Order of the Elephant

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Order of the Elephant
Badge of the Order of the Elephant (heraldry).svg
Badge of the Order of the Elephant.
Awarded by
Royal coat of arms of Denmark.svg
Sovereign of Denmark
Type Chivalric order in one class
MottoMagnanimi Pretium
(Latin: The prize of greatness)
Awarded forAt the Monarch's pleasure
StatusCurrently constituted
Sovereign Margrethe II
GradesR.E. (Ridder af Elefantordenen)
First induction1768 Flag of Denmark.svg Frederick VI of Denmark
Last induction2018 Flag of France.svg President Macron of France
Next (higher)None (Highest)
Next (lower) Order of the Dannebrog
Order of the Elephant Ribbon bar.svg
Order of the Elephant ribbon
Collar of the Order of the Elephant. Order of the Elephant (heraldry).svg
Collar of the Order of the Elephant.
The Blome family coat of arms with the Order's collar on gravestone in Heiligenstedten. Heiligenstedten, Grabmale Blome, Elefantenorden NIK 3270.JPG
The Blome 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]

Danish language North Germanic language spoken in Denmark

Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.

Denmark Constitutional monarchy in Europe

Denmark, officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country and the southernmost of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark lies southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark also comprises two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand, Funen and the North Jutlandic Island. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark has a total area of 42,924 km2 (16,573 sq mi), land area of 42,394 km2 (16,368 sq mi), and the total area including Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi), and a population of 5.8 million.

Order of chivalry Order, confraternity or society of knights

A chivalric order, order of chivalry, order of knighthood or equestrian order is an order, confraternity or society of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades, paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.


The symbol most likely indicates the influence of the Danish East India Company.[ citation needed ]

Danish East India Company company

The Danish East India Company refers to two separate Danish chartered companies. The first company operated between 1616 and 1650. The second company existed between 1670 and 1729, however, in 1730 it was re-founded as the Asiatic Company.


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.

A confraternity is generally a Christian voluntary association of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy. They are most common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and the Western Orthodox. When a confraternity has received the authority to aggregate to itself groups erected in other localities, it is called an archconfraternity. An example is the Confraternity of the Rosary.

The elephant and castle design derives from an elephant carrying a howdah, the familiar castle replacing the unfamiliar howdah, and finds use elsewhere in European iconography, as discussed at howdah.

Howdah Carriage placed on the back of an elephant, camel, or other animal

A howdah, or houdah, derived from the Arabic هودج (hawdaj), that means "bed carried by a camel", also known as hathi howdah, is a carriage which is positioned on the back of an elephant, or occasionally some other animal such as camels, used most often in the past to carry wealthy people or for use in hunting or warfare. It was also a symbol of wealth for the owner and as a result was decorated with expensive gemstones.


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 or former head of state nor royal was Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, a leading industrialist and philanthropist.

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Danish shipping magnate

Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was a Danish shipping magnate. He was a longtime figure at A.P. Moller–Maersk Group, which was founded by his father.

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

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 Royal Arms of King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway.svg
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

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

Sovereign of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

Current Knights of the Elephant listed by date of appointment

Officers of the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

Other notable knights

Previous knights have included: [10]

See also

Order of the Elephant [19] and Order of the Elephant Star.
Order of the Elephant of Frederik II.
Order of the Elephant of Christian IV.
Order of the Elephant of Christian V, miniature.
Order of the Elephant of Frederik VII, miniature.
Order of Dannebrog and Order of Dannebrog Star.
Ordre de l'Union Parfaite. [20]

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  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 July 1, 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. "Photobucket".
  8. Official List of Knights of the Order of the Elephant Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine . ‹See Tfd› (in Danish)
  9. Getty Images
  10. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559-2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. ISBN   978-87-7674-434-2.
  11. Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Tycho Brahe" ‹See Tfd› (in Danish)
  12. Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Heinrich Rantzau" ‹See Tfd› (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. 1 2 3 Birger A. Andersen (20 April 2012). "Nu vil Margrethe have Mærsks Elefantorden tilbage". www.bt.dk.
  16. 1 2 Rick Steves (25 June 2013). Rick Steves' Snapshot Copenhagen & the Best of Denmark. Avalon Travel. pp. 104–. ISBN   1-59880-632-7.
  17. 1 2 Slater, Stephen (2013). The Illustrated Book of Heraldry. Wigston, Leicestershire: Lorenz Books. p. 225. ISBN   978-0-7548-2659-0.
  18. Jan Körner (2 February 2011). "Folkets fjender... Margrethes venner". ekstrabladet.dk.
  19. "Order of the Elephant" . Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  20. "Ordre de l'Union Parfaite" . Retrieved 2015-12-17.

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