The sovereign of the United Kingdom may award a royal family order to female members of the British Royal Family, as they typically do not wear the commemorative medals that men do. The order is a personal memento rather than a state decoration. The same practice is in place in the United Kingdom as is in the royal families of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Tonga.
The first Royal Family Order was issued during and after the regency of George IV. Prior to 1820, he started the practice of presenting the order to ladies and gentlemen of the Court, particularly female members of the Royal family. His order was rather ornate in appearance, and the frame that surrounded his portrait was of diamond oak leaves and acorns. The badge was suspended from a white silk bow which varied for men and women. As a young woman, Princess Victoria of Kent (later Queen Victoria) received this badge from her uncle.
A slight variation in the practice of the Royal Family Order came with the reign of Queen Victoria. When Victoria came to the throne there was no Royal Family Order until after her marriage she created her Royal Order of Victoria and Albert in 1862, which then served as her Royal Family Order. The order consisted of a cameo portrait of Victoria and Albert, and was suspended from a white ribbon. No other Royal Family Order has depicted both the sovereign and the sovereign's consort.
Related to the Royal Family Order is Queen Alexandra's ladies' order, which is sometimes mistakenly called Queen Alexandra's Royal Family Order. This is not an official order, but rather one that was personally issued by Queen Alexandra to those in her service or family. It consists of a jewelled cameo portrait of Edward VII and Alexandra hung from a silk red and white ribbon.
For her Mistress of the Robes, Alexandra provided a similar but larger version of this Order, in which she was portrayed without her husband. Her successors as Queen Consort followed her example in providing a jewelled cameo portrait hung from a ribbon, to serve as a badge of office for their Mistresses of the Robes.
Those who have served as Mistress of the Robes to the present Queen have received a badge of office which is distinct from the Royal Family Order but designed along similar lines: a jewelled royal cypher worn on a yellow ribbon; it is worn on State occasions and at other events, as appropriate. The Queen's other Ladies-in-Waiting wear their own distinctive badge: a jewelled letter 'E' within an oval frame, worn on a pink silk ribbon.
The badge of the order consists of a portrait of the Sovereign set in diamonds, which is suspended from a ribbon. The ribbon of each Royal Family Order changes with each monarch: Edward VII's was variegated of red, blue, and white (similar to the colors of the Royal Victorian Order), George V's was pale blue, and George VI's was rose pink. Each contained a portrait of the sovereign, usually in uniform (if male), or evening dress (if female). The reverse of the order contains the royal cypher of the sovereign.
The Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II depicts The Queen in evening dress wearing the ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter. The miniature, painted on ivory (glass since 2017), is bordered by diamonds and surmounted by a Tudor crown in diamonds and red enamel. The reverse, in silver-gilt, is patterned with rays and depicts the royal cypher and St Edward's Crown in gold and enamel. The watered silk ribbon is chartreuse yellow and formed into a bow.
The Royal Family Orders are worn pinned to the left shoulder at formal evening occasions when other orders and decorations are worn. If a sash is worn also over the left shoulder, the order is pinned to the sash. If more than one Royal Family Order is worn, they are layered, with the most recent always on top.
More than one Royal Family Order may be worn. The Queen herself wears the Family Orders of her father King George VI and her grandfather King George V; she does not wear her own. Princess Alexandra has those of King George VI and the Queen. Those who wear that of the Queen only are: Anne, Princess Royal; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Sophie, Countess of Wessex; Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester; Katharine, Duchess of Kent; and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore those of King George V, King George VI, and the Queen. Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, also wore those of King George V, King George VI and the Queen. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, wore the same as her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, wore those of King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and the Queen. She also wore the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert – one of only two women, the other being Queen Mary, who was a member of five British royal family orders at the same time. Diana, Princess of Wales, wore that of the Queen only.
Marriage into the royal family does not automatically bestow the Order. Although Diana, Princess of Wales, was known to have received the Order (and, more recently, the Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge were pictured wearing it), neither Sarah, Duchess of York, Princess Michael of Kent, nor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has been seen wearing it. A biological relationship to the monarch does not automatically bestow the Order either. None of the current monarch's granddaughters have been seen to hold the order.
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, originally the Crown Jewels of England, are 140 royal ceremonial objects kept in the Tower of London, which include the regalia and vestments worn at their coronations by British kings and queens.Symbols of 800 years of monarchy, the coronation regalia are the only working set in Europe – other present-day monarchies have abandoned coronations in favour of secular ceremonies – and the collection is the most historically complete of any regalia in the world. Objects used to invest and crown the monarch variously denote his or her roles as head of state, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and head of the British armed forces. They feature heraldic devices and national emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recent pieces were designed to reflect the monarch's role as Head of the Commonwealth.
Use of regalia by monarchs in England can be traced back to when it was converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages. A permanent set of coronation regalia, once belonging to Edward the Confessor, was established after he was made a saint in the 12th century. They were holy relics kept at Westminster Abbey – venue of coronations since 1066. Another set was used at religious feasts and State Openings of Parliament. Collectively, these objects came to be known as the Jewels of the Crown. Most of the present collection dates from around 350 years ago when Charles II ascended the throne. The medieval and Tudor regalia had been sold or melted down after the monarchy was abolished in 1649 during the English Civil War. Only four original items pre-date the Restoration: a late 12th-century anointing spoon (the oldest object) and three early 17th-century swords. Upon the Acts of Union 1707, the English Crown Jewels were adopted by British monarchs; the Scottish regalia are known today as the Honours of Scotland.
The regalia contain 23,578 stones, among them Cullinan I (530 carats (106 g)), the largest clear cut diamond in the world, set in the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. It was cut from the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, the Cullinan, discovered in South Africa in 1905 and presented to Edward VII. On the Imperial State Crown are Cullinan II (317 carats (63 g)), the Stuart Sapphire, St Edward's Sapphire, and the Black Prince's Ruby – a large spinel given to Edward the Black Prince by a Spanish king in 1367. The Koh-i-Noor diamond (105 carats (21 g)), originally from India, was acquired by Queen Victoria and has featured on three consort crowns. A small number of historical objects at the Tower are either empty or set with glass and crystals.
At a coronation the monarch is anointed using holy oil poured from an ampulla into the spoon, invested with robes and ornaments, and crowned with St Edward's Crown. Afterwards, it is exchanged for the lighter Imperial State Crown, which is also usually worn at State Openings of Parliament. Wives of kings are invested with a plainer set of regalia, and since 1831 a new crown has been made specially for each queen consort. Also regarded as Crown Jewels are state swords, trumpets, ceremonial maces, church plate, historical regalia, banqueting plate, and royal christening fonts. They are part of the Royal Collection and belong to the institution of monarchy, passing from one sovereign to the next. When not in use the Jewels are on public display in the Jewel House and Martin Tower where they are seen by 2.5 million visitors every year.Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II
The Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II is an honour bestowed on female members of the British royal family by Queen Elizabeth II. The order is worn on formal occasions.The order should not be confused with the Mistress of the Robes badge of office worn by the Dowager Duchess of Grafton and previously by her predecessor as Mistress of the Robes, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.