Since 1975 Swedish subjects have not been conferred any orders of knighthood for services rendered to their country. When the awarding system was abolished in 1974 Sweden however still had to be able to reward foreigners for services towards Swedish interests and in connection with state visits. The Order of the Seraphim (reserved for heads of state) and the Order of the Polar Star remained in use but the Orders of the Sword and the Vasa became dormant. The ribbon of the later order was changed from black to blue with yellow side stripes.
Exhibition of the pre-1974 orders of Sweden at the Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood
Since 1975 there have been over 130 submitted motions to the Swedish Parliament concerning the restoring of the Swedish Awarding system. In 2019 a Parliamentary Committee was appointed with the consent of all political parties to consider and propose a new system for honouring meritorious achievements in society. The Committee presented their result on 21 September 2021 to the Government. Unlike how the system of orders was used before 1975 the intention is that a modern system of honours should identify achievements from a much broader perspective than merely long service. In other words, ’a system that recognises the achievements that are worth honouring, irrespective of a person’s position in society and irrespective of where in society the achievement has been performed.’
The renewed national system of honours includes the Royal Order of the Seraphim (inst. in 1748), the Royal Order of the Sword (1748), the Royal Order of the Polar Star (1748) and, the Royal Order of Vasa (1772). An independent counsel is to be established with the task of reviewing nominations received and giving their opinion to the Government. The purpose is to maintain the integrity of the system and to bolster confidence in the awarding system of the orders of knighthood. This is to eliminate the risk that the new system appears to be ’politically coloured’. This council is proposed to be placed within the organizational framework of Kungl. Maj:ts Orden, The Chancery of the Royal Orders of Knighthood.
The Committee’s assessment is that the modern system of honours should welcome nominations from all parts of the Swedish society to increase the possibility of finding achievements worth honouring. New is thus that it should therefore be possible for everyone to nominate someone who has performed a meritorious achievement worthy to be honoured with an order. The orders are conferred in relation to various categories, as indicated in the statute of each order. The Order of the Seraphim is used for members of the Swedish Royal Family and especially for heads of state or persons of comparable status. The Order of the Sword is conferred on military personnel for achievements in military service. The Order of the Polar Star is conferred for public activities while the Order of Vasa is conferred especially for achievements in private activities. The special Military Cross of the Order of the Sword is for bravery in combat. The Medal of the Order of the Polar Star with a special emblem on the ribbon can also be used to reward personal courage and presence of mind shown in operations by, for example, the police force, the fire brigades etc.
On 13 April 2022, the Government left their proposition for a modern, public awarding system and flag days to the parliament. On the recommendation of the Parliament’s Committee on the Constitution, the Swedish Parliament confirmed on 15 June 2022 that the new awarding system is to be taken into use from 1 January 2023.