Order of the Starry Cross

The Order of the Starry Cross (or Order of the Star Cross/Star Cross Order; German: Sternkreuz-Orden) is an imperial Austrian dynastic order for Catholic noble ladies, founded in 1668. The order still exists under the House of Habsburg, though the Austrian Empire no longer exists.

Order of the Starry Cross
2nd Class of the order
Awarded by The Head of the House of Habsburg
TypeOrder of chivalry for women
Royal houseHouse of Habsburg
Religious affiliationRoman Catholic
("Hail and Glory")
Awarded forDevotion to the service and worship of the Holy Cross
A virtuous life in the exercise of religion and works of charity
SovereignArchduke Karl of Austria
Grand MistressArchduchess Gabriela of Austria
ChancellorCount Norbert Salburg-Falkenstein
GradesDame, Special Class
Dame, 1st Class
Dame, 2nd Class
Dame, 3rd Class
Next (higher)Imperial and Royal Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
Next (lower)Imperial and Royal Order of the Iron Crown
EquivalentImperial and Royal Order of Leopold II

Ribbon of the order


The Order was founded in 1668 by Eleonora Gonzaga of Mantua, dowager empress of the Holy Roman Empire. This all-female order was confirmed by Pope Clement IX on 28 June 1668 and was placed under the spiritual management of the Prince-Bishop of Vienna. Only high-born ladies could be invested with the Order, including “princesses, countesses, and other high nobility.” Once invested, members were to “devote themselves to the service and worship of the Holy Cross, and to lead a virtuous life in the exercise of religion and works of charity.”

According to legend, the Habsburg dynasty owned a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. Though it is impossible to prove its authenticity, the holy relic was set in gold and worn by at least two Holy Roman Emperors, Maximilian II and Ferdinand III. Ferdinand III’s last consort, Empress Eleanora, was given the relic by her stepson, Emperor Leopold I, after Ferdinand’s 1657 death. In the aftermath of a fire at the Hofburg on 2 February 1668 the relic was discovered in near-perfect condition. The dowager empress founded the Order in celebration that the relic had survived the fire, believing it to be a true miracle.

In 1881, the empress accorded multiple noble ladies of the royal Belgian court the Starry Cross, after the engagement of Archduke Rudolf. [1]

Members of the Order wore the following insignia:

"An oval medallion, with a broad blue enameled border, inclosing a black enameled Eagle with two heads, and claws, both of gold, on which lies a Gold Cross, enameled green, and bordered with brown wood. Over this, on an intwined (sic) wreath in black letters, on a white ground, is the motto of the Order, "Salue et Gloria” – (Hail and Glory.) It is worn, pendent to a strip of black riband (sic), on the left breast."


  • Special Class - Diamond and Gemstone studded insignia only for the Grand Mistress.[2]
  • 1st Class - Ruby Cross with Diamonds around the badge suspended from a Black ribbon; for Daughters and Grand daughters of the Sovereign and foreign Empresses, Queens, Grand Duchesses and Princess Consorts.
  • 2nd Class - Smaller insignia with Diamonds around the badge suspended from a Black ribbon; for lesser Austrian Archduchesses and Princesses, Austrian Archduchesses by marriage, Daughters of Austrian Archduchesses, Austrian nobility and foreign Duchesses or Princesses.
  • 3rd Class - Much smaller insignia without brilliants, suspended from a Black ribbon; for Austrian Princesses, Austrian Countesses, Austrian nobility and also foreign Princesses and nobility.

Grand Mistresses

Holy Roman Empresses

1.1668-1686Empress Eleanornée Princess Eleanor-Gonzaga
2.1686-1720Empress Eleanor-Magdalenenée Princess Eleonor-Magdalene of Neuburg
3.1720-1742Empress Wilhelmine-Amalianée Princess Wilhelmine-malia of Brunswick-Lüneburg
4.1742-1740Empress Elisabeth-Christinenée Princess Elisabeth-Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
5.1740-1780Empress Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress and reigning Queen of Hungary and Bohemia
6.1780-1792Empress Maria-Ludovikanée Princess Maria-Luisa of Spain
7.1792-1807Empress Maria-Theresanée Princess Maria-Theresa of the Two Sicilies
8.1807-1816Empress Maria-Ludovikanée Archduchess Maria-Ludovika of Austria
9.1816-1835Empress Caroline-Augustanée Princess Caroline-Augusta of Bavaria
10.1835-1848Empress Maria-Annanée Princess Maria Anna of Savoy
11.1848-1854Archduchess SophieMother of Emperor Frans-Josef
12.1854-1898Empress Elisabethnée Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria
13.1898-1916Archduchess Gisela of Austriadaughter of Empress Elisabeth.
14.1916-1951Empress ZitaLast Empress of Austria

Imperial Archduchesses

15.1951-2007Crown Princess Reginanée Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen
16.2007–presentArchduchess Gabriela of AustriaCurrent Grand Mistress

Current administration

According to the website of the Archdiocese of Vienna,[3] the order is ruled by :

  • Grand Mistress : Archduchess Gabriela [4]
  • Order Chancellor : Count Norbert Salburg-Falkenstein
  • Order Secretary : Altgraf Niklas zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Raitz


  • Tagore, Rajah Sir Sourindro Mohun. The Orders of Knighthood, British and Foreign. Calcutta: The Catholic Orphan Press, 1884.
  1. Handelsblad (Het) 07-05-1881
  2. "Flickr". Flickr.
  3. Archdiocese of Vienna Archived 2012-12-30 at Archive.today - " Oberste Schutzfrau: Gabriela Habsburg-Lothringen "
  4. Sancrucensis, blog article about the Order and its Grand Mistress
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