The Swedish Orders of Chivalry Revived – Swedish Citizens are Eligible to be Honoured Once Again
On 15 June 2022, the Swedish Parliament reached a decision that the Swedish Awarding system is to be re-instituted, and Swedish citizens shall once again be honoured with orders of chivalry for services rendered to the State. The Government confirmed the re-institution of the orders of chivalry – ’Sweden’s highest honours’ – by decree of 15 December 2022 (SFS 2022:1800/The Swedish Code of Statutes), which came into force on 1 February 2023 (decree signed by the Minister of Justice on 2 February 2023) with regulations concerning the Swedish Orders of Chivalry. The Chapter of the Royal Orders [of Chivalry] confirmed the statutes in an extra Chapter meeting on 15 February 2023 in the presence of H. M. The King. The first conferments are expected later this year.
One significant new addition is that anyone can nominate a person for an order of chivalry.
The Royal Orders of Chivalry – A short survey
The Order of the Seraphim
- Was instituted in 1748 by King Friedrich I of Sweden on the recommendation of the Council of the Kingdom.
- It is the highest order and has one class – Knight or Member.
- Before 1975 it could be awarded to Swedish subjects no lower than lieutenant-general or Grand Cross Commanders of the Order of the Sword, the Polar Star or the Vasa. The order could also be conferred on foreign royalties, Heads of State or equal.
- The riband is light blue.
- A knight (member) of the order has to present his (her) coat-of-arms together with a device for his (her) escutcheon. Upon the death of a night (member), the bells are tolled in the Riddarholmen Church on the day of the funeral. After that, the escutcheon is placed on the church walls.
Order of the Seraphim, Grand Cross
The Order of the Sword
- Is a military order of merit, instituted in 1748 by King Fredrik I on the recommendation of the Council of the Kingdom, to reward Swedish officers for bravery and meritorious service in war-time and for long meritorious service in peace-time, also awarded to foreigners.
- Originally in two classes, today five: Commander Grand Cross (1772), Commander First Class (1873), Commander (1748), Knight First Class (1889) and Knight (1748).
- As a special class to be awarded only when Sweden is at war, King Gustaf III added in 1778 the Knight with the Great Cross, divided into two classes in 1814.
- In 1850 the Badge of the Sword for non-commissioned officers was added together with the Sword Medal for non-commissioned officers as corporals, constables, and enlisted men.
- In 1952 the War Cross of the Sword (in gold, silver and bronze) was added, never hitherto awarded in peace-time.
- The order was dormant between 1975 and 2022.
- Women in military service can be conferred the order from now on.
- The riband is yellow with blue side stripes.
Order of the Sword, Commander 1st Class
Order of the Polar Star, Commander 1st Class
The Order of the Polar Star
- Is a civil order of merit instituted in 1748 by King Friedrich I on the recommendation of the Council of the Kingdom.
- Up to 1975, the order was awarded for services to the community, long and meritorious civil service, scientific achievements and services rendered to culture and society, also awarded to foreigners. From 1952 women could be awarded the order.
- Originally in two classes, today five: Commander Grand Cross (1844), Commander First Class (1873), Commander (1748), Knight or Member (1748/1975) First Class, and Knight or Member (1975).
- In 1986 the Polar Star Medal was added to the order.
- In connection with the new regulations of 1974, the original black riband was changed to a light blue with yellow edge stripes.
- Between 1975 and 2022, the order was only conferred on foreigners in recognition of personal services rendered to Sweden or for promoting Swedish interests and in connection with state visits.
Order of the Vasa, Commander 1st Class
The Order of Vasa
- Is a civil order of merit instituted by King Gustaf III in 1772 to reward merits within the fields of agriculture, art and music, commercial services, mining industry, trade and shipping, handicraft and education. A ‘free order’ not related to seniority or nobility, also awarded to foreigners.
- Originally in three classes, now five: Commander Grand Cross (1772), Commander First Class (1873), Commander (1772), Knight or Member First Class and Second Class (1889).
- The original badge was oval-shaped up to 1860 when the present cross form was introduced.
- From 1952 women could be awarded the order.
- The Badge of Vasa (1895) was intended only for foreigners and was in silver.
- A male holder was called ’Vasa Man’.
- The Vasa Medal (1895) was up to 1974 awarded for general merits to personnel within departments as well for civil services within the armed forces. The medal came in two sizes. The smaller in silver was, after 1944, only awarded to foreigners in connection with state visits.
- The order was dormant between 1975 and 2022.
- The riband is green.
News in the Regulations
Up to 1974, the regulations of 1952 were in force. The new, revised regulations of 15 February 2023 are based on these with additional Instructions. These instructions for the Royal Chancery deal with its internal organization, the design of the decorations, and their wearing.
The new Order of Succession to the Swedish Throne, adopted in 1980, has an amendment to the first paragraph: His Majesty The King or Her Majesty The Queen is the Grand Master of the Orders. These are the Order of the Seraphim, the Order of the Sword, the Order of the Polar Star, and the Order of the Vasa, which can be conferred upon natural persons. The orders will be awarded hence as follows (new wording):
- The hereditary Prince or Princess of the Swedish Royal House is a knight (member) of the Order of the Seraphim by birth. The Grand Master decides on the conferment individually for each hereditary Prince and Princess. They start wearing the insignia from the day on which he or she comes of age. In addition, the Grand Master can confer the Order of the Seraphim upon other members of the Royal House and, on the recommendation of the Swedish Government, preferably on Heads of State and persons in the same category.
- The Order of the Sword can be conferred upon military personnel within the branch for personal achievements for Sweden or Swedish interests.
- The Order of the Polar Star can be conferred upon a person for personal contributions done for Sweden or Swedish interests, especially within public service, and for successfully accomplished tasks.
- The Order of Vasa can be conferred upon a person for personal contributions done for Sweden or Swedish interests, especially within non-public service, and for successfully accomplished tasks and pursuits.
- All three orders of merit can be conferred upon foreign nationals.
- The Grand Master confers the orders upon the recommendation of the Government or, concerning protocol conferment, upon the recommendation of the Foreign Ministry. Notably, the regulations emphasize that equal treatment, objectivity, and impartiality shall characterize the work at the Royal Chancery. It is further stipulated that a person’s extraordinary achievements for Sweden or Swedish interests are essential. A person’s position in society, office or occupation shall not guide the nomination for an order of chivalry. Decisions are confirmed in the Chapter of the Royal Orders.
The administration of affairs related to orders of chivalry has been revised, and the present offices are: Chancellor, vice chancellor, secretary and treasurer – all appointed by the Grand Master. The Chancellor appoints all other personnel. The remaining chancellery staff are the clerk, the archivist, the historiographer, the intendant, the amanuensis, the herald and the armorial painter for the coat-of-arms of the Order of the Seraphim.
An Advisory Board of the Orders (Swedish Ordensråd) is attached to the Royal Chancery and the Chapter. This is entirely new but exists in some countries. The board consists of eight persons, and it evaluates carefully in detail the propositions put forward for a nomination to an order of chivalry or a medal. These nominations will be forwarded to the Government. The board is connected to the Chapter, and the Government appoints its members for a period of four years with the possibility of an additional four years term. The members shall have high personal integrity, be well respected in society and reflect Swedish society. Additionally, an [expert] adviser from the Government chancery, without being a member of the board, can attend the meetings to express an opinion as well as an [expert] adviser from the Armed Forces concerning the Order of the Sword. The council will apply the rule regarding conflict of interest (SFS2017:900).
Changes in the badges of the Orders
The language in the new regulations of the orders of chivalry has been revised, and the decorations are now equally described. In the regulations of 1952, there remained a lot of elderly wordings from 1902, which are now corrected and updated. The design of the decorations of the orders is unchanged.
The Orders of the Sword and Vasa, having been dormant since 1975, are being conferred again upon Swedish and foreign subjects.
The various classes are unchanged, with one exception. The smaller Vasa Medals are abolished. All the medals belonging to one of the orders are now in the larger size.
The Military Cross. A specimen manufactured in 2007.
The War Cross of the Order of the Sword, added in 1952, is renamed the Military Cross and comes in three categories: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Special stipulations for this award were never confirmed in 1952. Now, with foreign corresponding gallantry awards serving as a model, it is stipulated for which deeds the various categories can be conferred:
- the Military Cross in gold is conferred for individual gallantry, resourcefulness or a brave deed in battle at the risk of one’s life as well as extraordinary perseverance and resolution in resolving an assignment. The award can also be conferred for extraordinary leadership of a unit in combat under difficult circumstances;
- the Military Cross in silver is conferred for individual gallantry, resourcefulness or a brave deed in battle at the risk of one’s life;
- the Military Cross in bronze is conferred for resourcefulness and brave deeds in battle.
Due to its special character as an individual award, the form of the decoration differs from the others of the Order of the Sword. It is stylized in a modern form. A drawing or sketch made in 1959 by the heraldic artist and painter Bengt Olof Kälde, according to the description of the decoration in the regulations of 1952, serves as the model.
Polar Star badge. A new class has been added to the Order. Prototype from 2022
- To the Order of the Polar Star is added a Polar Star badge by analogy with the badges of the Orders of the Sword and the Vasa.
- To the Polar Star Medal is added a new class in silver, in analogy with the Vasa Medals.
- The Polar Star medals can hence also be conferred with a clasp for a special deed, such as resourcefulness and gallantry in a dangerous situation.
- The old black riband is restored.
The decorations of the Swedish orders of chivalry have been manufactured since 2014 by the Atelier Borgila Company, which was founded in the 1920s by the designer Erik Fleming. The company was taken over by Henrik Ingemansson in 2005, and he was appointed purveyor to His Majesty The King the same year.