The Order of the Elephant ( da, 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.


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. 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. 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 Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is oft ...
. This type of carriage was mostly utilized in the
Indian subcontinent
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 people, Indian Mahout, 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 or 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

Image:Royal Arms of King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway.svg, 200px, Coat of arms of Frederick IV of Denmark, 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 Moors, 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. * 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, 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 consisting of a white doublet (clothing), doublet, white rhinegraves, breeches, white stockings and white shoes, over which was worn a red mantle (clothing), 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 (feather), 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. * Paris, Chancellery museum- collar on display * USA, Sash and Badge of Dwight Eisenhower, on display at his presidential library.

Current knights and officers

Sovereign of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

* Margrethe II of Denmark, The Queen of Denmark

Current Knights of the Elephant listed by date of appointment

* 20 April 1947: Princess Benedikte of Denmark * 20 April 1947: Queen Anne-Marie of Greece (then Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark) * 16 November 1947: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (then Princess Elizabeth) * 8 August 1953: Emperor Akihito of Japan (then Crown Prince) * 21 February 1958: King Harald V of Norway * 6 September 1960: Queen Sirikit of Thailand * 17 February 1961: Count Ingolf of Rosenborg, then Prince of Denmark * 4 January 1962: King Constantine II of Greece * 3 May 1963: Empress Farah of Iran * 11 September 1964: Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark * 11 September 1964: Prince Michael of Greece, Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark * 12 January 1965: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (then crown prince) * 28 September 1965: Prince Hitachi of Japan * 18 June 1968: King Albert II of Belgium * 14 January 1972: Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark * 14 January 1972: Prince Joachim of Denmark * 16 January 1973: Princess Christina, Mrs. Magnusson * 12 February 1973: Queen Sonja of Norway * 30 April 1974: Charles, Prince of Wales * 29 October 1975: Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (later Queen) * 17 March 1980: King Juan Carlos I of Spain * 17 March 1980: Queen Sofia of Spain * 25 February 1981: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of the Republic of Iceland * 25 June 1984: António Ramalho Eanes, António Santos Ramalho Eanes, former President of the Portuguese Republic * 3 September 1985: Queen Silvia of Sweden * 20 July 1991: Crown Prince Haakon of Norway * 13 October 1992: Princess Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, Märtha Louise of Norway * 5 July 1993: Lech Wałęsa, former President of the Republic of Poland * 7 September 1994: Martti Ahtisaari, former President of the Republic of Finland * 16 May 1995: Queen Paola of Belgium * 14 July 1995: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden * 17 November 1995: Princess Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg * 18 November 1996: Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former President of the Republic of Iceland * 14 January 1997: Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Prince of Denmark * 18 March 1997: Guntis Ulmanis, former President of the Republic of Latvia * 31 January 1998: King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (then Prince) * 27 April 1998: Queen Noor of Jordan * 2 June 1998: Empress Michiko of Japan * 3 May 1999: Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of the Federative Republic of Brazil * 23 May 2000: Emil Constantinescu, former President of the Republic of Romania * 17 October 2000: Petar Stoyanov, former President of the Republic of Bulgaria * 7 February 2001: King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand (then crown prince) * 3 April 2001: Tarja Halonen, former President of the Republic of Finland * 10 October 2001: Milan Kučan, former President of the Republic of Slovenia * 28 May 2002: King Philippe of Belgium (then Duke of Brabant) * 20 October 2003: Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg * 20 October 2003: Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg * 16 March 2004: Ion Iliescu, former President of Romania * 9 May 2004: Crown Princess Mary of Denmark * 16 November 2004: Emperor Naruhito of Japan (then Crown Prince) * 29 March 2006: Georgi Parvanov, former President of the Republic of Bulgaria * 24 May 2006: Karolos Papoulias, former President of Greece * 12 September 2007: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former President of the Federative Republic of Brazil * 18 February 2008: Felipe Calderón, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, former President of Mexico * 24 May 2008: Princess Marie of Denmark, wife of Prince Joachim of DenmarkOfficial List of Knights of the Order of the Elephant
* 11 May 2011: Lee Myung-bak, former President of South Korea * 23 October 2012: Ivan Gašparovič, former President of Slovakia * 4 April 2013: Sauli Niinistö, current President of Finland * 17 May 2014: Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway * 21 October 2014: Ivo Josipović, former President of Croatia * 17 March 2015: Queen Máxima of the Netherlands * 13 April 2016: Enrique Peña Nieto, former President of the Mexico. * 24 January 2017: Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, President of Iceland * 28 March 2017: Queen Mathilde of Belgium * 28 August 2018: Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic

Officers of the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

* Chancellor: Prince Prince Joachim of Denmark, Joachim, younger son of the Queen * Secretary: Henning Fode, Chamberlain, Private Secretary to the Queen * Treasurer: Ambassador Paul Fischer, LL.D., Chamberlain * Secretary of the Chapter: Per Thornit, Chamberlain, Chief of TRH the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess's Household * Historiographer of the Chapter: Knud J.V. Jespersen, Doctor of Philosophy#Scandinavia, dr. phil.

Other notable knights

Previous knights have included: *Tycho Brahe, astronomer (1578) *Heinrich Rantzau, German-Danish humanist, writer, astrologer and statesman (1580) *Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, Dutch lieutenant-admiral (1659) *Egbert Bartholomeusz Kortenaer, Dutch vice-admiral (1659) *Cornelis Tromp, Dutch and Danish admiral-general (1676) *Ernst Albrecht von Eberstein, military leader (1676) *Ernst Heinrich von Schimmelmann, politician and landowner (1790) *Duke William Frederick Philip of Württemberg, Danish general and Governor of Copenhagen during the (Battle of Copenhagen (1801)) *Albert, Prince Consort, (10 January 1843) *Jacob Brønnum Scavenius Estrup, J.B.S. Estrup, Danish landowner, politician and President of the Council of State (1878) *Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy (1891) * Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1856–1929), Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1909) *Vilhelm Thomsen, Professor, Dr. Phil., Danish linguist (1912) *Hans Niels Andersen, H.N. Andersen, Danish businessman, Consul-General, titular Councilor of State (1919) *Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, C.G.E. Mannerheim, President of the Republic of Finland, Marshal of Finland (1919) *Umberto II, King of Italy, then Prince of Piedmont as heir to the throne (1922) *Stanisław Wojciechowski, President of the Republic of Poland (1923) *Tomáš Masaryk, President of the Czechoslovak Republic (1925) *Reza Shah of Persia (former name of Iran) (1937) *Miklós Horthy, Austro-Hungarian vice-admiral, Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary (1940) *Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, British Field Marshal (1945) *Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, General of the Army (1945) *Niels Bohr, Professor, Dr. Phil. & Scient. & Techn., Danish physicist and Nobel laureate, Manifested Copenhagen interpretation ("atom theory") (1947) *Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1947) *Winston Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill, British prime minister and Nobel laureate (1950) *Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia (21 November 1954) *Princess Elisabeth of Denmark, Danish diplomat and cousin of Margrethe II of Denmark (1962) *Julius Nyerere, President of the United Republic of Tanzania (1970) *Josip Broz Tito, President of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (1974) *Richard von Weizsäcker, President of the Germany, Federal Republic of Germany (1989) *Nicolae Ceauşescu, President of the Socialist Republic of Romania (Note: Awarded on the November 1980 state visit to Denmark, but revoked by the Queen on December 23, 1989. The insignia have been returned to Denmark and Ceauşescu's name has been deleted from the official rolls.) *Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of the Italian Republic (1993) *Nelson Mandela, President of the South Africa, Republic of South Africa (1996) *Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, Danish shipping magnate (2000)

See also

*Howdah#Elephant and castle symbol, Elephant and castle symbol *Order of the Dannebrog
Афонасенко И.М. Гербы российских кавалеров в гербовнике датского ордена Слона (Afonasenko, Igor. Coats of Arms of Russian Knights in the «Elefantordenens Våbenbog»)
/ Геральдика - вспомогательная историческая дисциплина: Семинар ГЭ 24 апреля 2019 г. СПб., 2019. 34 стр. *Some of the elephant badges on exhibit at Rosenborg Castle: ::Order of the Elephant an
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

of Dannebrog
Order of Dannebrog Star
::Ordre de l'Union Parfaite.

.--> *For the history and insignia of the original confraternity of Christian I see Boulton, D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre, 1987. ''The Knights of The Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe, 1325–1520'', Woodbridge, Suffolk (Boydell Press), (revised edition 2000).
Database over Danish Medals, including Order of the Elephant


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Order Of The Elephant 1693 establishments in Denmark, Elephant, Order of Dynastic orders, Elephant, Order of the 15th-century establishments in Denmark Orders, decorations, and medals of Denmark Orders of chivalry awarded to heads of state, consorts and sovereign family members, Elephant, Order of the Orders of chivalry of Denmark, Elephant, Order of the