Royal Family Orders of the United Kingdom

The sovereign of the United Kingdom may award a royal family order to female members of the British Royal Family, as they typically do not wear the commemorative medals that men do. The order is a personal memento rather than a state decoration. The same practice is in place in the United Kingdom as is in the royal families of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Tonga.


The first Royal Family Order was issued during and after the regency of George IV. Prior to 1820, he started the practice of presenting the order to ladies and gentlemen of the Court, particularly female members of the Royal family. His order was rather ornate in appearance, and the frame that surrounded his portrait was of diamond oak leaves and acorns. The badge was suspended from a white silk bow which varied for men and women. As a young woman, Princess Victoria of Kent (later Queen Victoria) received this badge from her uncle.

After George IV, each succeeding sovereign, except William IV and Edward VIII, has issued his or her own Royal Family Order.

A slight variation in the practice of the Royal Family Order came with the reign of Queen Victoria. When Victoria came to the throne there was no Royal Family Order until after her marriage she created her Royal Order of Victoria and Albert in 1862, which then served as her Royal Family Order. The order consisted of a cameo portrait of Victoria and Albert, and was suspended from a white ribbon. No other Royal Family Order has depicted both the sovereign and the sovereign's consort.

Similar royal badges

Related to the Royal Family Order is Queen Alexandra's ladies' order, which is sometimes mistakenly called Queen Alexandra's Royal Family Order. This is not an official order, but rather one that was personally issued by Queen Alexandra to those in her service or family. It consists of a jewelled cameo portrait of Edward VII and Alexandra hung from a silk red and white ribbon.[1]

For her Mistress of the Robes, Alexandra provided a similar but larger version of this Order, in which she was portrayed without her husband.[2] Her successors as Queen Consort followed her example in providing a jewelled cameo portrait hung from a ribbon, to serve as a badge of office for their Mistresses of the Robes.[3]

Those who have served as Mistress of the Robes to the present Queen have received a badge of office which is distinct from the Royal Family Order but designed along similar lines: a jewelled royal cypher worn on a yellow ribbon;[4] it is worn on State occasions and at other events, as appropriate. The Queen's other Ladies-in-Waiting wear their own distinctive badge: a jewelled letter 'E' within an oval frame, worn on a pink silk ribbon.[5]


The badge of the order consists of a portrait of the Sovereign set in diamonds, which is suspended from a ribbon. The ribbon of each Royal Family Order changes with each monarch: Edward VII's was variegated of red, blue, and white (similar to the colors of the Royal Victorian Order), George V's was pale blue, and George VI's was rose pink. Each contained a portrait of the sovereign, usually in uniform (if male), or evening dress (if female). The reverse of the order contains the royal cypher of the sovereign.

The Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II depicts The Queen in evening dress wearing the ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter. The miniature, painted on ivory (glass since 2017), is bordered by diamonds and surmounted by a Tudor crown in diamonds and red enamel. The reverse, in silver-gilt, is patterned with rays and depicts the royal cypher and St Edward's Crown in gold and enamel. The watered silk ribbon is chartreuse yellow and formed into a bow.

Wearing the Order

The Royal Family Orders are worn pinned to the left shoulder at formal evening occasions when other orders and decorations are worn. If a sash is worn also over the left shoulder, the order is pinned to the sash. If more than one Royal Family Order is worn, they are layered, with the most recent always on top.

More than one Royal Family Order may be worn. The Queen herself wears the Family Orders of her father King George VI and her grandfather King George V; she does not wear her own. Princess Alexandra has those of King George VI and the Queen. Those who wear that of the Queen only are: Anne, Princess Royal; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Sophie, Countess of Wessex; Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester; Katharine, Duchess of Kent; and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore those of King George V, King George VI, and the Queen. Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, also wore those of King George V, King George VI and the Queen. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, wore the same as her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, wore those of King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and the Queen. She also wore the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert – one of only two women, the other being Queen Mary, who was a member of five British royal family orders at the same time. Diana, Princess of Wales, wore that of the Queen only.

Marriage into the royal family does not automatically bestow the Order. Although Diana, Princess of Wales, was known to have received the Order (and, more recently, the Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge were pictured wearing it), neither Sarah, Duchess of York, Princess Michael of Kent, nor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has been seen wearing it. A biological relationship to the monarch does not automatically bestow the Order either. None of the current monarch's granddaughters have been seen to hold the order.

List of Royal Family Orders of the United Kingdom


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