Article by António M Trigueiros, Honorary Fellow of the Portuguese Academy of History, author and editor of such books as “The Journey of the Insignia. For Valour and Loyalty – 1808-2018”, “Portuguese Coins in the Age of Discovery”, and his latest book: “Our Lady of Conception of Portugal and Brazil”.
The three Portuguese military Orders of Chivalry that flourished during medieval and modern times underwent a fundamental change when Queen Mary I (1777-1790) converted them into secular Orders of Merit on June 10, 1789 and introduced a very limited number of Grand Crosses as the highest class to the existing two classes of Knights and Commanders. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the insignia of the Grand Crosses and Commanders were to be surmounted by a Holy Heart-of-Jesus decoration, as a sign of the great veneration of the Queen. This special addition to the ancient insignia would became a distinctive feature of the three Portuguese military Orders since 1789 up to the beginning of the Republican regime on October 5, 1910.
The Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Ordem Militar de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo) or just Order of Christ, was instituted in 1319 by King Denis (1279-1325) as the successor in Portugal of the Order of the Knights Templar. The progress made by the Order of Christ was so important and their possessions in Portugal, Madeira, on the Azores Islands, in Africa and Brazil became so considerable in the course of the celebrated Portuguese maritime discoveries, that in 1551 the Grand Mastership of the Order of Christ was forever united with the Crown of Portugal. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the Order of Christ became a Merit Order intended to honour the highest political, military and civilian posts and positions that had meritorious services to the Crown.
- Cross of the Order of Christ: a distinctive Latin cross, patty, enamelled red, with arms bent outwards and with a white Latin cross in the centre (also known as the Cross of Portugal).
- Sash or ribbon: plain red.
- Cross of the Order of Avis: a Latin cross fleury, enamelled green, with lily-shaped ornaments at the end of the four arms.
- Sash or ribbon: plain green.
- The Order of St. James of the Sword (A Ordem Militar de Sant’Iago da Espada) or just Order of Sant´Iago, was founded in Spain in 1170 in the name of St. Jacob of Compostella. In 1290 the Order’s Knights in Portugal separated themselves from the Grand Master in Castille and chose a Grand Master of their own. The Portuguese line of the Order was affirmed in 1320 by Pope John XXII and confirmed by Pope Nickolas V as an Independent Ecclesiastic Order of Knighthood. In 1551 King Joao III united the Grand Masterships of the Order of Christ and of the Order of Sant’Iago with the Crown of Portugal. Since then the Sovereigns and Heads of State of Portugal are Grand Masters of all three Military Orders of Christ, Avis, and Sant’Iago. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the Order of Sant´Iago was to be awarded to magistrates, for meritorious services in public administration, or to second-line military personnel. In 1862 new statutes changed the Order into an Order of Merit for science, literature and art.
- Ancient cross of the Order of Sant´Iago: a cross fleury, enamelled red, with the lower arm in the form of a sword, the upper arm ending with a short stylised lily and full lily shaped ornaments on the ends of the two side arms.
- Modern cross of the Order of Sant´Iago: from the statutes of October 31, 1862 the name of the Order was changed to include a reference to scientific, literary and artistic merit. The new badges and stars show the lettering: “Scientias, Letras e Artes” (during King Carlos I [1889-1908]: Ciencias, Letras e Artes) linking the lower arm to the two side arms.
- Sash or ribbon: plain violet (until 1796 the colour of the ribbon was red like that of the Order of Christ)
- Badge: An oval showing within three smaller ovals the crosses of the three Orders [the cross of Christ above, of Avis left, and of Sant’Iago right, each of the crosses having normally a small Heart-of-Jesus decoration];
- Sash: three equal stripes of green, red, and violet (before 1796 red, green, and red)
Number of bestowals, 1789-1910: 68 (of which, 31 from 1862-1910)
- Badge: Like the badge of the BTO but with only two crosses, the cross of Christ left and of Avis right.
- Sash: two equal stripes of red and green
Number of bestowals, 1789-1910: 51 (of which, 45 from 1834-1910)
The Riband of the Two Orders of Christ and Sant´Iago (A Banda das Duas Ordens Militares de Cristo e Santiago). For a short period during the reign of King John VI, the cross of Sant´Iago exchanged place with the cross of Avis in its position in the BTO insignia, originating in 1825 a new type of insignia, the Riband of the Two Orders of Christ and Sant´Iago.
Only two of this very special type of insignia were bestowed, one in March 17, 1825 to Maximilian Maria, Royal Prince of Saxony; the other to Prince Michael of Portugal, future king Michael I (1823-1829-1834).
- Badge: Like the badge of the BDO but with the cross of Christ left and the ancient cross of Sant´Iago right
- Sash: two equal stripes of red and violet
Number of bestowals, 1825-1829: 2