Order of St Michael and St George

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is a British order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later King George IV,[1][2] while he was acting as regent for his father, King George III.

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George
Collar and Badge of the Grand Cross
Awarded by

Sovereign of the United Kingdom
TypeOrder of chivalry
Established28 April 1818
MottoAuspicium Melioris Ævi
Token of a Better Age
Awarded forAt the monarch's pleasure
StatusCurrently constituted
FounderPrince George, Prince Regent
SovereignQueen Elizabeth II
Grand MasterPrince Edward, Duke of Kent
GradesKnight/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)
Knight/Dame Commander (KCMG/DCMG)
Companion (CMG)
Next (higher)Order of the Star of India
Next (lower)Order of the Indian Empire

Ribbon bar of the Order of St Michael and St George

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

The Order of St Michael and St George was originally awarded to those holding commands or high position in the Mediterranean territories acquired in the Napoleonic Wars, and was subsequently extended to holders of similar office or position in other territories of the British Empire.[2] It is at present awarded to men and women who hold high office or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country, and can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.[2]


The Order includes three classes, in descending order of seniority and rank:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)[1][2]
  • Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)[1][2]
  • Companion (CMG)[1][2]

It is used to honour individuals who have rendered important services in relation to Commonwealth or foreign nations. People are appointed to the Order rather than awarded it. British Ambassadors to foreign nations are regularly appointed as KCMGs or CMGs. For example, the former British Ambassador to the United States, Sir David Manning, was appointed a CMG when he worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and then after his appointment as British Ambassador to the US, he was promoted to a Knight Commander (KCMG). It is the traditional award for members of the FCO.

The Order's motto is Auspicium melioris ævi (Latin for "Token of a better age"). Its patron saints, as the name suggests, are St. Michael the Archangel, and St. George, patron saint of England. One of its primary symbols is that of St Michael trampling over and subduing Satan in battle.

The Order is the sixth-most senior in the British honours system, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, 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 third of the aforementioned Orders—which relates to Ireland, no longer fully a part of the United Kingdom—still exists but is in disuse; no appointments have been made to it since 1936. The last of the Orders on the list, related to India, has also been in disuse since that country's independence in 1947.


The Prince Regent founded the Order to commemorate the British amical protectorate over the Ionian Islands, which had come under British control in 1814 and had been granted their own constitution as the United States of the Ionian Islands in 1817. It was intended to reward "natives of the Ionian Islands and of the island of Malta and its dependencies, and for such other subjects of His Majesty as may hold high and confidential situations in the Mediterranean".[3]

In 1864, however, the protectorate ended and the Ionian Islands became part of Greece. A revision of the basis of the Order in 1868, saw membership granted to those who "hold high and confidential offices within Her Majesty's colonial possessions, and in reward for services rendered to the Crown in relation to the foreign affairs of the Empire". Accordingly, numerous Governors-General and Governors feature as recipients of awards in the order.

In 1965 the order was opened to women,[4] with Evelyn Bark becoming the first female CMG in 1967.[5]


The British Sovereign is the Sovereign of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order (by convention, on the advice of the Government). The next-most senior member is the Grand Master. The office was formerly filled by the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands; now, however, Grand Masters are chosen by the Sovereign. Grand Masters include:

The Order originally included 15 Knights Grand Cross, 20 Knights Commanders, and 25 Companions but has since been expanded and the current limits on membership are 125, 375, and 1,750 respectively. Members of the Royal Family who are appointed to the Order do not count towards the limit, nor do foreign members appointed as "honorary members".


The Order has six officers. The Order's King of Arms is not a member of the College of Arms, like many other heraldic officers. The Usher of the Order is known as the Gentleman or Lady Usher of the Blue Rod. Blue Rod does not, unlike the usher of the Order of the Garter, perform any duties related to the House of Lords.

Habit and insignia

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

  • The mantle, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of Saxon blue satin lined with crimson silk. On the left side is a representation of the star (see below). The mantle is bound with two large tassels.
  • The collar, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of gold. It consists of depictions of crowned lions, Maltese Crosses, and the cyphers "SM" and "SG", all alternately. In the centre are two winged lions, each holding a book and seven arrows.

At less important occasions, simpler insignia are used:

  • The star is an insignia used only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commanders. It is worn pinned to the left breast. The Knight and Dame Grand Cross' star includes seven-armed, silver-rayed 'Maltese Asterisk' (for want of a better description—see image of badge), with a gold ray in between each pair of arms. The Knight and Dame Commander's star is a slightly smaller eight-pointed silver figure formed by two Maltese Crosses; it does not include any gold rays. In each case, the star bears 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 St Michael trampling on Satan.
  • The badge is the only insignia used by all members of the Order; it is suspended on a blue-crimson-blue ribbon. Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear it on a riband or 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' (see Maltese Cross); the obverse shows St Michael trampling on Satan, while the reverse shows St George on horseback killing a dragon, both within a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order.

On certain "collar days" designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform or morning wear. When collars are worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge is suspended 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 insignia may be retained.


The original home of the Order was the Palace of St. Michael and St. George in Corfu, the residence of the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands and the seat of the Ionian Senate. Since 1906, the Order's chapel has been in St Paul's Cathedral in London. (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 quadrennially; new Knights and Dames Grand Cross are installed at these services.

The Sovereign and the Knights and Dames Grand Cross are allotted stalls in the choir of the chapel, above which their heraldic devices are displayed. Perched on the pinnacle of a knight's stall is his helm, decorated with a mantling and topped by his crest. Under English heraldic law, women other than monarchs do not bear helms or crests; instead, the coronet appropriate to the dame's rank, if there is one, is used. Above the crest or coronet, the stall's occupant's heraldic banner is hung, emblazoned with his or her coat of arms. At a considerably smaller scale, to the back of the stall is affixed 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, however, are not removed; rather, they remain permanently affixed somewhere about the stall, so that the stalls of the chapel are festooned with a colourful record of the Order's Knights and Dames Grand Cross since 1906.

The reredos within the chapel were commissioned from Henry Poole in 1927.[6]

Precedence and privileges

Members of the Order of St Michael are assigned positions in the order of precedence in England and Wales. Wives of male members also feature on the order of precedence, as do sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders; relatives of female members, however, are not assigned any special precedence. (As a general rule, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.)

Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders prefix "Sir", and Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commanders prefix "Dame", to their forenames. Wives of Knights may prefix "Lady" to their surnames, but no equivalent privilege exists for husbands of Dames. Such forms are not used by peers and princes, except when the names of the former are written out in their fullest forms. Furthermore, honorary (foreign) members and clergymen do not receive the accolade and thus are not entitled to use the prefix "Sir" or "Dame". Knights and Dames Grand Cross use the post-nominal "GCMG"; Knights Commanders and Dames Commanders use "KCMG" and "DCMG" respectively; Companions use "CMG".

Knights and Dames Grand Cross are also entitled to receive heraldic supporters. They may, furthermore, encircle their arms with a depiction of the circlet (a circle bearing the motto) and the collar; the former is shown either outside or on top of the latter. Knights and Dames Commanders and Companions may display the circlet, but not the collar, surrounding their arms. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar or circlet.

In the satirical British television programme Yes Minister, Jim Hacker MP is told an old joke[7] by his Private Secretary Bernard Woolley about what the various post-nominals stand for. From Season 2, Episode 2 "Doing the Honours":

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

Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?
Woolley (deadpan): "God Calls Me God".

Both sexes use the same post-nominals, except that there is a distinctly female form of Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George. This is Dame Commander of St. Michael and St George (DCMG).

Ian Fleming's spy, James Bond, a commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was fictionally decorated with the CMG in 1953. (This is mentioned in the novels From Russia, with Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and on-screen in his obituary in Skyfall.) He was offered the KCMG (which would have elevated him from Companion to Knight Commander in the Order) in The Man with the Golden Gun, but he rejected the offer as he did not wish to become a public figure. Dame Judi Dench's character "M" is "offered" early retirement and a GCMG in Skyfall after a series of events resulting in the loss of a list that named every NATO espionage operative.

Long-time Doctor Who companion Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart wore the ribbon of the order as the highest of his decorations in the series' classic era.

Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross

(NOTE: For clarity, the table denotes holders of the GCMG only; all other posts-nominal shown, for respective members, are for the sake of completeness alone.)

Knights and Dames Grand Cross

NumberNamePost-nominalsKnown forYear
1 Sayyid Sir Jamshid bin Abdullah of ZanzibarGCMGSultan of Zanzibar1963
2 The Duke of KentKG GCMG GCVORoyal family1967
3 Dame Elmira Minita GordonGCMG GCVOGovernor General of Belize1984
4 Sir Antony AclandKG GCMG GCVOBritish diplomat1986
5 Sir Crispin TickellGCMG KCVOBritish diplomat1989
6 The Lord Wright of RichmondGCMGBritish diplomat1989
7 Sir Shridath RamphalGCMG AC ONZ OE OM OCC QCSecretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations1990
8 Sir Michael SomareGCL GCMG CH CF KStJ SSI KSG PCPrime Minister of Papua New Guinea1990
9 Dame Catherine TizardGCMG GCVO DBE QSO ONZGovernor General of New Zealand1990
10 The Lord Wilson of TillyornKT GCMGGovernor of Hong Kong1991
11 Sir Wiwa KorowiGCMGGovernor General of Papua New Guinea1992
12 Sir James CarlisleGCMGGovernor General of Antigua and Barbuda1993
13 Sir Rodric BraithwaiteGCMGBritish diplomat1994
14 Sir Julius ChanGCL GCMG KBEPrime Minister of Papua New Guinea1994
15 Sir Colville YoungGCMG MBEGovernor General of Belize1994
16 The Lord Hannay of ChiswickGCMG CHBritish diplomat1995
17 Sir Orville TurnquestGCMG QCGovernor General of the Bahamas1995
18 Sir Michael Hardie BoysGNZM GCMG QSOGovernor General of New Zealand1996
19 Sir Christopher MallabyGCMG GCVOBritish diplomat1996
20 Sir Tulaga ManuellaGCMGGovernor General of Tuvalu1996
21 Sir Daniel WilliamsGCMGGovernor General of Grenada1996
22 Sir John ColesGCMGBritish diplomat1997
23 Sir Silas AtopareGCL GCMGGovernor General of Papua New Guinea1998
24 Sir John LapliGCMGGovernor General of the Solomon Islands1999
25 Dame Pearlette LouisyGCMGGovernor General of Saint Lucia1999
26 Sir Andrew WoodGCMGBritish diplomat2001
27 Sir John GouldenGCMGBritish diplomat2001
28 The Lord Kerr of KinlochardGCMGBritish diplomat2001
29 Sir Tomasi PuapuaGCMG KBE PCGovernor General of Tuvalu2002
30 Sir David WrightGCMG LVOBritish diplomat2002
31 Sir Frederick BallantyneGCMGGovernor General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines2002
32 Sir Jeremy GreenstockGCMGBritish diplomat2003
33 Sir Rob YoungGCMGBritish diplomat2003
34 The Lord Robertson of Port EllenKT GCMG PCSecretary General of NATO2004
35 Sir Stephen WallGCMG LVOBritish diplomat2004
36 Sir Paulias MataneGCL GCMG OBEGovernor General of Papua New Guinea2005
37 Sir Nathaniel WaenaGCMG CSI KStJGovernor General of Solomon Islands2005
38 The Lord Jay of EwelmeGCMGBritish diplomat2006
39 Sir Emyr Jones ParryGCMGBritish diplomat2007
40 Sir Kenneth O. HallGCMG OJGovernor General of Jamaica2007
41 Dame Louise Lake-TackGCMGGovernor General of Antigua and Barbuda2007
42 Sir David ManningGCMG KCVOBritish diplomat2008
43 Sir Carlyle GleanGCMGGovernor General of Grenada2008
44 Sir Patrick AllenON GCMG CDGovernor General of Jamaica2009
45 Sir Frank KabuiGCMG OBE CSIGovernor General of Solomon Islands2009
46 Sir Arthur FoulkesGCMGGovernor General of the Bahamas2010
47 Sir Iakoba ItaleliGCMGGovernor General of Tuvalu2010
48 The Lord RickettsGCMG GCVOBritish diplomat2011
49 Sir Nigel SheinwaldGCMGBritish diplomat2011
50 Sir Elliott BelgraveGCMG QCGovernor General of Barbados2012
51 Dame Cécile La GrenadeGCMG OBEGovernor General of Grenada2013
52 Sir Edmund LawrenceGCMG OBEGovernor General of Saint Kitts and Nevis2013
53 Dame Marguerite PindlingGCMGGovernor General of the Bahamas2014
54 Sir Rodney WilliamsGCMGGovernor General of Antigua and Barbuda2014
55 The Baroness Ashton of UphollandGCMG PCBritish diplomat2015
56 Sir John SawersGCMGBritish diplomat2015
57 Sir Tapley SeatonGCMG CVO QC JPGovernor General of Saint Kitts and Nevis2015
58 Sir Simon FraserGCMGBritish diplomat2016
59 Sir Peter WestmacottGCMG LVOBritish diplomat2016
60 Sir Robert DadaeGCMGGovernor General of Papua New Guinea2017
61 Dame Sandra MasonGCMG DA QCGovernor General of Barbados2017
62 Sir Mark Lyall GrantGCMGBritish diplomat & National Security Adviser2018
63 Sir Neville CenacGCMGGovernor General of Saint Lucia2018
64 Sir Cornelius A. SmithGCMGGovernor General of the Bahamas2019
65 Sir David VunagiGCMGGovernor General of Solomon Islands2019


Honorary Knights/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)

NamePost-NominalsKnown forYear
Qaboos bin Said al SaidGCB GCMG GCVOSultan of Oman1976
Vigdís FinnbogadóttirGCB GCMGFormer President of Iceland1982
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of BruneiGCB GCMGSultan of Brunei1984
Abdelaziz bin Khalifa Al ThaniGCMGMember of the royal family of Qatar1985
Gyanendra of NepalGCMGFormer king of Nepal1986
Fidel V. RamosGCMGFormer President of the Philippines1995
Aleksander KwaśniewskiGCB GCMGFormer President of Poland1996
Maumoon Abdul GayoomGCMGFormer President of the Maldives1997[8]
Nawaz SharifGCMGFormer Prime Minister of Pakistan1997
Hamad bin Khalifa Al ThaniGCB GCMGFormer Emir of Qatar1997
Carlos MenemGCMGFormer President of Argentina1998
Ernesto ZedilloGCMGFormer President of Mexico1998
Alberto FujimoriGCMGFormer President of Peru1998
János MartonyiGCMGFormer Minister of Foreign Affairs1999[8]
Abdullah II of JordanGCB GCMG KCVOKing of Jordan1999
Friis Arne PetersenGCMGFormer Secretary of State of Denmark2000
Giuliano AmatoGCMGFormer Prime Minister of Italy2000
Lamberto DiniGCMGFormer Prime Minister of Italy2000
Umberto VattaniGCMGFormer Secretary General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs2000
Emil ConstantinescuGCMGFormer President of Romania2000
Thabo MbekiGCB GCMGFormer President of South Africa2000
Nursultan NazarbayevGCMGFormer President of Kazakhstan2000
Ali Abu al-RaghebGCMGFormer Prime Minister of Jordan2001
Jorge SampaioGCMGFormer President of Portugal2001
Anson ChanGBM GCMG CBE JPFormer Chief Secretary of Hong Kong[9]
Vicente FoxGCMGFormer President of Mexico2002[8]
Xanana GusmãoGCMG, GCL, CNZMFormer Prime Minister of East Timor2003
Hamid KarzaiGCMGFormer President of Afghanistan2003
Alfred MoisiuGCMGFormer President of Albania2003
Włodzimierz CimoszewiczGCMGFormer Prime Minister of Poland2004
Gianfranco FiniGCMGFormer Deputy Prime Minister of Italy2005
Mohammed bin Rashid Al MaktoumGCMGPrime Minister of the United Arab Emirates2010[10]
Mohammed bin Zayed Al NahyanGCMGCrown Prince of Abu Dhabi2010[11]
Sabah Al Khalid Al SabahGCMGDeputy Prime Minister of Kuwait2012[12]
Manuel VallsGCMGFormer Prime Minister of France2014[13]
Marie Louise Coleiro PrecaGCMGFormer President of Malta2015[14]

Honorary Knights/Dames Commander (KCMG/DCMG)

NamePost-NominalsKnown forYear
Hamad bin Isa Al KhalifaKCMGKing of Bahrain1979
Henry KissingerKCMGFormer United States Secretary of State1995
Frederico Cezar de AraujoKCMGBrazilian diplomat1997
Gelson FonsecaKCMGBrazilian diplomat1997
Affonso Emilio de Alencastro MassotKCMGBrazilian diplomat1997
Takekazu KawamuraKCMGJapanese diplomat1998
Henrik SchmiegelowKCMGGerman diplomat1998
Carl BildtKCMGFormer Prime Minister of Sweden1998[15]
József SzájerKCMGFormer Chairman of the European Integration Select Committee1999
Jan MarcussenKCMGDanish diplomat2000
Carmela Decaro BonellaDCMGFormer Deputy Director General and Director of the President of Italy’s Office2000
Luigo Guidobono CavalchiniKCMGFormer Private Secretary to the Foreign Minister of Italy2000
Francesco OlivieriKCMGFormer Diplomatic Adviser to the Prime Minister of Italy2000
Javier SolanaKCMGFormer Secretary General of NATO2000
Richard ArmitageKCMG, CNZM, ACFormer United States Deputy Secretary of State2005
Fazle Hasan AbedKCMGFounder and chairman of BRAC2010
Jaap de Hoop SchefferKCMGFormer Secretary General of NATO2010[16]
Sadako OgataDCMGJapanese academic and diplomat2011
Efthymios MitropoulosKCMGFormer Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization2011
Marzuki AlieKCMGFormer Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives2012
Irman GusmanKCMGFormer Speaker of the Indonesian House of Regional Representatives2012
Marty NatalegawaKCMGFormer Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia2012
Sudi SilalahiKCMGFormer Secretary of State of Indonesia2012
Abdullah bin Zayed Al NahyanKCMGMinister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE2013
Yun Byung-seKCMGFormer Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Korea2013
Jacques RoggeKCMGFormer President of the International Olympic Committee2014
Angelina JolieDCMGAmerican actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian2014[17]
Laurent FabiusKCMGFormer Minister of Foreign Affairs of France2014
Laurent StefaniniKCMGFormer Ambassador, Chief of Protocol to President Hollande2014
Grace FuDCMGFormer Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore2014
Anders Fogh RasmussenKCMGFormer Secretary General of NATO2015[18]
José Antonio Meade KuribreñaKCMGFormer Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico2015[18]
Joseph MuscatKCMGPrime Minister of Malta2015[18]
Peter PiotKCMGBelgian microbiologist2016[19]
George VellaKCMGFormer Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta2018

See also


  1. Duckers, Peter (2009) [2004]. British Orders and Decorations. Oxford: Shire Publications. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-7478-0580-9. OCLC 55587484.
  2. The Royal Household (2009). "Order of St. Michael and St. George". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. London: Crown Copyright. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  3. Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of Knights. William Pickering. p. 206.
  4. "Knights/Knighthoods genealogy project". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  5. Evelyn Bark, article in The Independent
  6. Henry POOLE 1873–1928 (Tate Britain); retrieved 1 October 2009.
  7. Cross, Colin (1968). The Fall of the British Empire. London: Book Club Associates.
  8. "H.K.'s ex-No. 2 leader Anson Chan honored by Queen Elizabeth". Findarticles. 11 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  9. Alice Johnson Khalifa, Queen Elizabeth II exchange orders. Gulf News. 26 November 2010 Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  10. List of honorary British knights and dames
  11. "Sabah Dynasty". Royal Ark. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  12. "Honorary awards" (PDF). Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  13. "Honorary awards" (PDF). Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  14. Archived 1 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Hoge Britse ridderorde voor De Hoop Scheffer" (in Dutch).
  16. "Honorary British Awards to Foreign Nationals – 2014". Archived from the original on 16 October 2014.
  17. "Honorary British Awards to Foreign Nationals – 2015" (PDF).
  18. "Honorary awards" (PDF).
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