Royal Victorian Chain

The Royal Victorian Chain is a decoration instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII as a personal award of the monarch (i.e. not an award made on the advice of any Commonwealth realm government). It ranks above the Royal Victorian Order,[1] with which it is often associated but not officially related. Originally reserved for members of the royal family, the chain is a distinct award conferred only upon the highest dignitaries, including foreign monarchs, heads of state, and high-ranking individuals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.[2]

Royal Victorian Chain
Badge of the Royal Victorian Chain
TypePersonal award
Awarded forAt the monarch's pleasure
Presented bythe monarch of the Commonwealth realms
EligibilityMen and women, of any nation
StatusCurrently awarded
First awardedGeorge, Prince of Wales
Last awardedThe Earl Peel
Ribbon of the Royal Victorian Chain


The Royal Victorian Chain was created by Edward VII in 1902, six years after his mother created the Royal Victorian Order. The Royal Victorian Chain ranks above all decorations of the Royal Victorian Order, but it is not officially part of the Order. Edward created it to honour his mother "as a personal decoration for Sovereigns, Princes, and other Royal personages, and also for a few eminent British subjects." It was first recorded as a new decoration in August 1902, when it was reported that Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, was received in private audience to receive the Royal Victorian Chain, following the coronation of the King two days earlier.[3] The first recipients included the King's son, George, Prince of Wales (later George V), and the King's brother, Prince Arthur.[4]


Alfonso XIII of Spain (left) with his cousin-in-law, the future King George V (right), during his State Visit to the United Kingdom in 1905. Both of them are wearing the Royal Victorian Chain.

The chain is in gold, decorated with motifs of Tudor rose, thistle, shamrock, and lotus flower (symbolizing England, Scotland, Ireland, and India, respectively) and a crowned, red enamelled cypher of King Edward VII—ERI (Edwardus Rex Imperator)—surrounded by a gold wreath for men, upon which the badge is suspended. The chain is worn around the collar by men or with the four motifs and some chain links fixed to a riband in the form of bow (blue with red-white-red edges) on the left shoulder by women. However, the Queen's sister, the late Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, in later life chose to wear her chain around the collar, as male recipients do.

The badge is a gold, white enamelled Maltese Cross; the oval-shaped central medallion depicts Victoria's royal and imperial cypherVRI (Victoria Regina Imperatrix)—on a red background, surrounded by a crown-surmounted blue ring bearing the word Victoria. Both the crown and Queen Victoria's cypher are studded with diamonds.

Eligibility and allocation

The Royal Victorian Chain does not confer upon its recipients any style, title or postnominal letters, nor does it give precedence within any Commonwealth honours system. However, it represents a personal token of high distinction and esteem from the monarch. The chain can be conferred upon men and women of any nationality.

It has normally served as the senior award for Canadians, who are generally ineligible to receive titular honours under federal Cabinet policy. Only two Canadians have thus far been conferred with the chain: Vincent Massey and Roland Michener, both former governors general.[5]

The Royal Victorian Chain is invariably granted to holders of the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. [6]

The Royal Victorian Chain must be returned on the death of the recipient.[7]

List of living recipients of the Royal Victorian Chain

NameKnown forYear of conferralCurrent age
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark LGQueen of Denmark1974[8]82
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden KGKing of Sweden1975[8]76
Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands LG GCVOFormer Queen of the Netherlands1982[8]84
António Ramalho Eanes GCBFormer President of Portugal1985[8]88
King Juan Carlos I of Spain KGEmeritus King of Spain1986[8]85
King Harald V of Norway KG GCVOKing of Norway199486
The Earl of Airlie KT GCVO PC JPFormer Lord Chamberlain1997[9]96
The Lord Carey of Clifton PCFormer Archbishop of Canterbury2002[10]87
The Lord Williams of Oystermouth PC FBA FRSL FLSWFormer Archbishop of Canterbury2012[11]72
The Earl Peel GCVO PC DLFormer Lord Chamberlain2021[12]75

See also

  • List of recipients of the Royal Victorian Chain
  • List of Canadian awards


  1. "Birthday Honours – A Long List – Five New Peers – Many Baronets And Knights". The Times. 4 June 1917. p. 9. An interesting honour is that awarded to Lord Rosebery, upon whom the King has conferred the Royal Victorian Chain, the highest class of the Royal Victorian Order.
  2. Duckers, Peter (2004). British Orders and Decorations. Osprey Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 9780747805809.
  3. "Court Circular". The Times. No. 36844. London. 12 August 1902. p. 8.
  4. "Honour for Archbishop of York: Royal Victorian Chain". The Times. 2 May 1923. p. 13. The Royal Victorian Chain ranks above all the five classes of the Royal Victorian Order, with which it is generally associated, but of which it does not form a part.
  5. Christopher McCreery (2005). The Canadian honours system. Dundurn Press. p. 105. ISBN 1-55002-554-6.
  7. Christopher McCreery (2008). On Her Majesty's Service: Royal Honours and Recognition in Canada. Dundurn Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-55002-742-6.
  8. Whitaker's Almanack 1992 (124th ed.). London: William Clowes. 1992. p. 183. ISBN 9780850212204.
  9. "No. 54984". The London Gazette. 19 December 1997. p. 14236.
  10. "No. 56749". The London Gazette. 12 November 2002. p. 1.
  11. "No. 60392". The London Gazette. 15 January 2013. p. 1.
  12. "No. 63322". The London Gazette. 15 April 2021. p. 7050.
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