Royal Victorian Chain

Royal Victorian Chain

Badge of the Royal Victorian Chain
Awarded by the

monarch of the United Kingdom
(foundation - 1931)

monarch of the United Kingdom and the Dominions
(1931 - 1952)

monarch of the Commonwealth realms
(since 1952)
Award of
Type Personal award
Eligibility Men and women, of any nation
Awarded for At the monarch's pleasure
Status Currently awarded
Established 1902

Ribbon of the Royal Victorian Chain

The Royal Victorian Chain is an award instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII as a personal award of the monarch (i.e. not an award made on the advice of any Commonwealth realm government). In the order of precedence it ranks above the Royal Victorian Order,[1] with which it is often associated but not officially related. Originally reserved for members of the Royal Family, the chain is a distinct award conferred only upon the highest dignitaries, including foreign monarchs, heads of state, and high-ranking individuals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.[2]


The Royal Victorian Chain was created by Edward VII in 1902, six years after his mother created the Royal Victorian Order. The Royal Victorian Chain ranks above all the Royal Victorian Order honours in order of precedence but it is not officially part of the Order. Edward created it to honour his mother "as a personal decoration for Sovereigns, Princes, and other Royal personages, and also for a few eminent British subjects." The first recipients included the King's son, George, Prince of Wales (later George V), and the King's brother, Prince Arthur.[3]


The chain is in gold, decorated with motifs of Tudor rose, thistle, shamrock, and lotus flower (symbolizing England, Scotland, Ireland, and India, respectively) and a crowned, red enamelled cypher of King Edward VII—ERI (Edwardus Rex Imperator)—surrounded by a gold wreath for men, upon which the badge is suspended. The chain is worn around the collar by men or with the four motifs and some chain links fixed to a riband in the form of bow (blue with red-white-red edges) on the left shoulder by women. However, the Queen's sister, the late Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, in later life chose to wear her chain around the collar, as male recipients do.

The badge is a gold, white enamelled Maltese Cross; the oval-shaped central medallion depicts Victoria's royal and imperial cypherVRI (Victoria Regina Imperatrix)—on a red background, surrounded by a crown-surmounted blue ring bearing the word Victoria. Both the crown and Queen Victoria's cypher are studded with diamonds.

Eligibility and allocation

The Royal Victorian Chain does not confer upon its recipients any style or title, nor does it give a precedence within any Commonwealth honours system. However, it represents a personal token of high distinction and esteem from the monarch. The chain can be conferred upon men and women, both of the realms and foreign. There are at least 11 recipients living, of whom only four were not heads of state at the time of award.

It has normally served as the senior award for Canadians, who are generally ineligible to receive knighthoods under federal Cabinet policy. Only two Canadians have thus far received the chain: Vincent Massey and Roland Michener, both former governors general.[4]

The Royal Victorian Chain must be returned on the death of the recipient.[5]

List of living recipients of the Royal Victorian Chain

Name Known for Date of appointment Current age
Denmark Queen Margrethe II of Denmark LG GCVO Queen of Denmark 1974[6] 76
Sweden King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden KG GCVO King of Sweden 1975[6] 70
Netherlands Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands LG GCVO Former Queen of the Netherlands 1982[6] 78
Portugal António Ramalho Eanes Former President of Portugal 1985[6] 81
Spain King Juan Carlos I of Spain KG Former King of Spain 1986[6] 78
Norway King Harald V of Norway KG GCVO King of Norway 1994 79
United Kingdom The Earl of Airlie KT GCVO PC JP Former Lord Chamberlain 1997[7] 90
United Kingdom The Lord Carey of Clifton PC Former Archbishop of Canterbury 2002[8] 81
The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT OM ONZ GBE AK QSO GCL CC CMM PC PC ADC(P) CD Consort of Queen Elizabeth II 2007[9] 95
Oman Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said GCB GCMG GCVO Sultan of Oman 2010[10] 76
United Kingdom The Lord Williams of Oystermouth PC Former Archbishop of Canterbury 2012[11] 66

See also


  1. "Birthday Honours - A Long List - Five New Peers - Many Baronets And Knights". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 4 June 1917. p. 9. An interesting honour is that awarded to Lord Rosebery, upon whom the King has conferred the Royal Victorian Chain, the highest class of the Royal Victorian Order.
  2. Duckers, Peter. British Orders and Decorations. Osprey Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 9780747805809.
  3. "Honour for Archbishop of York: Royal Victorian Chain". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 2 May 1923. p. 13. The Royal Victorian Chain ranks above all the five classes of the Royal Victorian Order, with which it is generally associated, but of which it does not form a part.
  4. Christopher McCreery (2005). The Canadian honours system. Dundurn Press. p. 105. ISBN 1-55002-554-6.
  5. Christopher McCreery (2008). On Her Majesty's Service: Royal Honours and Recognition in Canada. Dundurn Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-55002-742-6.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Whitaker's Almanack 1992 (124th ed.). London: William Clowes. 1992. p. 183. ISBN 9780850212204.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 54984. p. 14236. 19 December 1997.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 56749. p. 1. 12 November 2002.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 58519. p. 1. 22 November 2007.
  10. Mitchell, Gary (26 November 2010). "Queen Talks Art With The Sultan Of Oman". Sky News Online. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 60392. p. 1. 15 January 2013.
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