Order of St. Olav
The Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav is a Norwegian order of chivalry that was instituted by King Oscar I of Norway and Sweden on August 21, 1847, as a distinctly Norwegian order. It is named after King Olav II, known to posterity as St. Olav. Nobility was abolished in Norway in 1821. Just before the union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905, the Order of the Norwegian Lion was instituted in 1904 by King Oscar II, but it was not awarded by his successor Haakon VII. The Order of St. Olav thus became the kingdom’s only order of chivalry for the next 80 years. The Grand Master of the order is the reigning monarch of Norway. It is awarded to individuals as a reward for remarkable accomplishments on behalf of the country and humanity. Since 1985, the order has only been conferred upon Norwegian citizens, though foreign heads of state and royalty are awarded the order as a matter of courtesy.
The King awards the order upon the recommendation of a six-member commission, none of who may be a member of the government, consisting of a chancellor, vice chancellor, the Lord Chamberlain (acting as treasurer), and three other representatives. The Lord Chamberlain nominates the members of the commission, and the monarch approves them. Nominations for the award are directed at the commission through the county governor.
The order is divided into five classes and may be awarded for either civilian or military contributions, in descending order of distinction. The collar is awarded as a separate distinction of the Grand Cross to those recipients deemed exceptionally worthy.
Grand Cross of St. Olav (Storkors) – awarded to heads of state as a courtesy and in rare cases to individuals for merit; wears the badge on a collar (chain), plus the star on the left chest. If the collar is not worn the badge may be worn on a sash on the right shoulder;
Commander with Star (Kommandør med stjerne) – wears the badge on a necklet, plus the star on the left chest;
Commander (Kommandør) – wears the badge on a necklet;
Knight, First Class (Ridder av 1. klasse) – wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest;
Knight (Ridder) – wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest.
The insignia are expected to be returned either upon the receiver’s advancement to a higher level of the order or upon his or her death. Since it was instituted, the order has been awarded approximately 19,500 times. The insignia are produced in Norway by craftsmen.
The Norwegian king also awards the St. Olav’s Medal (St. Olavsmedaljen) in silver “for services in advancing knowledge of Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their descendants and their country of residence”. The medal does not confer upon the recipient membership in an order.
The collar of the Order is in gold, with five enamelled and crowned monograms “O” (for “Oscar”, the royal cipher of Oscar I, the Order’s founder), five enamelled and crowned coat-of-arms of Norway, and 10 gold crosses bottony each flanked by two battle axes with silver blades and golden shafts (The latter element is also featured in the coat of arms of the Church of Norway).
The badge of the Order is a white enamelled Maltese Cross, in silver for the knight class and in gilt of the higher classes; crowned monograms “O” (for “Oscar”) appear between the arms of the cross. The obverse central disc is red with the golden Norwegian lion rampart bearing a battle axe; the reverse disc bears the King Olav’s motto «Ret og Sandhed» – “Justice and Truth” in Norwegian; both discs are surrounded by a white-blue-white ring. The cross is topped by a crown; military awards have crossed swords between the crown and the cross.
The star of the Order for the Grand Cross is an eight-pointed silver star with faceted rays, bearing the obverse of the badge of the Order (minus the crown on the top).
The star for Commander with Star is a silver faceted Maltese Cross, with gilt crowned monograms “O” (for “Oscar”) between the arms of the cross. The central disc is red with the golden Norwegian lion rampart bearing a battle axe, surrounded by a white-blue-white ring.
The ribbon of the Order is red with white-blue-white edge stripes.
In very exceptional circumstances the Order may awarded ‘with diamonds’, in which case a ring of diamonds replace the white-blue-white enamel ring surrounding the central disc on the front of the badge.
The Order of St. Olav is the highest civilian decoration currently awarded by Norway, and only ranks after the military War Cross among all Norwegian decorations still awarded in the general ranking.
In the order of precedence used at the royal court of Norway, bearers of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav with collar are ranked 15th in the order of precedence, directly after the Mistress of the Robes and generals and directly before recipients of the War Cross with Sword. Bearers of the Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav are ranked 16th.
How the insignia is worn
The Knight’s Cross is worn on the left breast, and the Commander’s Cross is suspended from a ribbon around the neck. The Grand Cross is attached to a broad sash worn passing from the right shoulder to the left side. Women wear the Knight’s Cross and Commander’s Cross on the left breast attached to a bow made from the Knight’s Cross ribbon.
The Insignia of the Order is returned to the Council of the Order in the event of the promotion or death of the recipient.