The Royal House has a large collection of autobiographies from people who have been decorated. The oldest are about knighted persons from after 1884.
To ensure that the biographies can be written as freely and openly as possible, it is the established rule that they shall not be accessible to the public until 50 years after death of the writer, unless this person has provided otherwise. In some cases, however, it is possible to get access to autobiographies covered by the 50 year rule if the application to do so is accompanied by written consent from the author’s immediate survivors.
With respect to these formal conditions, The Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry is pleased to grant access. If one wants to view a certain autobiography, a written application should be submitted to the Historiographer of the Royal Orders, The Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry, Det Gule Palæ, Amaliegade 18, 1256 Copenhagen C.
The application must include a description of the purpose for seeking access (genealogical research, research on the history of the subject, etc.) along with all relevant data about the author of the autobiography. That includes the person’s full name, the date the decoration was given and the type of decoration awarded. If one does not have the necessary information about the decoration, it can normally be obtained by going to the library and searching a volume of the Court and State’s Calendar around the year of the author’s death. This information considerably facilitates search work since autobiographies are archived according to the type and date of the decoration. If this information cannot be obtained, one should at least indicate the years of the author’s birth and death. In the latter case, however, one must expect that it can take some time to provide the autobiography because finding it requires extra work in the Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry.
If access is granted, a photocopy is normally sent, provided that the document is not extraordinarily large. In the latter case, the applicant will be invited to visit the Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry to read the autobiography there instead.
Before applying, it is worth noting that, as a rule, the Chapter’s collection only includes biographies of knighted persons from after 1884, biographies of Order of Dannebrog recipients from 1904 to 1952, and biographies of medal recipients from 1981. It is also worth noting that there may not necessarily be biographies from all those decorated because, in the course of time, some have not acted on the Chapter’s invitation to submit one.
KNIGHTS’ SHIELDS IN THE CHAPEL OF THE ORDERS AT FREDERIKSBORG PALACE
In the statutes of 1 December 1693 for both the Order of the Elephant and the Order of Dannebrog, knights were ordered to deliver a coloured image of their coat of arms and ¨symbolum¨ (motto) for inclusion in the coats of arms books of the orders and for painting on a shield to hang in the Chapel of the Orders in Frederiksborg Palace church. Both traditions still exist. Denmark, Great Britain and Sweden are the only countries that have a living heraldic tradition in which the coats of arms of knights are still displayed in a dedicated chapel.
The Chapel of the Orders was established in 1693-94 during the reign of Christian V, but Order of the Elephant statutes dating back to 1679 had already required knights to send their coats of arms to the order’s secretary. The first coat of arms book for the Order of the Elephant was made in 1690, and the Order of Dannebrog’s book was probably created a few years earlier. A painter responsible for reproduction of the coats of arms in the books and on the shields has been affiliated with the royal orders of chivalry since that time.
Since 1808, when the Order of Dannebrog was expanded, the coats of arms for holders of the Grand Cross have been painted in the arms books and hung in the Chapel of the Orders. Since 1961, with very few exceptions, that has occurred only for Danish recipients of the Grand Cross.
The Royal Danish Chapel of the Orders in Frederiksborg Palace church is a pearl of cultural history. It displays coats of arms hung continuously over 300 years to honour knights belonging to the two royal Danish orders of chivalry. It is a unique collection and is open for the public to see since the chapel is part of the National History Museum at Frederiksborg.