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Order of the Indian Empire

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Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire
Insignia of the GCIE
The insignia of a Knight Grand Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)
Awarded by the British monarch
TypeOrder of chivalry
MottoImperatricis auspiciis
Awarded forAt the monarch's pleasure
StatusNot awarded since 1947
Dormant order since 2010
SovereignCharles III
GradesKnight Grand Commander (GCIE)
Knight Commander (KCIE)
Companion (CIE)
Next (higher)Order of St Michael and St George
Next (lower)Royal Victorian Order

Ribbon bar of the Order of the Indian Empire

The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria on 1 January 1878.[1] The Order includes members of three classes:

  1. Knight Grand Commander (GCIE)
  2. Knight Commander (KCIE)
  3. Companion (CIE)

Appointments terminated after 1947, the year that British India became the independent Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. With the death of the last surviving knight, the Maharaja Meghrajji III of Dhrangadhra, the order became dormant in 2010. The motto of the Order is Imperatricis auspiciis, (Latin for "Under the auspices of the Empress"), a reference to Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India. The Order is the junior British order of chivalry associated with the British Indian Empire; the senior one is The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.


The British founded the Order in 1878 to reward British and native officials who served in British India. The Order originally had only one class (Companion), but expanded to comprise two classes in 1887.[2] The British authorities intended the Order of the Indian Empire as a less exclusive version of the Order of the Star of India (founded in 1861);[3] consequently, many more appointments were made to the former than to the latter.

On 15 February 1887, the Order of the Indian Empire formally became "The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire" and was divided into two classes: knights commander and companions, with the following as knights commander, listed up to 1906[4][5][6][7]

(in date order)

However, on 21 June 1887, a further proclamation regarding the Order was made; the Order was expanded from two classes to three – Knight Grand Commander, Knight Commander and Companion. Seven knights grand commander were created, namely:[9]

Also from 1897, 3 honorary knights commander were made. Including Léon Émile Clément-Thomas (1897), Col. Sir Eduardo Augusto Rodriques Galhardo (Jan 1901) and Sir Hussien Kuli Khan, Mokhber-ed-Dowlet (June 1902).[6]

Emperor Gojong of Korea was made an honorary Knight Grand Commander on 17 December 1900.[7]


Appointments to both the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire ceased after 14 August 1947. As the last Grand Master of the orders, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma was also the last known individual to have publicly worn the stars of a Knight Grand Commander of both orders, during the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977.[10] The Orders have never been formally abolished, and King Charles III remains the Sovereign of the Orders. There are no living members of the order.[11]

The fictional characters Purun Dass, invented by Rudyard Kipling, and Harry Paget Flashman, invented by George MacDonald Fraser, were KCIEs; Kipling's engineer Findlayson in The Day's Work (1908) aspires to the CIE.[citation needed]


The British sovereign serves as Sovereign of the Order. The grand master held the next-most senior rank; the position was held, ex officio, by the viceroy of India. Members of the first class were titled "Knight Grand Commander" rather than "Knight Grand Cross" so as not to offend the non-Christian Indians appointed to the order.[citation needed]

At the time of foundation in 1878 the order had only one class, that of Companion, with no quota imposed. In 1886, the Order was divided into the two classes of knights commander (50 at any given time) and companions (no quota). The following year the class of Knight Grand Commander (25 at any given time) was added;[13] the composition of the other two classes remained the same. The statute also provided that it was "competent for Her Majesty, Her heirs and successors, at Her or their pleasure, to appoint any Princes of the Blood Royal, being descendants of His late Majesty King George the First, as Extra Knights Grand Commander".

By Letters Patent of 2 Aug 1886, the number of knights commander was increased to 82, while commanders were limited to 20 nominations per year (40 for 1903 only). Membership was expanded by letters patent of 10 June 1897, which permitted up to 32 knights grand commander.[14] A special statute of 21 October 1902 permitted up to 92 knights commander, but continued to limit the number of nominations of commanders to 20 in any successive year. On 21 December 1911, in connection with the Delhi Durbar, the limits were increased to 40 knights grand commander, 120 knights commander, and 40 nominations of companions in any successive year.[15]

British officials and soldiers were eligible for appointment, as were rulers of Indian Princely States. Generally, the rulers of the more important states were appointed knights grand commander of the Order of the Star of India, rather than of the Order of the Indian Empire. Women, save the princely rulers, were ineligible for appointment to the order. Female princely rulers were admitted as "knights" rather than as "dames" or "ladies". Other Asian and Middle Eastern rulers were also appointed as well.[citation needed]

Vestments and accoutrements[edit]

Photo of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya's badge

Members of the order wore elaborate costumes on important ceremonial occasions:

  • The mantle, worn only by knights grand commander, comprised dark blue satin lined with white silk. On the left side was a representation of the star (see photo at right).
  • The collar, also worn only by knights grand commander, was made of gold. It was composed of alternating golden elephants, Indian roses and peacocks.
The insignia of a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE)

At less important occasions, simpler insignia were used:

  • The star, worn only by knights grand commander and knights commander, had ten points, including rays of gold and silver for knights grand commander, and of plain silver for knights commander. In the centre was an image of Victoria surrounded by a dark blue ring with the motto and surmounted by a crown.[16]
  • The badge was worn by knights grand commander on a dark blue riband, or sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip, and by knights commander and companions from a dark blue ribbon around the neck. It included a five-petalled crown-surmounted red flower, with the image of Victoria surrounded by a dark blue ring with the motto at the centre.
Insignia of the Order

The insignia of most other British chivalric orders incorporate a cross; the Order of the Indian Empire does not, in deference to India's non-Christian tradition.

Precedence and privileges[edit]

Members of all classes of the order were assigned positions in the order of precedence. Wives of members of all classes also featured on the order of precedence, as did sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of knights grand commander and knights commander. (See order of precedence in England and Wales for the exact positions.)

Knights grand commander used the post-nominal "GCIE", knights commander "KCIE", and companions "CIE." Knights grand commander and knights commander were entitled to the prefix "Sir". Wives of knights grand commander and knights commander could prefix "Lady" to their surnames. Such forms were not used by peers and Indian princes, except when the names of the former were written out in their fullest forms.

Knights grand commander were also entitled to receive heraldic supporters, and could encircle their arms with a depiction of the circlet (a circle bearing the motto) and the collar; the former is shown either outside or on top of the latter. Knights commander and companions were permitted to display the circlet, but not the collar, surrounding their arms. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar or circlet.

Notable appointees[edit]

Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagwatsinhji Sagramji Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Gondal GCSI, GCIE, in a 1911 photograph, during his visit to London for the coronation of King George V. He is wearing the mantle, collar and star of a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire.
Maharaja Sri Sir Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma III, Maharaja of the Kingdom of Travancore, GCSI, GCIE, wearing the sash, star and badge of a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)

The first two kings of Bhutan were presented with the KCIE:

  • Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King, received the KCIE in 1905 from John Claude White, the first Political Officer in Gangtok, Sikkim. He was promoted to a GCIE in 1921.
  • Jigme Wangchuck, the second King, received the KCIE in 1931 from Lieutenant-Colonel J.L.R. Weir, also the Political Officer in Gangtok at the time.

Other appointees include:

  • Sheikh Khaz'al Khan of Mohammerah received the GCIE in 1916, promoted from a KCIE in 1910.
  • Raja Sir S. Ramaswami Mudaliar was made a CIE on 6 June 1885.[17]
  • Mahamahopadhyay Pandit Mahesh Chandra Nyayratna Bhattacharyya of Calcutta, eminent Sanskrit scholar, principal of the Sanskrit College, academic administrator, philanthropist and social reformer. He was made a Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) on 24 May 1881, six years before the title of Mahamahopadhyay was conferred as a personal distinction on the occasion of the Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria, for eminence in oriental learning. He was arguably the first Bengali CIE. The titles entitled him to take rank in the Durbar immediately after titular Rajas.
  • Prabhu Narayan Singh of Benares, The Maharaja of Benares from the Royal House of Benares received the KCIE in 1892.

Sir Kumarapuram Seshadri Iyer (1 June 1845 – 13 September 1901), who served as the 15th Diwan of Mysore from 1883 to 1901 was also awarded KCIE.

Mantle worn by GCIE

In fiction[edit]

  • The Miracle of Purun Bhaghat, the second story in The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, tells how "Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E.", "prime minister of one of the semi-independent native States in the north-western part of [British India]", one day retired from the mundane world and became a hermit in his native Himalayas, where after some time he saves a village from a rockslide and dies in the event.


  1. ^ "Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire -(Companion)". forces-war-records.co.uk. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  2. ^ Buckland, C. E. (1901). Bengal Under the Lieutenant-Governors: Being a Narrative of the Principal Events and Public Measures During Their Periods of Office, from 1854 to 1898, p. 699. Calcutta: S. K. Lahiri & Co.
  3. ^ Orders Associated with the Indian Empire, Debretts.com; accessed 1 July 2017.
  4. ^ "No. 25673". The London Gazette. 15 February 1887. p. 787.
  5. ^ The India List for 1902. Secretary of State for India. 1902. pp. 140–144.
  6. ^ a b Great Britain. India Office 1905The India List and India Office List for 1905, p. 145, at Google Books
  7. ^ a b Shaw, WM (1906). The Knights of England. Lord Chamberlain's Office, St James's Palace. pp. 398–412.
  8. ^ Edward Walford The county families of the United Kingdom, or, Royal manual of the titled and untitled aristocracy of Great Britain and Ireland (1960), p. 170, at Google Books
  9. ^ "No. 25773". The London Gazette. 5 January 1888. p. 219.
  10. ^ a b Vickers, Hugo (1994). Royal Orders. Great Britain: Boxtree Limited. p. 141. ISBN 1852835109.
  11. ^ a b Obituary for Sir Ian Dixon Scott, Telegraph.co.uk, 11 March 2002.
  12. ^ Obituary of The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad, Telegraph.co.uk, 2 September 2010
  13. ^ "The London Gazette". London-gazette.co.uk. 21 June 1887. p. 3364. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  14. ^ "The London Gazette". London-gazette.co.uk. 1 January 1903. p. 2. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Edinburgh Gazette". London-gazette.co.uk. 15 December 1911. p. 1317. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  16. ^ Boutell, Charles (1908). English Heraldry, p. 290. London: Reeves & Turner.
  17. ^ Great Britain India Office (1905). The India List and India Office List. London: Harrison and Sons. p. 146.
  18. ^ "No. 31712". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1919. p. 5.
  19. ^ Obituary (1897). "Surgeon-General Cornish C.I.E.". The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. 18 (4): 656–61. doi:10.1177/146642409701800412. S2CID 221043039.
  20. ^ Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) (1946). The Dublin University Calendar.
  21. ^ Various (15 March 2007). Alwar State List of Leading Officials, Nobles and Personages. Potter Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4067-3137-8.
  22. ^ Asiatic Society (Kolkata, India) (1916). Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Asiatic Society.
  23. ^ "Home". britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk.

External links[edit]