Order of the Elephant

For the order in Thailand, see Order of the White Elephant.
Order of the Elephant
Badge of the Order of the Elephant.
Awarded by

Sovereign of Denmark
Type Chivalric order in one class
Motto Magnanimi Pretium
(Latin: The prize of greatness)
Awarded for At the Monarch's pleasure
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Sovereign of Denmark
Grades (w/ post-nominals) R.E.
(Ridder af Elefantordenen)
Established 1693
First induction 1768 Denmark Frederick VI of Denmark
Last induction 2016 Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto of the United Mexican States
Next (higher) None (Highest)
Next (lower) Order of the Dannebrog
Order of the Elephant ribbon
Collar of the Order of the Elephant.
The Blome family coat of arms with the Order's collar on gravestone in Heiligenstedten

The Order of the Elephant (Danish: Elefantordenen) is the highest order of Denmark. It has origins in the 15th century, but has officially existed since 1693, and since the establishment of constitutional monarchy in 1849, is now almost exclusively bestowed on royalty and heads of state.[1]


A Danish religious confraternity called the Fellowship of the Mother of God, limited to about fifty members of the Danish aristocracy, was founded during the reign of Christian I during the 15th century. The badge of the confraternity showed the Virgin Mary holding her Son within a crescent moon and surrounded with the rays of the sun, and was hung from a collar of links in the form of elephants much like the present collar of the Order. After the Reformation in 1536 the confraternity died out, but a badge in the form of an elephant with his profile on its right side was still awarded by Frederick II.[2] This latter badge may have been inspired by the badge of office of the chaplain of the confraternity which is known to have been in the form of an elephant. The order was instituted in its current form on 1 December 1693 by King Christian V as having only one class consisting of only 30 noble knights in addition to the Grand Master (i.e., the king) and his sons.[3] The statutes of the order were amended in 1958 by a Royal Ordinance so that both men and women could be members of the order.

The elephant and castle design derives from an elephant carrying a howdah, the familiar castle replacing the unfamiliar howdah, and finds use elsewhere in European iconography, as discussed at howdah.


The Danish monarch is the head of the order. The order is worn by members of the royal family, and may also be bestowed on foreign heads of state. In very exceptional circumstances the order may also be bestowed on a commoner. The most recent holder of the order who was neither a current or former head of state nor royal was Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, a leading industrialist and philanthropist.

The order of the Elephant has one class: Knight of the Order of the Elephant (Ridder af Elefantordenen, usually abbreviated as R.E. in letters et cetera). Knights of the order are granted a place in the 1st Class of the Danish order of precedence.

Members and spouses of the Danish Royal Family receive the badge, star and collar of the order, as well as other Scandinavian heads of states and their spouses who are knights of the order; Other foreigners only receive the badge and star of the Order.[4][5]


Coat of arms of Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway surrounded by the collars of the Order of the Elephant and the Order of the Dannebrog

Upon the death of a Knight of the Order of the Elephant, the insignia of the order must be returned. There are a few exceptions known.

Current knights and officers

Sovereign of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

Current Knights of the Elephant listed by date of appointment

Officers of the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

Other notable knights

Previous knights have included:[12]

Fictional Members

Provided to Harry when he was impersonating the crown prince Carl Gustav of in Royal Flash

See also

Order of the Elephant [21] and Order of the Elephant Star.
Order of the Elephant of Frederik II.
Order of the Elephant of Christian IV.
Order of the Elephant of Christian V, miniature.
Order of the Elephant of Frederik VII, miniature.
Order of Dannebrog and Order of Dannebrog Star.
Ordre de l'Union Parfaite.[22]


  1. "The Royal Orders of Chivalry". The Danish Monarchy. 14 January 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  2. Rosenborg Slot - Objects
  3. The knights of the Order were often called the Blue Knights (in reference to the color of their ribbon), as opposed to the White Knights (again, in reference to the color of their ribbon) of the junior Danish order of chivalry, the Order of the Dannebrog, also instituted by Christian V.
  4. "Queen Margrethe celebrates 40 years on Danish throne - hellomagazine.com". hellomagazine.com.
  5. "NEWMYROYALS & HOLLYWOOD FASHION: Dutch State visit to Denmark - Gala Dinner at Christiansborg Palace". newmyroyals.com.
  6. In an article entitled "Has anyone seen our elephant?" The July 1, 2004 issue of the Copenhagen Post reported that the original mold for the elephant badge had been stolen from the court jeweler, Georg Jensen.
  7. Originally this cross was formed of six brilliant cut diamonds, but at present it is formed of six small hemispherical silver beads.
  8. i.e., at Danish coronations.
  9. Photobucket
  10. Official List of Knights of the Order of the Elephant. (Danish)
  11. http://www.gettyimages.pt/detail/fotografia-de-notícias/prince-henrik-of-denmark-president-enrique-pena-fotografia-de-notícias/520931602 .(Danish)
  12. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559-2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  13. Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Tycho Brahe" (Danish)
  14. Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Heinrich Rantzau" (Danish)
  15. Journal of the Royal Armoury (in Danish). Aktiebolaget Thule. 1970. p. 170.
  16. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 470. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  17. 1 2 3 Birger A. Andersen (20 April 2012). "Nu vil Margrethe have Mærsks Elefantorden tilbage". www.bt.dk.
  18. 1 2 Rick Steves (25 June 2013). Rick Steves' Snapshot Copenhagen & the Best of Denmark. Avalon Travel. pp. 104–. ISBN 1-59880-632-7.
  19. 1 2 Slater, Stephen (2013). The Illustrated Book of Heraldry. Wigston, Leicestershire: Lorenz Books. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-7548-2659-0.
  20. Jan Körner (2 February 2011). "Folkets fjender... Margrethes venner". ekstrabladet.dk.
  21. "Order of the Elephant". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  22. "Ordre de l'Union Parfaite". Retrieved 2015-12-17.

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