The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Ital. Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata) was the highest dynastic Roman Catholic order of knighthood of the House of Savoy and the Italian Kingdom. It ranks in status with the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Golden Fleece.
The origin of the Order dates back to 1362, when Amadeus IV, Count of Savoy, founded the Order of the Collar. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is celebrated as ‘Our Lady of the Annunciation.’ To commemorate the ‘fifteen joys of the Virgin,’ the Order initially had fifteen Knights and fifteen Chaplains, who said fifteen masses every day; the Order’s original statutes had fifteen clauses.
The Order was reserved only for members of the nobility, who swore allegiance to their sovereign. The main rule declared all knights equal among themselves, united in a military and religious ‘fraternity.’ This is probably why the Order has only one rank. All the Knights had an equal say in the decisions concerning the admission of new members, who were elected unanimously.
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation ceased to be a national order when the kingdom became a republic in 1946. Today, it continues as a dynastic order under the jurisdiction of the Head of the House of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, who is the Order’s hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master.