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Order of the Indian Empire
Order of the Indian EmpireInsignia.JPG
The insignia of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire
Awarded by the Queen of the United Kingdom
Type Order
Awarded for At the monarch's pleasure
Status Still living members, but not awarded anymore since 1947
Sovereign Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Knight Grand Commander, Knight Commander, Companion
Established 1878 - 1947
HH The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra (last living member)
Next (higher) Order of St Michael and St George
Next (lower) Royal Victorian Order
Ribbon bar Order of the Indian Empire.jpg
ribbon bar of the Order of the Indian Empire
Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, a Knight Grand Commander of the order.

The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of three classes:

  1. Knight Grand Commander (GCIE)
  2. Knight Commander (KCIE)
  3. Companion (CIE)

No appointments have been made since 1947, the year India became independent.

The motto of the Order is Imperatricis auspiciis, (Latin for "Under the auspices of the Empress"), a reference to Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India. The Order is the junior British order of chivalry associated with the Empire of India; the senior one is The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.



The Order was founded in 1878 to reward British and native officials who served in India. The Order originally had only one class (Companion), but was expanded to two classes in 1887.[1] The Order of the Indian Empire was intended to be a less exclusive version of the Order of the Star of India (which was founded in 1861); consequently, many more appointments were made to the former than to the latter.

On 15 February 1887, the Order of the Indian Empire was formally given the designation of "The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire," and was divided into two classes, Knights Commander and Companions; the first Knights Commander of the Order were:

However, on 5 January 1888, a further proclamation regarding the Order was made; the Order was expanded from two classes to three - Knight Grand Commander, Knight Commander and Companion. Seven Knights Grand Commander were created; they were:

Appointments to both Orders ceased after 14 August 1947. The only surviving members of the Order of the Indian Empire are Elizabeth II (the Sovereign) and HH The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra (a Knight Commander, born 1923). The last surviving GCIE, Maharaja Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma of Travancore, died in 1991.

The fictional characters Purun Dass by Rudyard Kipling and Harry Paget Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser held a KCIE.


The British Sovereign was, and still is, Sovereign of the Order. The next-most senior member was the Grand Master; the position was held, ex officio, by the Viceroy of India. Members of the first class were known as "Knights Grand Commanders," rather than "Knights Grand Cross," so as not to offend the non-Christian Indians appointed to the Order.

At the time of the Order's founding in 1878, there was only one class, that of Companion, with no quota imposed. In 1887, the Order was divided into the two classes of Knights Commander (50 at any given time) and Companions (no quota). The following year, the class of Knight Grand Commander (25 at any given time) was added; the composiion of the other two classes remained the same.

British officials and soldiers were eligible for appointment, as were rulers of Indian Princely States. Generally, the rulers of the more important states were appointed Knights Grand Commanders of the Order of the Star of India, rather than of the Order of the Indian Empire. Women, save the princely rulers, were ineligible for appointment to the Order. Female princely rulers were, oddly, admitted as "Knights," rather than as "Dames" or "Ladies."

As well, other Asian and Middle Eastern rulers were also appointed.

Vestments and accoutrements

Photo of Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya's badge

Members of the Order wore elaborate costumes on important ceremonial occasions:

  • The mantle, worn only by Knights Grand Commanders, was made of dark blue satin lined with white silk. On the left side was a representation of the star (see below).
  • The collar, also worn only by Knights Grand Commanders, was made of gold. It was composed of alternating golden elephants, Indian roses and peacocks.

At less important occasions, simpler insignia were used:

  • The star, worn only by Knights Grand Commanders and Knights Commanders, had ten points, including rays of gold and silver for Knights Grand Commanders, and of plain silver for Knights Commanders. In the centre was an image of Victoria surrounded by a dark blue ring with the motto and surmounted by a crown.[3]
  • The badge was worn by Knights Grand Commanders on a dark blue riband, or sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip, and by Knights Commanders and Companions from a dark blue ribbon around the neck. It included a five-petalled crown-surmounted red flower, with the image of Victoria surrounded by a dark blue ring with the motto at the centre.

The insignia of most other British chivalric orders incorporates a cross: the Order of the Indian Empire does not in deference to India's non-Christian tradition.

Precedence and privileges

Maharaja Chithira Thirunal of Travancore, wearing the mantle of a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire

Members of all classes of the Order were assigned positions in the order of precedence. Wives of members of all classes also featured on the order of precedence, as did sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights Grand Commanders and Knights Commanders. (See order of precedence in England and Wales for the exact positions.)

Knights Grand Commanders used the post-nominal "GCIE," Knights Commanders "KCIE" and Companions "CIE." Knights Grand Commanders and Knights Commanders prefixed "Sir" to their forenames. Wives of Knights Grand Commanders and Knights Commanders could prefix "Lady" to their surnames. Such forms were not used by peers and Indian princes, except when the names of the former were written out in their fullest forms.

Knights Grand Commanders were also entitled to receive heraldic supporters. They could, furthermore, enircle 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 Commanders and Companions were permitted to display the circlet, but not the collar, surrounding their arms. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar or circlet.

Some appointees

The first two kings of Bhutan were presented with the KCIE:

  • Prabhu Narayan Singh of Benares, The Maharaja of Benares from the Royal House of Benares received the KCIE in 1892.
  • Sir V Bhashyam Aiyangar, The first Indian to be appointed Advocate-General of the Madras Presidency and Law member of the executive council of the Governor of Madras between 1897 to 1900, was created as a CIE in 1895, however his later ascension to the status of Knight-Bachelor in 1900 often overshadows his CIE status.
  • Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah Bahadur of Dhaka Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)-23 December 1911, Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI)-New Year Honours, 1909, Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI)-New Year Honours, 1906.


  1. ^ Buckland, C. E. (1901). Bengal Under the Lieutenant-Governors: Being a Narrative of the Principal Events and Public Measures During Their Periods of Office, from 1854 to 1898, p. 699. Calcutta: S. K. Lahiri & Co.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Boutell, Charles (1908). English Heraldry, p. 290. London: Reeves & Turner.




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