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Order of the Elephant

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Order of the Elephant
Badge of the Order of the Elephant.
Awarded by

Sovereign of Denmark
TypeChivalric order in one class
MottoMagnanimi Pretium
(Latin: The prize of greatness)
Awarded forAt the Monarch's pleasure
StatusCurrently constituted
SovereignFrederik X
(Danish: Ridder, abbr.: R.E.)
First induction1693 Denmark Christian V of Denmark
Last induction2024 Sweden Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland
Next (higher)None (Highest)
Next (lower)Order of the Dannebrog

Order of the Elephant ribbon

Collar of the Order of the Elephant.
The Blome [da; de] family coat of arms with the Order's collar on gravestone in Heiligenstedten.

The Order of the Elephant (Danish: Elefantordenen) is a Danish order of chivalry and is Denmark's highest-ranked honour. It has origins in the 15th century, but has officially existed since 1693, and since the establishment of constitutional monarchy in 1849, is now almost exclusively used to honour royalty and heads of state.[1]


A Danish religious confraternity called the Fellowship of the Mother of God, limited to about fifty members of the Danish aristocracy, was founded during the reign of Christian I during the 15th century. The badge of the confraternity showed the Virgin Mary holding her Son within a crescent moon and surrounded with the rays of the sun, and was hung from a collar of links in the form of elephants much like the present collar of the Order. After the Reformation in 1536 the confraternity died out, but a badge in the form of an elephant with his profile on its right side was still awarded by Frederick II.[2] This latter badge may have been inspired by the badge of office of the chaplain of the confraternity which is known to have been in the form of an elephant. The order was instituted in its current form on 1 December 1693 by King Christian V as having only one class consisting of only 30 noble knights in addition to the Grand Master (i.e., the king) and his sons.[3] The statutes of the order were amended in 1958 by a Royal Ordinance so that both men and women could be members of the order.

The elephant and castle design derives from the howdah, a carriage that is mounted in the back of an elephant. This type of carriage was mostly utilized in the Indian subcontinent, and the Danish knew about and thus had the ability to adopt this design since they ruled certain parts of India as part of their small colonial empire. The unfamiliar Indian howdah has been replaced in this instance by a familiar European castle, although the Indian rider has been kept on the elephant.


The Danish monarch is the head of the order. The members of the royal family are members of the order, and foreign heads of state are also inducted. In very exceptional circumstances a commoner may also be admitted. The most recent member of the order who was neither a current nor former head of state nor royal was Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, a leading industrialist and philanthropist.

The order of the Elephant has one class: Knight of the Order of the Elephant (Ridder af Elefantordenen, usually abbreviated as R.E. in letters et cetera). Knights of the order are granted a place in the 1st Class of the Danish order of precedence.

Insignia and habits[edit]

Coat of arms of Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway surrounded by the collars of the Order of the Elephant and the Order of the Dannebrog
  • The collar of the order is of gold. It consists of alternating elephants and towers. On the cover of the elephants there is a D which stands for Dania, mediaeval Latin for Denmark. According to the statutes of the order, the collar is usually only worn on New Years Day (during the Danish monarch's New Years Court) and on major occasions (coronations or jubilees).
  • The badge of the order is an elephant made of white-enamelled gold with blue housings. It is about 5 cm high. On its back the elephant is bearing a watch tower of pink enameled masonry encircled by a row of small table cut diamonds at the bottom with another row just below the crenellation at the top. In front of the tower and behind the elephant's head (which has a diamond set in its forehead and smaller diamonds for its eyes) a colorfully attired and turbaned Moor mahout is sitting, holding a golden rod; on the right side of the elephant there is a cross of five large table cut diamonds and on the left side the elephant bears the crowned monogram of the monarch reigning when it was made. At the top of the tower is a large enameled gold ring from which the badge can be hung from the collar or tied to the sash of the Order. There are about 72 elephants at the chancery of the Order or in circulation. It is estimated that together with an unknown number of elephants in museums around the world, the total number of the elephants is about a hundred.[4]
  • The star of the order is an eight-pointed silver star with smooth rays. At its center there is a red enameled disc with a white cross,[5] surrounded by a laurel wreath in silver. It is worn on the left side of the chest.
  • The sash of the order is of light-blue silk moiré and 10 cm wide for men 6 cm wide for women. It is placed on the left shoulder with the elephant resting against the right hip. The collar is not worn when the sash is used.
  • The order originally had a distinctive habit worn by the knights on very solemn occasions[6] consisting of a white doublet, white breeches, white stockings and white shoes, over which was worn a red mantle with a white lining and with the star of the order embroidered in silver on left side. Over this red mantle was worn a short white shoulder cape with a standing collar, embroidered with scattering of numerous gold flames, upon which was worn the collar of the order (the habit was always worn with the collar of the order, never its ribbon). The habit also had a black hat with a plume of white and red ostrich feathers. This habit was almost identical to that worn by the knights of the Order of the Dannebrog.

Upon the death of a Knight of the Order of the Elephant, the insignia of the order must be returned. There are a few exceptions known.

Current knights and officers[edit]

Sovereign of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry[edit]

Current Knights of the Elephant listed by date of appointment[edit]

Name Date
Denmark Queen Margrethe II of Denmark[7] 20 April 1947 Royal family
Then Princess Margrethe of Denmark
Denmark The Dowager Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg[7] 20 April 1947 Royal family
Then Princess Benedikte of Denmark
Denmark/Kingdom of Greece Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes[7] 20 April 1947 Royal family
Then Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark
Japan The Emperor Emeritus of Japan[7] 8 August 1953 Then Crown Prince
Norway The King of Norway[7] 21 February 1958 Then Crown Prince
Thailand The Queen Mother of Thailand[7] 6 September 1960 Then Queen consort
Denmark Count Ingolf of Rosenborg[7] 17 February 1961 Royal family
Then Prince Ingolf of Denmark
Pahlavi Iran Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran[7] 3 May 1963 Then Empress consort
Kingdom of Greece Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark[7] 11 September 1964
Kingdom of Greece Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark[7] 11 September 1964
Sweden The King of Sweden[7] 12 January 1965 Then Crown Prince
Japan The Prince Hitachi[7] 28 September 1965
Belgium King Albert II of Belgium[7] 18 June 1968 Then Prince of Liège
Denmark Prince Joachim of Denmark[7] 14 January 1972 Royal family
Sweden Princess Christina, Mrs. Magnuson[7] 6 January 1973 Then Princess Christina of Sweden
Norway The Queen of Norway[7] 12 February 1973 Then Crown Princess
United Kingdom The King of the United Kingdom[7] 30 April 1974 Then Prince of Wales
Netherlands Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands[7] 29 October 1975 Former Queen
Spain King Juan Carlos I of Spain[7] 17 March 1980 Then King
Kingdom of Greece/Spain Queen Sofía of Spain[7] 17 March 1980 Then Queen consort
Born Princess of Greece and Denmark
Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir[7] 25 February 1981 Former President of Iceland
Portugal António Ramalho Eanes[7] 25 June 1984 Former President of the Portuguese Republic
Sweden The Queen of Sweden[7] 3 September 1985
Norway The Crown Prince of Norway[7] 20 July 1991
Norway Princess Märtha Louise of Norway[7] 13 October 1992
Poland Lech Wałęsa[7] 5 July 1993 Former President of the Republic of Poland
Belgium Queen Paola of Belgium[7] 16 May 1995 Then Queen consort
Sweden The Crown Princess of Sweden[7] 14 July 1995
Denmark The Countess of Frederiksborg[7] 17 November 1995 Formerly Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson[7] 18 November 1996 Former President of Iceland
Kingdom of Greece Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece[7] 14 January 1997 Also Prince of Denmark
Latvia Guntis Ulmanis[7] 18 March 1997 Former President of the Republic of Latvia
Netherlands The King of the Netherlands[7] 31 January 1998 Then Prince of Orange
Jordan Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan[7] 27 April 1998 Then Queen consort
Japan The Empress Emerita of Japan[7] 2 June 1998 Then Empress consort
Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso[7] 3 May 1999 Former President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
Romania Emil Constantinescu[7] 23 May 2000 Former President of Romania
Bulgaria Petar Stoyanov[7] 17 October 2000 Former President of the Republic of Bulgaria
Thailand The King of Thailand[7] 7 February 2001 Then Crown Prince
Finland Tarja Halonen[7] 3 April 2001 Former President of the Republic of Finland
Slovenia Milan Kučan[7] 10 October 2001 Former President of the Republic of Slovenia
Belgium The King of the Belgians[7] 28 May 2002 Then Duke of Brabant
Luxembourg The Grand Duke of Luxembourg[7] 20 October 2003
Luxembourg The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg[7] 20 October 2003
Romania Ion Iliescu[7] 16 March 2004 Former President of Romania
Denmark The Queen of Denmark[7] 9 May 2004 Royal family
Then Mary Donaldson
Japan The Emperor of Japan[7] 16 November 2004 Then Crown Prince
Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov[7] 29 March 2006 Former President of the Republic of Bulgaria
Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva[7] 12 September 2007 President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
Mexico Felipe Calderón Hinojosa[7] 18 February 2008 Former President of the United Mexican States
Denmark Princess Marie of Denmark[7] 24 May 2008 Royal family
South Korea Lee Myung-bak[7] 11 May 2011 Former President of the Republic of Korea
Slovakia Ivan Gašparovič 23 October 2012 Former President of the Slovak Republic
Finland Sauli Niinistö 4 April 2013 Former President of the Republic of Finland
Norway The Crown Princess of Norway 17 May 2014
Croatia Ivo Josipović 21 October 2014 Former President of the Republic of Croatia
Netherlands The Queen of the Netherlands 17 March 2015
Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto 13 April 2016 Former President of the United Mexican States
Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson 24 January 2017 President of Iceland
Belgium The Queen of the Belgians 28 March 2017
France Emmanuel Macron 28 August 2018 President of the French Republic
Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier 10 November 2021 Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Norway Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway 21 January 2022
Denmark The Crown Prince of Denmark 15 October 2023 Royal family
Then Prince Christian of Denmark
Spain The King of Spain 6 November 2023
Spain The Queen of Spain 6 November 2023
Denmark Princess Isabella of Denmark 14 January 2024 Royal family
Denmark Prince Vincent of Denmark 14 January 2024 Royal family
Denmark Princess Josephine of Denmark 14 January 2024 Royal family
Sweden The Duke of Västergötland[8] 6 May 2024

Officers of the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry[edit]

Chancellor of the Chapter[edit]

Historiographer of the Chapter[edit]

  • (1808-1821): Abraham Kall, historian
  • (1827-1851): Laurids Engelstoft, S.K., historian
  • (1852-1893): C.F. Wegener, S.K., historian
  • (1897-1921): Troels Troels-Lund, S.K., historian
  • (1921-1951): Louis Bobé, K.1., historian
  • (1951-1957): Bjørn Kornerup, K.1., historian
  • (1958-1976): Albert Fabritius, K., historian
  • (1976-1994): Tage Kaarsted, K., historian
  • (1994-2018): Knud J.V. Jespersen, K.1., historian
  • (2018–): Jes Fabricius-Møller, historian

Secretary of the Chapter[edit]

Treasurer of the Chapter[edit]

  • (1808-1826): Johan Sigismund von Møsting, Minister of Finance
  • (1826-1828): Ove Ramel Sehested, Minister of the Privy Council
  • (1828-1831): Frantz Bülow
  • (1831-1833): Johan Frederik Bardenfleth
  • (1834-1840): Christian Ove Haxthausen, Chamberlain
  • (1840-1852): Frederik Bardenfleth
  • (1852-?): Sophus Danneskiold-Samsøe, S.K.
  • (1876-1888): C.G.W. Johannsen, LL.D.
  • (1888-1898): Carl Løvenskiold, Chamberlain
  • (1898-1905): Ludvig Castenskiold
  • (1905-1909): Hugo Egmont Hørring
  • (1909-1918): Christian Moltke
  • (1918-1933): Frederik Raben-Levetzau, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • (1944-1954): Johannes Hørring, LL.D.
  • (1955-?): Rudolf Lassen
  • (1991-2010): Paul Henning Fischer, LL.D., Ambassador, Chamberlain
  • (2010–): Per Thornit, Chamberlain

Other notable knights[edit]

Previous knights have included:[9]

Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Royal Orders of Chivalry". The Danish Monarchy. 14 January 2011. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  2. ^ Rosenborg Slot – Objects[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ The knights of the Order were often called the Blue Knights (in reference to the color of their ribbon), as opposed to the White Knights (again, in reference to the color of their ribbon) of the junior Danish order of chivalry, the Order of the Dannebrog, also instituted by Christian V.
  4. ^ In an article entitled "Has anyone seen our elephant?" The 1 July 2004 issue of the Copenhagen Post reported that the original mold for the elephant badge had been stolen from the court jeweler, Georg Jensen.
  5. ^ Originally this cross was formed of six brilliant cut diamonds, but at present it is formed of six small hemispherical silver beads.
  6. ^ i.e., at Danish coronations.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba Official list of knights of the Order of the Elephant Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (in Danish)
  8. ^ "Ordensudveksling ved statsbesøg til Sverige". Kongehuset. Retrieved 6 May 2024.
  9. ^ Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  10. ^ Macdougall, Norman James III, A Political Study (1982)
  11. ^ Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Tycho Brahe" (in Danish)
  12. ^ Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Heinrich Rantzau" (in Danish)
  13. ^ Journal of the Royal Armoury (in Danish). Aktiebolaget Thule. 1970. p. 170.
  14. ^ Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 470. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  15. ^ a b c Birger A. Andersen (20 April 2012). "Nu vil Margrethe have Mærsks Elefantorden tilbage". www.bt.dk.
  16. ^ a b Rick Steves (25 June 2013). Rick Steves' Snapshot Copenhagen & the Best of Denmark. Avalon Travel. pp. 104–. ISBN 978-1-59880-632-8.
  17. ^ a b Slater, Stephen (2013). The Illustrated Book of Heraldry. Wigston, Leicestershire: Lorenz Books. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-7548-2659-0.
  18. ^ "H.K.H. Prins Philip, Hertugen af Edinburgh". Kongehuset (in Danish). 17 April 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Burke's Peerage and Gentry > The Royal Family > HM Queen Elizabeth II". Burke's Peerage & Gentry and The Origins Network. Archived from the original on 1 December 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  20. ^ Jan Körner (2 February 2011). "Folkets fjender... Margrethes venner". ekstrabladet.dk.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]