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What is the Order of St. Olav?

Photo: Kjartan Hauglid, Det kongelige koff

King Harald’s gift to Prince Christian on his 18th birthday this past weekend was the designation as a Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav.

What is the Order of St. Olav? Let’s discuss.

Founded by King Oscar I in 1847, though he reigned as the Sovereign of both Norway and Sweden, the Order of St. Olav was distinctly a Norwegian chivalric order. When the union dissolved in 1905, another order—the Order of the Norwegian Lion—was created but rarely used and was ultimately repealed in 1952.

The Order is named after King Olaf II of Norway, who reigned between 1015-1028 and is known to history as a saint and a man who helped bring Christianity to his country. He is now the patron saint of Norway, having been canonised shortly after his 1030 death.

There are five classes to the Order of St. Olav, with Prince Christian now a member of the top class. The five are Grand Cross, Commander with Star, Commander, Knight 1st Class, and Knight.

Prince Christian’s designation means that he will wear his badge on a collar and a star on his left chest; if the collar is not required, he will wear the badge on a sash over his right shoulder.

The Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav is typically only given to heads of state and royalty, both Norwegian and foreign; otherwise, the Order is given to Norwegian citizens.

According to the Norwegian Royal Court, the Order’s symbol is a Maltese cross covered in white-enamelled gold. The centre of the Maltese cross features a red globe surrounded by a ring of blue and white, with a lion in the centre of the gold with Norway’s coat of arms. On the back of the globe, King Oscar II’s motto, “Ret og Sandhed” (English: “Right and Truth”) is featured. A Gothic-stylised ‘O’ with a gold crown features between the cross arms on the globe; for Commanders and Knights, there is also a gold crown above this cross.

Insignia is worn on a red sash with blue and white edges.

King Harald is the Sovereign of the Order of St. Olav and appoints members yearly on the advice of a six-person committee. Aside from Norwegian and foreign royals and other heads of state, Norwegian citizens must have made extraordinary contributions to life in Norway or globally to be appointed.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.