Order of St Michael and St George

Order of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
Grand Cross's insignia
Awarded by the Queen of the United Kingdom
Type Order
Motto Auspicium Melioris Ævi
Token of a Better Age
Awarded for At the monarch's pleasure
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign HM The Queen
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Knight/ Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)
Knight/ Dame Commander (KCMG/DCMG)
Companion (CMG)
Established 28 April 1818
Next (higher) Order of the Star of India
Next (lower) Order of the Indian Empire
UK Order St-Michael St-George ribbon.svg
Ribbon bar of the Order of St Michael and St George

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom,[1] while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III.

It is named in honour of two military saints, St. Michael and St. George.

The Order of St Michael and St George is awarded to men and women who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country. It can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.



The Order includes three classes, in descending order of seniority:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)[1]
  • Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)[1]
  • Companion (CMG)[1]

It is used to honour individuals who have rendered important services in relation to Commonwealth or foreign nations. People are appointed to the Order rather than awarded it. British Ambassadors to foreign nations are regularly appointed as KCMGs or CMGs. For example, the former British Ambassador to the United States, Sir David Manning, was appointed a CMG when he worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and then after his appointment as British Ambassador to the US, he was promoted to a Knight Commander (KCMG). It is the traditional award for members of the FCO.

The Order's motto is Auspicium melioris ævi (Latin for "Token of a better age"). Its patron saints, as the name suggests, are St. Michael the Archangel and St. George. One of its primary symbols is that of St Michael trampling over Satan.

The Order is the sixth-most senior in the British honours system, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, which is the pinnacle of the British honours system, The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, and The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India. The third of the aforementioned Orders—which relates to Ireland, no longer fully a part of the United Kingdom—still exists but is in disuse; no appointments have been made to it since 1934. The last of the Orders on the list, related to India, has also been in disuse since that country's independence in 1947.


On the Order's insignia, St Michael is often depicted subduing Satan

The Order was founded to commemorate the British amical protectorate over the Ionian Islands, which had come under British control in 1814 and had been granted its own constitution as the United States of the Ionian Islands in 1817. It was intended to reward "natives of the Ionian Islands and of the island of Malta and its dependencies, and for such other subjects of His Majesty as may hold high and confidential situations in the Mediterranean."[2]

In 1864, however, the protectorate ended and the Ionian Islands became a part of Greece. The Order's basis was revised in 1868; membership was granted to those who "hold high and confidential offices within Her Majesty's colonial possessions, and in reward for services rendered to the Crown in relation to the foreign affairs of the Empire." Accordingly, numerous Governors-General and Governors feature as recipients of awards in the order.


The British Sovereign is the Sovereign of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order (by convention, on the advice of the Government). The next-most senior member is the Grand Master. The office was formerly filled by the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands; now, however, Grand Masters are chosen by the Sovereign. Grand Masters include:

The Order originally included 15 Knights Grand Cross, 20 Knights Commanders and 25 Companions. Several expansions have been made; now, the limits are 125, 375 and 1750, respectively. Members of the Royal Family who are appointed to the Order do not count towards the limit; neither do foreigners appointed as "honorary members".

The Order has six officers: the Prelate (as of 2006 the Rt Revd David Urquhart), the Chancellor, the Secretary, the Registrar, the King of Arms and the Usher. The Order's King of Arms is not a member of the College of Arms, like many other heraldic officers. The Usher of the Order is known as the Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod; he does not, unlike his Order of the Garter equivalent (the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod), perform any duties related to the House of Lords.

Vestments and accoutrements

Mantle of the Order.
Representation of the star of a Knight or Dame Grand Cross
Star and badge of a Knight or Dame Commander
Collar worn by a Knight or Dame Grand Cross

Members of the Order wear elaborate costumes on important occasions (such as coronations), which vary by rank:

  • The mantle, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of Saxon blue satin lined with crimson silk. On the left side is a representation of the star (see below). The mantle is bound with two large tassels.
  • The collar, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of gold. It consists of depictions of crowned lions, Maltese Crosses, and the cyphers "SM" and "SG", all alternately. In the centre are two winged lions, each holding a book and seven arrows.

At less important occasions, simpler insignia are used:

  • The star is an insignia used only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commanders. It is worn pinned to the left breast. The Knight and Dame Grand Cross' star includes seven-armed, silver-rayed 'Maltese Asterisk' (for want of a better description—see image of badge), with a gold ray in between each pair of arms. The Knight and Dame Commander's star is a slightly smaller eight-pointed silver figure formed by two Maltese Crosses; it does not include any gold rays. In each case, the star bears a red cross of St George. In the centre of the star is a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order. Within the ring is a representation of St Michael trampling on Satan.
  • The badge is the only insignia used by all members of the Order; it is suspended on a blue-crimson-blue ribbon. Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear it on a riband or sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip. Knights Commanders and male Companions wear the badge from a ribbon around the neck; Dames Commanders and female Companions wear it from a bow on the left shoulder. The badge is a seven-armed, white-enamelled 'Maltese Asterisk' (see Maltese Cross); the obverse shows St Michael trampling on Satan, while the reverse shows St George on horseback killing a dragon, both within a dark blue ring bearing the motto of the Order.

On certain "collar days" designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform or morning wear. When collars are worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge is suspended from the collar.

All collars which have been awarded since 1948 must be returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. The other insignia may be retained.


The original home of the Order was the Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu, the residence of the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands and the seat of the Ionian Senate. Since 1906, the Order's chapel has been in St Paul's Cathedral in London. (The Cathedral also serves as home to the chapels of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.) Religious services for the whole Order are held quadrennially; new Knights and Dames Grand Cross are installed at these services.

The Sovereign and the Knights and Dames Grand Cross are allotted stalls in the choir of the chapel, above which their heraldic devices are displayed. Perched on the pinnacle of a knight's stall is his helm, decorated with a mantling and topped by his crest. Under English heraldic law, women other than monarchs do not bear helms or crests; instead, the coronet appropriate to the dame's rank, if there is one, is used (see coronet). Above the crest or coronet, the stall's occupant's heraldic banner is hung, emblazoned with his or her coat of arms. At a considerably smaller scale, to the back of the stall is affixed a piece of brass (a "stall plate") displaying its occupant's name, arms and date of admission into the Order. Upon the death of a Knight, the banner, helm, mantling and crest are taken down. The stall plates, however, are not removed; rather, they remain permanently affixed somewhere about the stall, so that the stalls of the chapel are festooned with a colourful record of the Order's Knights and Dames Grand Cross since 1906.

The reredos within the chapel were commissioned from Henry Poole in 1927.[3]

Precedence and privileges

Members of the Order of St Michael are assigned positions in the order of precedence. Wives of male members also feature on the order of precedence, as do sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders; relatives of female members, however, are not assigned any special precedence. (As a general rule, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.) (See order of precedence in England and Wales for the exact positions.)

Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commanders prefix "Sir", and Dames Grand Cross and Dames Commanders prefix "Dame", to their forenames. Wives of Knights may prefix "Lady" to their surnames, but no equivalent privilege exists for husbands of Dames. Such forms are not used by peers and princes, except when the names of the former are written out in their fullest forms. Furthermore, honorary members and clergymen do not receive the accolade or adopt the title.

Knights and Dames Grand Cross use the post-nominal "GCMG"; Knights Commanders and Dames Commanders use "KCMG" and "DCMG" respectively; Companions use "CMG".

Knights and Dames Grand Cross are also entitled to receive heraldic supporters. They may, furthermore, encircle their arms with a depiction of the circlet (a circle bearing the motto) and the collar; the former is shown either outside or on top of the latter. Knights and Dames Commanders and Companions may display the circlet, but not the collar, surrounding their arms. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar or circlet.

Popular references

In the satirical British television programme Yes Minister, Jim Hacker MP is told an old joke[4] by his Private Secretary Bernard Woolley about what the various post-nominals stand for.

Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for "Call Me God". And KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God".
Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?

Woolley: "God Calls Me God".

Ian Fleming's spy, James Bond, a commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (R.N.V.R.) was fictionally decorated with the CMG in 1953. (This is mentioned in the novel From Russia, with Love.) He was later offered the KCMG (which would have elevated him from a Companion in the Order to a Knight Commander in the Order) in The Man with the Golden Gun, but he rejected that offer as he did not wish to become a public figure.

Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross

The Lord Tweedsmuir, a deceased Knight Grand Cross wearing the riband, badge and star of the order

Knights and Dames Grand Cross


Honorary Appointments

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Duckers, Peter (2009) [2004]. British Orders and Decorations. Oxford: Shire Publications. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9780747805809. OCLC 55587484. 
  2. ^ Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of knights. William Pickering. p. 206. 
  3. ^ Henry POOLE 1873–1928 (Tate Britain.) Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  4. ^ Cross, Colin (1968). The Fall of the British Empire. London: Book Club Associates. 
  5. ^ "H.K.'s ex-No. 2 leader Anson Chan honored by Queen Elizabeth | Asian Economic News | Find Articles at BNET". Findarticles.com. 2002. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDP/is_2002_Nov_11/ai_94330283. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Peres praises Britain as democratic role model after being knighted — Israel News, Ynetnews". Ynetnews.com. 1995-06-20. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3626287,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  8. ^ Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  9. ^ "Hoge Britse ridderorde voor De Hoop Scheffer". http://www.nu.nl/buitenland/2181670/hoge-britse-ridderorde-hoop-scheffer.html. 

External links

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