Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Order of the Elephant

By Sodacan - Own work: Based on: File:Order of the Elephant (heraldry).svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9711613

Crown Princess Mary recently looked beautiful at a royal New Year's reception, wearing the Order of the Elephant.  This is Denmark's oldest and most distinguished Order of chivalry, which dates back to the fifteenth century.  This unusual Order always looks attractive. This badge has a white-enamelled gold elephant with a castle on its back and a cross to one side with the reigning Sovereign's monogram on the other.

Originally, the Order was called the 'Fellowship of the Mother of God', which King Christian 1 founded in about 1470. The medal of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus was worn on a chain of tower-bearing elephants. An elephant seems a strange symbol for such a cold northern kingdom. However, elephants carrying towers were apparently associated with the Virgin Mary, and battle elephants were also a Christian symbol representing purity and chastity. Denmark also had a close relationship with the Thai royal family, whose most sacred sytmbol was the elephant.

After the Reformation, the Order's association with Catholicism was not in favour, but it was revived in the sixteenth century and new rules were made for the presentation of the insignias in 1693 by King Christian V.  These rules are still in existence. However, the statutes were amended by a Royal Ordinance in 1958, allowing both men and women to wear the order.

On New Year's Eve, the Order is worn on the chest on a chain-link collar, but on other occasions, it is worn on a blue sash. The monarch is the head of the Order.

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