Royal Victorian Chain

Royal Victorian Chain
Badge of the Royal Victorian Chain
Awarded by the monarch of the Commonwealth realms
Type Personal award
Eligibility Men and women, of any nation
Awarded for At the monarch's pleasure
Status Currently awarded
Established 1902
First awarded George, Prince of Wales
Last awarded Rowan Williams

Ribbon of the Royal Victorian Chain

The Royal Victorian Chain is a decoration 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). 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 decorations of the Royal Victorian Order, 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." It was first recorded as a new decoration in August 1902, when it was reported that Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, was received in private audience to receive the Royal Victorian Chain, following the coronation of the King two days earlier.[3] The first recipients included the King's son, George, Prince of Wales (later George V), and the King's brother, Prince Arthur.[4]


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 been conferred with the chain: Vincent Massey and Roland Michener, both former governors general.[5]

The Royal Victorian Chain must be returned on the death of the recipient.[6]

List of living recipients of the Royal Victorian Chain

NameKnown forYear of conferralCurrent age
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark LG GCVOQueen of Denmark1974[7]78
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden KG GCVOKing of Sweden1975[7]72
Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands LG GCVOFormer Queen of the Netherlands1982[7]80
António Ramalho EanesFormer President of Portugal1985[7]83
King Juan Carlos I of Spain KGFormer King of Spain1986[7]80
King Harald V of Norway KG GCVOKing of Norway199481
The Earl of Airlie KT GCVO PC JPFormer Lord Chamberlain1997[8]92
The Lord Carey of Clifton PCFormer Archbishop of Canterbury2002[9]82
The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT OM ONZ GCVO GBE AK QSO GCL CC CMM PC PC (Can) ADC(P) CDConsort of Queen Elizabeth II2007[10]97
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said GCB GCMG GCVOSultan of Oman2010[11]77
The Lord Williams of Oystermouth PCFormer Archbishop of Canterbury2012[12]68

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. "Court Circular". The Times (36844). London. 12 August 1902. p. 8.
  4. "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.
  5. Christopher McCreery (2005). The Canadian honours system. Dundurn Press. p. 105. ISBN 1-55002-554-6.
  6. Christopher McCreery (2008). On Her Majesty's Service: Royal Honours and Recognition in Canada. Dundurn Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-55002-742-6.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Whitaker's Almanack 1992 (124th ed.). London: William Clowes. 1992. p. 183. ISBN 9780850212204.
  8. "No. 54984". The London Gazette. 19 December 1997. p. 14236.
  9. "No. 56749". The London Gazette. 12 November 2002. p. 1.
  10. "No. 58519". The London Gazette. 22 November 2007. p. 1.
  11. Mitchell, Gary (26 November 2010). "Queen Talks Art With The Sultan Of Oman". Sky News Online. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  12. "No. 60392". The London Gazette. 15 January 2013. p. 1.
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