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Order of the Elephant: Wikis


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Coat of arms of Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway surrounded by the collars of the Order of the Elephant and the Order of the Dannebrog

The Order of the Elephant (Danish: Elefantordenen) is the highest order of Denmark. It has existed since 1693, and is almost exclusively bestowed on royalty and heads of state.



An elephant carrying a howdah, from which the elephant and castle design derives.

A Danish religious confraternity called the Fellowship of the Mother of God with a badge of the Virgin Mary holding her Son within a crescent moon and surrounded with the rays of the sun, which hung from a collar of links in the form of elephants, much like the present collar of the Order, and limited to about fifty members of the Danish aristocracy was founded during the reign of Christian I. After the Reformation 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.[1] 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. The statute of the order was 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 an elephant carrying a howdah, the familiar castle replacing the unfamiliar howdah, and finds use elsewhere in European iconography, as discussed at howdah.


The Danish monarch is the head of the order. The order is worn by members of the royal family, and may also be bestowed on foreign heads of state. In very exceptional circumstances the order may also be bestowed on a commoner. The only living holder of the order who is neither a current or former head of state nor royal is 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. af E. in letters et cetera). Knights of the order are granted a place in the 1st Class of the Danish order of precedence as well as the right to use the honorific style His/Her Excellency (HE).


Collar of the Order of the Elephant.
Order of the Elephant ribbon.
  • 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 can only be worn on New Years Day (during the Danish monarch's New Years Cour) and on the Monarch's birthday.
  • 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 Moor is sitting, holding a golden rod; on the right side of the elephant there is a cross of five large 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.[1]
  • The star of the order is an eight-pointed silver star. At its center there is a red disc with a 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. 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.

Women's sash is about 6-7 cm wide.

Upon the death of a Knight of the Order of the Elephant, the insignia of the order must be returned.

Current knights and officers

Sovereign of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

Knights of the Elephant

Knights of the Elephant listed by date of appointment

Officers of the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders of Chivalry

  • Chancellor: HRH Prince Henrik, The Prince Consort
  • Secretary: Mr Henning Fode, Chamberlain, Private Secretary to HM The Queen
  • Treasurer: Ambassador Paul Fischer, LL.D., Chamberlain
  • Secretary of the Chapter: Mr Per Thornit, Chamberlain, Chief of TRH The Crown Prince and The Crown Princess's Household
  • Historiographer of the Chapter: Professor Knud J.V. Jespersen, Dr. Phil.

Other notable knights

Previous knights have included:


  1. ^ In an article entitled "Has anyone seen our elephant?" The July 1, 2004 issue of the Copenhagen Post reported that the original mold for the elephant badge had been stolen from the court jeweler, Georg Jensen.
  2. ^ Listing for Princess Marie of Denmark on Danish government information website. (Danish)
  3. ^ Official List of Knights of the Order of the Elephant. (Danish)
  4. ^ Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, entry "Tycho Brahe" (Danish)

See also

  • Some of the elephant badges on exhibit at Rosenborg Castle: [3], [4], [5].
  • 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).


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