This evening, The Queen and The Prince Consort hold the New Year’s banquet in Christian VII’s Palace at Amalienborg, where the members of the royal family will wear Denmark’s most distinguished order: the Order of the Elephant.
At the tradition-rich New Year’s banquet on 1 January, the Order of the Elephant is worn on the chest on a chain-link collar, which rests on both shoulders. On other occasions, the order is worn on a blue sash that extends from the left shoulder to the right hip.
This follows a tradition that was already laid down in 1693 when Christian V issued the first written statutes, which are still valid. In those statutes it was determined, among other things, that on the Order’s festival days – of which the first day of the year is one – the Order of the Elephant is to be worn on a golden chain consisting of alternating links shaped like elephants and towers instead of on a blue sash.
The Order of the Elephant, however, has a history that goes considerably further back than 1693. Far and away, it is Denmark’s oldest and most distinguished royal order of chivalry. In its original form, it can be tracked back to around 1460 when Christian I, with the Pope’s approval, established “The Fellowship of the Mother of God”. That society’s badge was a medallion of The Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus worn on a chain of tower-bearing elephants.
In connection with the Lutheran reformation in 1536, use of the Catholic-inspired order was suspended for a number of years. In 1580, Frederik II revived it, then with the elephant as the order’s badge. With the statute of 1693 came the first established rules for the presentation of the Order’s insignias: the tower-bearing elephant, the chain-link collar, the blue sash, and the star worn on the left chest. These rules are still in force.
Published January 1, 2013