Character and Recognition of the Orders

The International Commission for Orders of Chivalry was founded at the fifth International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, at Stockholm, 21-28 August 1960. This Congress, held under the High Patronage of H.R.H. Prince Bertil of Sweden, was presided over by Baron Carl Hamilton of Hageby, President; Baron Giovanni di Giura, Vice President; Marquis de Desio, Vice President; Count Thierry de Limburg-Stirum, Vice President; Mr. Invar Andersson, Vice President and Mr. Gunnar Scheffer, Director of the Swedish State Heraldry Service, Secretary General.

On the 14 September 1960, the Commission made its report on the principles involved in assessing the validity of Orders of Chivalry and these were accepted by the Congress. Although it may be true that numerous attacks were made on the Commission due to the inclusion of Orders or stances in favour of one or other of the claimants in dynastic disputes, it should also be mentioned that the study of chivalric orders and awards systems is open to manifold interpretations, mainly because there is no supreme authority (except for the Holy See which is limited to Catholic orders of chivalry) which is able to resolve definitively and without controversy the various protests and disputes. Even among specialists personal opinions are numerous and, at times, also open to radical changes, even without these being motivated by new serious elements of judgement (source: ICOC history).

Dynastic Nature

The Imperial Orders meet the ICOC-principles for dynastic orders. They are not listed by the ICOC because they cannot be seen as knightly or chivalric orders. The Imperial Orders are of a dynastic orders nature as defined by the ICOC:

The Dynastic (or Family or House) Orders which belong jure sanguinis to a Sovereign House (that is to those ruling or ex-ruling Houses whose sovereign rank was internationally recognised at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 or later) retain their full historical chivalric, nobiliary and social validity, notwithstanding all political changes. It is therefore considered ultra vires of any republican State to interfere, by legislation or administrative practice, with the Princely Dynastic Family or House Orders. That they may not be officially recognised by the new government does not affect their traditional validity or their accepted status in international heraldic, chivalric and nobiliary circles.

The recognition of Orders by States or supranational organisations which themselves do not have chivalric orders of their own, and in whose Constitutions no provisions are made for the recognition of knightly and nobiliary institutions, cannot be accepted as constituting validation by sovereignties, since these particular sovereignties have renounced the exercise of heraldic jurisdiction. The international “status” of an Order of Knighthood rests, in fact, on the rights of fons honorum, which, according to tradition, must belong to the Authority by which this particular Order is granted, protected or recognised.

Légion d’honneur

The ancient imperial Orders were approved to wear in France by the Légion d’honneur (Chambers Journal XI, jan-jun-1859 Order Saint Faustin). The Legion of Honour is a national order of France, meaning a public incorporated body. The Legion is regulated by a civil law code, the Code of The Legion of Honour and of the Military Medal. While the President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order, day-to-day running is entrusted to the Grand Chancery (Grande Chancellerie de la Légion d’Honneur).