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Order of St Michael and St George

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Grand Cross's insignia

The most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry. It was started on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, who became King George IV of the United Kingdom.[1] It started when he was Prince Regent for his father, King George III.[2]

It is named in honour of two military saints, Saint Michael and Saint George.

Description[change | change source]

The Order has three classes, listed below from highest to lowest:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)[1]
  • Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)[1]
  • Companion (CMG)[1]

It is used to honour people who have done important things for the Commonwealth or foreign nations.[2]

People are appointed to the Order rather than given it. British Ambassadors to foreign nations are often appointed as KCMGs or CMGs. For example, the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir David Manning, was appointed a CMG when he worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

After his appointment as British Ambassador to the United States, he was promoted to a Knight Commander (KCMG). Often, when the Queen visits a nation, the British ambassador to that nation automatically becomes a Knight Commander of the Order, and afterwards they may use the title "Sir", before their name.

It is the normal award for members of the FCDO.

The Order's motto is Auspicium melioris ævi (Latin for "Token of a better age").[2] Its patron saints are Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint George. One of its primary symbols is that of St Michael standing over Satan.

The Order is the sixth-most important in the British honours system, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter (the highest British honour), The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, and The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.

The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick (for Ireland) has not been appointed since 1934 as the Republic of Ireland is no longer part of the United Kingdom. The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India has not been used since India's independence in 1947.

History[change | change source]

On the Order's insignia, St Michael is often depicted defeating Satan

The Order was started to remember the British protectorate over the Ionian Islands. The Islands had come under British control in 1814. It was given its own constitution as the United States of the Ionian Islands, in 1817.

The order was to reward people, who lived on their Ionian Islands and on Malta, who worked for the King.[2][3]

The protectorate ended in 1864, and the Ionian Islands became a part of Greece.

The reasons for being appointed to the Order were changed in 1868. Anyone who did important work in Queen Victoria's government (especially overseas) could be appointed. After this change, many Governors-General and Governors were appointed to the Order.[2]

Members of the Order[change | change source]

The British Sovereign is the Sovereign of the Order[2] and appoints all other members of the Order. The sovereign follow the advice of the Government.

After the sovereign, the next-most senior member is the Grand Master. The office used to be held by the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, but now they are chosen by the Sovereign.

Grand Masters include:

The number of members originally in the Order included:

  • 15 Knights Grand Cross (now there can be up to 125 Knights Grand Cross)[2]
  • 20 Knights Commander (now there can be up to 375 Knights Commander)[2]
  • 25 Companions (now there can be up to 1750 Companions)[2]

Members of the Royal Family who are appointed to the Order are not counted as part of these limits and neither are foreigners appointed as "honorary members"[2] (this means that they cannot use the title 'Sir'[4] or 'Dame',[5] and do not receive all the privileges of the order)

The Order has six officers:

  1. the Prelate (since May 2005, this has been the Rt Revd David Urquhart[6])
  2. the Chancellor
  3. the Secretary
  4. the Registrar
  5. the King of Arms of the Order of St Michael and St George
  6. the Usher.

The Order's King of Arms is not a member of the College of Arms.

The Usher of the Order is known as the Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod. He does not perform any duties related to the House of Lords, unlike the Usher of the Order of the Garter (the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod).

Clothing[change | change source]

Members of the Order wear decorated costumes on important occasions (such as coronations), which vary by rank:

Occasion Type Picture Description Grand Cross? Commander? Companion?
Very important occasions (such as coronations) Mantle
Mantle of the Order.
It is made of Saxon blue satin lined with crimson silk. On the left side is a picture of the star of the Order. The mantle is bound with two large tassels.
Collar worn by a Knight or Dame Grand Cross
It is made of gold and shows crowned lions, white enamelled Maltese Crosses, and the cyphers "SM" (for Saint Michael) and "SG" (for Saint George), which are repeated. In the centre are two winged lions, each holding a book and seven arrows, with a crown above. This is a reminder of the origin of the Order.[2]
Less important occasions Star (Grand Cross)
Representation of the star of a Knight or Dame Grand Cross
It is worn pinned to the left breast. The star includes seven-armed, silver-rayed 'Maltese Asterisk', with a gold ray in between each pair of arms. It has a red Cross of St George. In the centre of the star is a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order. Within the ring is a representation of Saint Michael trampling on Satan while holding a flaming sword.[2]
Star (Commander)
Star and badge of a Knight or Dame Commander
It is worn pinned to the left breast. The is slightly smaller than the Grand Cross star. It has an eight-pointed silver figure formed by two Maltese Crosses, which does not include any gold rays. It has a red Cross of St George. In the centre of the star is a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order. Within the ring is a representation of Saint Michael trampling on Satan while holding a flaming sword.[2]
Badge   It is carried on a blue/crimson/blue ribbon. Knights/Dames Grand Cross wear it on a sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip. Knights Commanders and male Companions wear the badge from a ribbon around the neck. Dames Commanders and female Companions wear it from a bow on the left shoulder. The badge is a seven-armed, white-enamelled 'Maltese Asterisk'. The front of the badge shows Saint Michael trampling on Satan, while the reverse shows Saint George on horseback killing a dragon, both within a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order.[2]

The Sovereign will name some days "collar days". On these days, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform or evening wear. When collars are worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge is hung from the collar.

All collars which have been awarded since 1948 must be returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. The other symbols can be kept..

Chapel[change | change source]

The original home of the Order was the Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu This was the home of the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. It was also the location of the Ionian Senate meetings.

Since 1906, the Order's chapel has been in St Paul's Cathedral in London.[2] (The Cathedral also serves as home to the chapels of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.) Religious services for the whole Order are held every four years. New Knights and Dames Grand Cross are 'installed' at these services (this means that they are officially appointed and make an oath of loyalty to the Sovereign).

The Sovereign and the Knights and Dames Grand Cross have stalls in the choir's area of the chapel.

Over their stall, their heraldic devices are displayed: The Knight's helm, decorated with a mantling (cloth tied to the helpmet) and topped by his crest (often an animal).

Under English heraldic law, women who are not monarchs do not bear helms or crests - this is because in the past, women did not fight in wars or tournaments, so they did not have a helmet. Instead of a helmet, Dames will have a coronet (a small crown). The exact design will depend on how important the Dame's is in society.

Above the crest or coronet hangs the Knight or Dame's heraldic banner, showing the coat of arms. At the back of the stall there is a piece of brass (a "stall plate") displaying its occupant's name, arms and date of admission into the Order. Upon the death of a Knight, the banner, helm, mantling and crest are taken down. The stall plates are not removed, but remain permanently placed somewhere in the stall, so that the stalls of the chapel are covered with a colourful record of the Order's Knights and Dames Grand Cross since 1906.

The reredos (decorated panels) within the chapel were designed by Henry Poole, in 1927.[7]

Precedence and privileges[change | change source]

Members of the Order of St Michael are given positions in the order of precedence (the order in which members of the nobility should be placed in a procession or other events). Wives of male members are also given positions in the order of precedence. So are sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders. Relatives of female members are not given any special precedence.

Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders use the title "Sir" before their given name, and Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commanders use "Dame". For example, John Smith and Jane Doe would be called Sir John Smith and Dame Jane Doe.

Wives of Knights may use the title "Lady" before their surname (for example Lady Smith), but husbands of Dames have no title.

These titles are not used by peers and princes, except when the names of peers are written out in their fullest forms. Honorary members (usually members from other countries) and clergymen do not receive the accolade or use the title.

Knights and Dames Grand Cross use the post-nominal "GCMG". Knights Commanders and Dames Commanders use "KCMG" and "DCMG" respectively. Companions use "CMG". Examples are:

  • Male Companion: John Smith CMG
  • Female Companion: Jane Doe CMG
  • Male Commander: Sir Fred Smith KCMG
  • Female Commander: Dame Joanna Doe DCMG
  • Male Grand Cross: Sir George Smith GCMG
  • Female Grand Cross: Dame Janice Doe GCMG

Knights and Dames Grand Cross are also allowed to receive heraldic supporters (figures on either side of the shield, which look like they are holding it up). These may be real or imaginary animals, or human figures. They may also surround their arms with the design of the circlet (a circle bearing the motto) and the collar. The circlet is shown either outside or on top of the collar.

Knights and Dames Commanders and Companions may display the circlet (but not the collar) around their arms. The badge is depicted hanging from the collar or circlet.

Popular references[change | change source]

In the satirical British television programme, Yes Minister, Jim Hacker MP is told an old joke[8] by his Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley, about what the different post-nominals mean.

Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for "Call Me God". And KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God".

Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?

Woolley: "God Calls Me God".

Ian Fleming's spy, James Bond, was appointed to the CMG, in 1953 (mentioned in the novel From Russia, with Love). He was offered the KCMG in The Man with the Golden Gun, but he would not take it, as he did not wish to become a public figure.

Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross[change | change source]

The Lord Tweedsmuir, a former Knight Grand Cross wearing the riband, badge and star of the order

Knights and Dames Grand Cross[change | change source]

Officers[change | change source]

Honorary Appointments[change | change source]

Select former recipients[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Duckers, Peter (2004). British Orders and Decorations. Shire Publications Ltd. pp. 26–27.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 "Order of St. Michael and St. George". The official web site of the British Monarchy. London, UK: The Royal Households of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  3. Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of knights. William Pickering. p. 206.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Honorary Knighthood for Kofi Annan". Daily Express. Northern and Shell Media. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2010. Mr Annan is not entitled to use the title "Sir" because he is not a British citizen.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "H.K.'s ex-No. 2 leader Anson Chan honored by Queen Elizabeth | Asian Economic News | Find Articles at BNET". Findarticles.com. 11 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2010. The honorary award allows Chan to use the initials GCMG after her name but not the title dame, the consulate said.
  6. "No. 57654". The London Gazette. 31 May 2005.
  7. Henry POOLE 1873–1928 Archived 2009-09-18 at the Wayback Machine (Tate Britain.) Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  8. Cross, Colin (1968). The Fall of the British Empire. London: Book Club Associates.
  9. Loo Lay Yen. "Our Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors : a biographical sketch : Our Chancellors.Ong Teng Cheong". Lib.nus.edu.sg. Archived from the original on 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  10. "Honorary Gcmg For Ryszard Kaczorowski". Fco.gov.uk. Retrieved 2009-10-28.[permanent dead link]
  11. "Peres dedicates honorary knighthood to State of Israel". Jerusalem Post. 21 November 2008. p. 22. Retrieved 2009-10-28.[permanent dead link]
  12. UK in Japan (British Embassy, Tokyo), "Queen honours Sadako Ogata," Archived 2011-12-09 at the Wayback Machine 14 September 2011; retrieved 2012-2-22.
  13. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Matsukata Masayoshi" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 618.
  14. Nussbaum, "Satow, Ernest Mason" at p. 829.
  15. Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Vol. I (107th ed.). Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. p. 554.
  16. Nussbaum, "Katō Takaaki" at p. 492; London Gazette, Issue 27913, p. 3324, May 15, 1906 Archived December 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-9-20.
  17. Nussbaum, "Sansom, George Bailey" at p. 822.

Other websites[change | change source]