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The Order of Merit (french: link=no, Ordre du Mérite) is an
order of merit The Order of Merit (french: link=no, Ordre du Mérite) is an order of merit for the Commonwealth realms, recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Established in 1902 by Ki ...
for the
Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations whose monarch and head of state is shared among the other realms. Each realm functions as an independent state, equal with the other realms and nations of the Commonwealt ...
s, recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Established in 1902 by King
Edward VII Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, from 22 January 1901 until Death and state funeral of Edward VII, his death in 1910. The second chil ...
, admission into the order remains the personal gift of its Sovereign—currently Edward VII's great-great-grandson,
Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to a ...
—and is restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from the Commonwealth realms, plus a limited number of honorary members. While all members are awarded the right to use the
post-nominal letters Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a person's name to indicate that the individual holds a position, academic degree, accreditation, ...
''OM'' and wear the badge of the order, the Order of Merit's precedence among other honours differs between countries.


History

In around 1773,
King George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and of Monarchy of Ireland, Ireland from 25 October 1760 until Acts of Union 1800, the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which he was ...
considered establishing an
order of knighthood An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order (distinction), order of knights, typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic Military order (religious society), military orders of the ...
to be called the "Order of
Minerva Minerva (; ett, Menrva) is the Roman mythology, Roman goddess of wisdom, justice, law, victory, and the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. Minerva is not a patron of violence such as Mars (mythology), Mars, but of strategic war. From the ...
" with membership restricted to 24 distinguished artists and authors. Knights would be entitled to the post-nominal letters ''KM'', and would wear a silver nine-pointed breast star with the image of
Minerva Minerva (; ett, Menrva) is the Roman mythology, Roman goddess of wisdom, justice, law, victory, and the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. Minerva is not a patron of violence such as Mars (mythology), Mars, but of strategic war. From the ...
at its centre, along with a "straw-coloured"
sash A sash is a large and usually colorful ribbon or band of material worn around the body, either draping from one shoulder to the opposing hip and back up, or else running around the waist. The sash around the waist may be worn in daily attire, bu ...
worn across the chest from the right shoulder. The
motto A motto (derived from the Latin language, Latin , 'mutter', by way of Italian language, Italian , 'word' or 'sentence') is a Sentence (linguistics), sentence or phrase expressing a belief or purpose, or the general motivation or intention of a ...
of the Order would be ''"Omnia posthabita scientiae"'' (in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
, 'Everything comes after science'). Once the King's proposal was made public, however, arguments within intellectual circles over who would be most deserving of the new order grew so heated that George ultimately dropped the idea, though he briefly reconsidered it in 1789; on 6 February of that year, he revised the design of the order, with the breast star to have sixteen points, the motto to be the Latin for "Learning improves character" and with membership to include distinguished scientists. Following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805,
First Lord of the Admiralty The First Lord of the Admiralty, or formally the Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the political head of the English and later British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although war ...
Lord Barham and William Pitt exchanged correspondence concerning the possible creation of an order of merit, though nothing came of the idea. Later,
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until Death and state funeral of Queen Victoria, her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 21 ...
, her
courtiers A courtier () is a person who attends the Court (royal), royal court of a monarch or other Royal family, royalty. The earliest historical examples of courtiers were part of the retinues of rulers. Historically the court was the centre of governm ...
, and politicians alike, thought that a new order, based on the
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a Germans, German state on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It formed the German Empire under Prussian rule when it united the German states in 1871. It was ''de facto'' dissolved ...
n order '' Pour le Mérite'', would make up for the insufficient recognition offered by the established honours system to achievement outside of public service, in fields such as art, music, literature, industry, and science. Victoria's husband,
Albert, Prince Consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Franz August Karl Albert Emanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the List of British royal consorts, consort of Queen Victoria from Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and ...
, took an interest in the matter; it was recorded in his diary that he met
Sir Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834–1835 and 1841–1846) simultaneously serving as Cha ...
on 16 January 1844 to discuss the "idea of institution of a civil Order of Merit" and, three days later, he conferred with the Queen on the subject. The concept did not wither and, on 5 January 1888, British prime minister
Lord Salisbury Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (; 3 February 183022 August 1903) was a British statesman and Conservative Party (UK), Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom three times for a ...
submitted to the Queen a draft constitution for an Order of Merit in Science and Art, consisting of one grade split into two branches of knighthood: the Order of Scientific Merit for Knights of Merit in Science, with the post-nominal letters ''KMS'', and the Order of Artistic Merit for Knights of Merit in Art, with the post-nominal letters ''KMA''. However, Sir Frederic Leighton, President of the Royal Academy, advised against the new order, primarily because of its selection process. Victoria's son, King
Edward VII Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, from 22 January 1901 until Death and state funeral of Edward VII, his death in 1910. The second chil ...
, eventually founded the Order of Merit on 26 June 1902 (the date for which his coronation had been originally planned) as a means to acknowledge "exceptionally meritorious service in Our Navy and Our Army, or who may have rendered exceptionally meritorious service towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science". All modern aspects of the order were established under his direction, including the division for military figures. From the outset, prime ministers attempted to propose candidates or lobbied to influence the
monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority ...
's decision on appointments, but the Royal Household adamantly guarded information about potential names. After 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into being and the
Dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Un ...
s of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...
became independent countries, equal in status to the UK, the Order of Merit continued as an honour open to all these realms and, in many, became a part of their national honours systems. The order's statutes were amended in 1935 to include members of the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
and, in 1969, the definition of honorary recipients was expanded to include members of the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
that are not realms. From its inception, the order has been open to women,
Florence Nightingale Florence Nightingale (; 12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was an English Reform movement, social reformer, statistician and the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during t ...
being the first woman to receive the honour, in 1907. Several individuals have refused admission into the Order of Merit, including
Rudyard Kipling Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( ; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)''The Times'', (London) 18 January 1936, p. 12. was an English novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist. He was born in British Raj, British India, which inspired much o ...
, A. E. Housman, and George Bernard Shaw. To date,
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, later Philip Mountbatten; 10 June 1921 – 9 April 2021) was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. As such, he served as the consort of the British monarch from El ...
, remains the youngest person ever inducted into the Order of Merit, having been admitted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968, when he was 47 years of age.


Eligibility and appointment

All citizens of the
Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations whose monarch and head of state is shared among the other realms. Each realm functions as an independent state, equal with the other realms and nations of the Commonwealt ...
s are eligible for appointment to the Order of Merit. There may be, however, only 24 living individuals in the order at any given time, not including honorary appointees, and new members are personally selected by the reigning monarch of the realms, currently King
Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to a ...
, with the assistance of his private secretaries; the order has thus been described as "quite possibly, the most prestigious honour one can receive on planet Earth." Within the limited membership is a designated military division, with its own unique insignia; though it has not been abolished, it is currently unpopulated, Lord Mountbatten of Burma having been the last person so honoured. Honorary members form another group, to which there is no numerical limit, though such appointments are rare; individuals from countries in the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
that are not headed by King Charles are therefore considered foreigners, and thus are granted only honorary admissions, such as
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (; ; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African Internal resistance to apartheid, anti-apartheid activist who served as the President of South Africa, first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1 ...
(South Africa) and Mother Teresa (India). Upon admission into the Order of Merit, members are entitled to use the
post-nominal letters Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a person's name to indicate that the individual holds a position, academic degree, accreditation, ...
''OM'' and are entrusted with the
badge A badge is a device or accessory, often containing the insignia of an organization, which is presented or displayed to indicate some feat of service, a special accomplishment, a symbol of authority granted by taking an oath (e.g., police and fi ...
of the order.


Insignia

The insignia consists of a badge, which consists of a golden crown from which is suspended a red enamelled cross pattée, itself centred by a disk of blue enamel, surrounded by a
laurel wreath A laurel wreath is a round wreath made of connected branches and leaves of the bay laurel (), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen, or later from spineless butcher's broom (''Ruscus hypoglossum'') or cherry laurel (''Prunus laurocerasus''). It is a sy ...
. The
obverse Obverse and its opposite (semantics), opposite, reverse, refer to the two flat faces of coins and some other two-sided objects, including Currency#Paper money, paper money, flag terminology, flags, seal (emblem), seals, medals, drawings, old m ...
of the badge's central disk bears the words ''FOR MERIT'' in gold lettering, while the reverse bears the royal cypher of the reigning monarch in gold. The insignia for the military grouping is distinguished by a pair of crossed swords behind the central disk. The
ribbon A ribbon or riband is a thin band of material, typically cloth but also plastic Plastics are a wide range of synthetic polymers, synthetic or semi-synthetic materials that use polymers as a main ingredient. Their Plasticity (physics), plas ...
of the Order of Merit is divided into two stripes of red and blue. Men wear their badges on a neck ribbon (as a necklet), while women wear theirs on a ribbon bow pinned to the left shoulder, and aides-de-camp may wear the insignia on their aiguillettes. Since 1991, it has been required that the insignia be returned upon the recipient's death.


Current members

* Sovereign: King
Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to a ...
* Secretary and Registrar: The Lord Janvrin


Substantive members


Honorary members

There have been no honorary members of the Order of Merit since the death of the last such member,
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (; ; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African Internal resistance to apartheid, anti-apartheid activist who served as the President of South Africa, first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1 ...
, in December 2013.


Precedence

As the Order of Merit is open to the citizens of 15 countries, each with their own system of orders, decorations, and medals, the order's place of precedence varies from country to country. While, in the United Kingdom, the order's postnominal letters follow those of Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, membership in the Order of Merit itself gives members no place in any of the
orders of precedence in the United Kingdom The order of precedence in the United Kingdom is the Order of precedence, sequential hierarchy for Peers of the Realm, officers of state, senior members of the clergy, holders of the various Chivalric order, Orders of Chivalry and other persons in ...
. However, Stanley Martin says in his book ''The Order of Merit 1902–2002: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour'', that the Order of Merit is the pinnacle of the British honours system. Similarly, though it was not listed in the Canadian order of precedence for honours, decorations, and medals until December 2010, Christopher McCreery, an expert on Canadian honours and secretary to the
Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia The lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia () is the Viceroy, viceregal representative in Nova Scotia of the , who Monarchy in Nova Scotia, operates distinctly within the province but is also shared equally with the Canadian federalism, ten other juri ...
, stated that the Order of Merit was the highest civilian award for merit a Canadian could receive. Some orders of precedence are as follows:


Notes


Citations


References

*


External links


Order of Merit
(cabinetoffice.gov.uk)
What is the Order of Merit?
(thegazette.co.uk) * *

{{Authority control Civil awards and decorations of Canada Civil awards and decorations of the United Kingdom Awards established in 1902 1902 establishments in the British Empire