And most importantly: how are you supposed to know what to wear?

When are foreign orders received? While royals may receive membership in another country's order as part of a special event or an official visit, state visits are where the real collecting happens. Gifts are always traded during a state visit, and orders are commonly included.
Orders given as gifts from Luxembourg (left) and Norway (right) during the 2011 state visit from Luxembourg to Norway

How many foreign orders do royals have? That's completely dependent on the number of occasions they've been involved in. Prince William has no foreign orders yet, as he has never played an official part in a state visit. On the other hand, Crown Princess Victoria (only 5 years older than William) has quite the collection, because she's been supporting her parents on incoming and outgoing state visits for years.
 Victoria's foreign orders to date, per Wikipedia (all relevant Wiki disclaimers apply...). Click to enlarge.

Who gets which orders? Just as different countries have different policies regarding how they hand these out at home, they all handle gifts of orders differently. Let's revisit the example from above, the 2010 state visit from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to Norway. Beatrix is wearing the distinctive red sash of Norway's Order of St.Olav, which is the order King Harald awards to fellow royals. He often gives the order to sovereigns, heirs, and consorts of both and sometimes more minor family members as well. Beatrix is very generous with her orders, but she gives out different ones depending on a person's position.
King Harald and Queen Sonja are wearing the highest Dutch order available to them, the Order of the Netherlands Lion; Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are wearing the next order down, the Order of Orange-Nassau; Princess Märtha Louise and Princess Astrid are wearing a lower house order, the Order of the House of Orange.

Sovereigns attending Garter Day in 2002 for the Jubilee
Other countries don't give out orders so easily. If you're thinking that sounds like Britain, you're spot on. Reigning European sovereigns usually receive the Order of the Garter, as does the Japanese Emperor. Sovereigns from other parts of the world might get a lesser order, or nothing at all. Sovereign consorts and heirs may receive a lesser order...or not. (A look at the orders on the men at William and Kate's wedding will give you an idea what we're talking about.) Royal families might alter their order-giving policies to match another house for diplomatic reasons too, just to add more confusion to the mix.

How do you know which order to wear? Sadly, you can't just pick whichever sash goes best with your dress. When you are visiting another country or another country is visiting you, you want to honor that country by wearing the highest order that country has given you. If you don't have any orders from that country, you proceed with the rules from part 1, and wear the highest honor you have from your own country. Shall we have an example? Yes, we shall:
Left to Right: Queen Paola and King Albert of the Belgians, Princess Máxima and Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Princess Letizia and Prince Felipe of Spain, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg
All of these kids are shown attending Crown Princess Victoria's wedding. The Swedes give their highest honor, the Order of the Seraphim, to sovereigns (Albert, who is wearing the collar rather than the sash), sovereign consorts (Paola), and heirs (Willem-Alexander, Frederik, Felipe). They give their second highest honor, the Order of the Polar Star, to others (Máxima, Mary, Mette-Marit). Those that don't have any Swedish orders (Letizia, Guillaume) wore their own.

But why wouldn't you have the right country's order at an event? Why don't Letizia and Guillaume have Swedish orders? See above: if a royal hasn't participated in a state visit with said country, then they likely have no orders to show. Though it may be entertaining to imagine that snubbing is involved somehow, the likely explanation is that they just haven't had a chance to collect that certain order yet, or they're restricted by order-giving policies and won't get an order in their current positions.

What about multiple orders? Yes, here too you can wear more than one order. Royals often wear the order of the country they're honoring and their own country's order(s) at the same time.

The foreign orders take precedence, as you can see on King Harald on the left there. At Victoria's wedding, he wore the collar of the Order of the Seraphim, which freed him up to wear the riband of the Order of St. Olav from Norway. (When you wear a collar, you either go without a sash - as King Albert did - or you wear a sash from a different order.) He wore stars at his waist from both orders.

What happens if you get it wrong? People will point and laugh at you. People around you might ponder if they have the authority to tell you about your faux pas, while the rest might be busy spinning your mistake into an international snub. And then life will go on just as before, because hey, it's just a little bit of insignia.
Prince Philip showed up for the funeral of King Baudouin I of the Belgians wearing the Order of the Leopard from Zaire instead of the Belgian Order of Leopold. Whoops.

So why can't they just match their dresses and sashes properly? There's a story about Diana in Suzy Menkes' The Royal Jewels, which I've mentioned before: Diana was all prepped for a 1982 state visit from the Netherlands with a sugar pink gown and sapphires, until Queen Beatrix unexpectedly gave her an orange order to wear. In a panic, she found a new gown and sent to Buckingham Palace for a different necklace to wear. (The outcome is at right, where you can also see her wearing the giant sapphire brooch she would later turn into her signature choker, and her royal family order.) I have to tell you, though, that surprises like that are probably few and far between. State visits are planned to the tiniest detail. I suspect that - if this story is true in the first place - it was assumed she'd know there might be a sash coming her way.

Or perhaps a more likely story: no one figured she'd care. Attempting to find a perfect match to each and every order? Time consuming. Expensive. Probably gets more and more annoying as time rolls on. Though she used to wear colorful dresses, Queen Elizabeth now sticks to mostly white gowns at gala occasions. I suppose at some point, after decades of attempting to match, you just throw in the towel.
A rainbow of sashes, from (L to R): Jordan, France, Norway, Thailand, South Africa, the United Kingdom (of course), Poland, and Denmark

And that, friends, ends my digression on orders (unless there's something else about them you'd like to see a post on, of course, you can always let me know). Hopefully that will answer some of the questions; as always, there are many more levels of detail you can dig into with each and every specific order and country. Next time: new topic.
Photos: Aftenposten/vg.no/ANP/Scanpix/Getty Images/Daylife/Zimbio/Corbis