The royal order of the Norwegian Lion was a Norwegian and Swedish royal order that was instituted by King Oscar II on 21 January 1904. It had the King as the Grandmaster, and the order consisted of only one degree, similar to the Order of the Garter.
The intention was that the Norwegian Lion should be a “sovereign knight order” equivalent to the Swedish Seraphim Order and the Danish Elephant Order. The name of the order is a reference to Norway’s national animal.
The King was the Grandmaster of the Order of the Norwegian Lion, which was awarded to the princes of the Swedish-Norwegian royal family. The order could also be granted to foreign heads of state and other royals.
Norwegians who had been in central political positions and performed excellent services could also be awarded to the Norwegian Lion, but only if they had already been decorated with the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of St. Olav. The number of ordinary knights should never exceed twelve. Nevertheless, the number of appointments never even came to eleven.
At the time of ordering on Oscar II’s birthday, 21 January 1904, the order was awarded to Crown Prince Gustaf and Bernadottes – Princes Carl, Eugen, Gustaf Adolf, Wilhelm and Erik, apart from the King himself as the Grandmaster.
Later that same month, it was awarded to Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. In April, Emperor Frans Josef I followed from Austria and Hungary and in September King Christian IX of Denmark. France’s President Émile Loubet became the first non-royal recipient of the Norwegian Lion in December 1904. He also became the last to receive the order.
Following the dissolvent of the Union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 and the establishment of an independent Norwegian royal house, King Haakon VII chose not to continue the order. However, it was not officially repealed until 1952.