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HistoryState & Ceremonial

What is the Royal Victorian Order?

This Friday, 3 May, St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle will host Her Majesty The Queen’s service of the Royal Victorian Order, an event that is held every four years. The service is one of dedication for those who have been appointed to the order by the Sovereign, who uses their sole discretion when choosing appointments. 

The Royal Victorian Order was created in April 1896 by Queen Victoria, who wished to formally recognise those who had personally served her. The official chapel of the Order, since 1938, has been the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, London. This is now too small to hold the number of people who attend the service, so it is now held at St George’s Chapel. Living citizens from any of the Commonwealth realms can be appointed to the order. 

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The order is comprised of the following classes:

·         Knight/Dame Grand Cross

·         Knight/Dame Commander

·         Commander

·         Lieutenant

·         Member

The head of the Order is the Sovereign, below which there are officer roles: Grand Master; Chancellor; Secretary; Registrar and Chaplain.

By Nicholas Jackson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The most recent appointment to the order was The Duchess of Cambridge, who was this week appointed to the highest class, of Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) for services to the Sovereign. The appointment was announced on Monday, 29 April, which was the occasion of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s eighth wedding anniversary. The Duchess of Cornwall and the Countess of Wessex received similar appointments, in 2012 and 2010 respectively. Other members of the order include Sir Stephen Lamport, Receiver-General of Westminster Abbey and Sir Hugh Roberts, Surveyor of the Queen’s Works of Art. There is no limit to the number of members of the Order at any one time.

The Countess of Wessex (right) wearing the riband of a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order by Frankie Fouganthin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Order are given the insignia appropriate to their grade and are permitted to wear the associated robes. The insignia for every member of the order features a Maltese cross and a central medallion which includes the royal cypher of Queen Victoria. The cypher is surrounded by a blue ring containing the order’s motto – ‘Victoria’, in gold, above which a crown sits. There are 34 formal events throughout the year in which members of the order can wear the robes and emblems associated with their appointment.