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World Orders of Knighthood & Merit Title - Interesting Facts

World Orders of Knighthood & Merit is set to become the definitive guide to Orders for many years to come. Below you’ll find a selection of some of the more surprising content contained in this two volume, 2,100 page full-colour reference work.

  • The Order of Malta has reciprocal diplomatic relations with 93 states and Permanent Observer Membership in the United Nations.
  • The largest Order of Chivalry is the British Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, of which Queen Elizabeth II is Sovereign Head, which has approximately 30,000 members across the world.
  • The largest European national Order of Merit is the Italian Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, with approximately 800,000 members.
  • The most ancient royal Order is the Order of the Garter, founded by King Edward III, and today headed by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • The most exclusive European royal Order is the Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece, with just thirteen members, including one Emperor, seven reigning Kings or Queens, two former Kings, a former Grand Duke, the head of a former reigning royal house and the heir to the Spanish throne. 
  • The most exclusive Order of Knighthood is the Papal Order of the Golden Spur, with just one living knight, the former reigning Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg.
  • The Republic of Ireland has not founded any Orders although, under the British Monarchy, the Order of Saint Patrick was the third highest honour given by the British Sovereign. The refusal to award Orders, however, has not prevented Irish politicians from accepting foreign awards and knighthoods.
  • Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated the award of national honours (his text is given in the introduction), his birthplace, now Switzerland, has never had a system of national awards.
  • The new states that have emerged with the break up of the Soviet Empire have all founded honours systems, whose character depends on the political complexion of the new governments. 
  • The states that attained independence after the break up of Yugoslavia have together some fifty-eight Orders.
  • The most ancient Orders given by a Republic are the medieval Portuguese Orders of Christ, Aviz and Saint James of the Sword, but these were abolished in 1910 and revived seven years later in 1917.
  • The Polish Order of the White Eagle is the most ancient Order given by a republic that despite various changes in regime was never legally abolished. It founded in the early 18th century by King Augustus II, then taken over by the Russian Emperors until 1918 and instituted once again as the principal Polish Order in 1921; its awards were legally continued by the Presidents in exile under the insignia was handed over to democratically elected President Lech Walesa following the fall of communism.
  • The French Order of the Legion of Honour, with its distinctive five armed badge and red ribbon, is perhaps the best known Order, and although founded by Napoleon in 1802 survived every change of regime without a break. The Grand Chancellor of the Order is the fifth most senior officer of the French State. The Legion of Honour has provided the model for many of the later national Orders of Merit. 
  • The United States has never instituted a series of national civilian and military Orders, but the Legion of Merit given for military service by American and Foreign officers is closely modelled on the French Legion of Honour. The President of the US awards six presidential medals, which although considered high honours are not national but personal awards by the President. 
  • The US has a number of hereditary societies which resemble Orders, of which two were founded by officers who served in the two most momentous wars in US history, the war of Independence and the Civil War. These bodies, the Society of the Cincinnati and the Loyal Legion are included in Burke’s World Orders.
  • Heroes of Tajikstan receive a 100% increase in their annual salary, as well as payment of half of their annual rent and utilities and free vacations, as well as a gold medal.
  • Heroes of Turkmenistan do even better; in addition to the insignia they receive a one-off payment of $100,000 from the state foreign currency reserves, an income tax free increase of 100% in their wages, salaries or pensions, a 500% increase in their future retirement pension and preferential housing, medical and travel privileges.

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