Order of St Michael and St George

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Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George
Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (Great Britain) - Memorial JK - Brasilia - DSC00425.JPG
Star of a Knight or Dame Grand Cross
Awarded by
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Sovereign 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 Queen Elizabeth II
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 a British order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later King George IV,[1][2] while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, King George III.

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

The Order of St Michael and St George was originally awarded to those holding commands or high position in the Mediterranean territories acquired in the Napoleonic Wars, and was subsequently extended to holders of similar office or position in other territories of the British Empire.[2] It is at present awarded to men and women who hold high office or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country, and can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.[2]


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

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)[1][2]
  • Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)[1][2]
  • Companion (CMG)[1][2]

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, patron saint of England. One of its primary symbols is that of St Michael trampling over and subduing Satan in battle.

The Order is the sixth-most senior in the British honours system, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, 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 1936. 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".[3]

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.

In 1965 order was open for women,[4] with Evelyn Bark become the first CMG.[5]


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 but has since been expanded and the current limits on membership are 125, 375, and 1,750 respectively. Members of the Royal Family who are appointed to the Order do not count towards the limit, nor are foreign members appointed as "honorary members".


The Order has six officers. 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.

Habit and insignia

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 regalia 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 chapel of the Order of St Michael and St George in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

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. 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.[6]

Precedence and privileges

The Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the Order, and his Duchess
German shipping magnate Rickmer Clasen Rickmers (1807-1886) wearing the insignia of a C.M.G. (centre)

Members of the Order of St Michael are assigned positions in the order of precedence in England and Wales. 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.)

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 (foreign) members and clergymen do not receive the accolade and thus are not entitled to use the prefix "Sir" or "Dame". 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

Riband, star and collar of GCMG worn by Lord Grenfell

In the satirical British television programme Yes Minister, Jim Hacker MP is told an old joke[7] by his Private Secretary Bernard Woolley about what the various post-nominals stand for. Season 2, Episode 2 "Doing the Honours":

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 and on-screen in his obituary in Skyfall.) He was 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.

Dame Judi Dench's character "M" is "offered" early retirement and a GCMG in Skyfall after a series of unfortunate events resulting in the loss of a list that named every NATO espionage operative.

Long-time Doctor Who companion Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart wore the ribbon of the order as the highest of his decorations in the series' classic era.

Current Knights and Dames Grand Cross

Riband, badge and star of KCMG worn by Lord Tweedsmuir.

(NOTE: For clarity, the table denotes holders of the GCMG only; all other posts-nominal shown, for respective members, are for the sake of completeness alone.)

Knights and Dames Grand Cross

Number Name Post-Nominals Year
1 Zanzibar Sayyid Sir Jamshid bin Abdullah of Zanzibar GCMG 1963
2 HRH The Duke of Kent KG GCMG GCVO 1967
3 United Kingdom Sir Clive Rose GCMG 1981
4 Australia The Rt Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE PC QC 1982
5 United Kingdom Sir Hugh Cortazzi GCMG 1984
6 United Kingdom Sir James Craig GCMG 1984
7 United Kingdom Sir John Thomson GCMG 1985
8 United Kingdom Sir Antony Acland KG GCMG GCVO 1986
9 United Kingdom Sir John Fretwell GCMG 1987
10 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Carrington KG GCMG CH MC DL 1988
11 United Kingdom Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG KCVO 1989
12 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Wright of Richmond GCMG 1989
13 Guyana The Hon. Sir Shridath Ramphal GCMG AC ONZ OE OM OCC QC 1990
14 Papua New Guinea The Rt Hon. Sir Michael Somare GCL GCMG CH CF KStJ SSI KSG PC MP 1990
15 New Zealand Dame Catherine Tizard GCMG GCVO DBE QSO ONZ 1990
16 United Kingdom Sir David Goodall GCMG 1991
17 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn KT GCMG 1991
18 Papua New Guinea Sir Wiwa Korowi GCMG 1992
19 Grenada Sir Reginald Palmer GCMG 1992
20 Antigua and Barbuda Sir James Carlisle GCMG 1993
21 United Kingdom Sir Ewen Fergusson GCMG GCVO 1993
22 United Kingdom Sir Rodric Braithwaite GCMG 1994
23 Papua New Guinea Sir Julius Chan GCL GCMG KBE 1994
24 Belize Sir Colville Young GCMG MBE 1994
25 United Kingdom Sir Nicholas Fenn GCMG 1995
26 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG CH 1995
27 The Bahamas Sir Orville Turnquest GCMG QC 1995
28 New Zealand The Rt Hon. Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM GCMG QSO 1996
29 Barbados Sir Clifford Husbands GCMG KA QC 1996
30 United Kingdom Sir Christopher Mallaby GCMG GCVO 1996
31 Tuvalu Sir Tulaga Manuella GCMG 1996
32 Saint Kitts and Nevis Sir Cuthbert Sebastian GCMG OBE 1996
33 Grenada Sir Daniel Williams GCMG 1996
34 United Kingdom Sir John Coles GCMG 1997
35 Papua New Guinea Sir Silas Atopare GCL GCMG 1998
36 Solomon Islands Sir John Lapli GCMG 1999
37 Saint Lucia Dame Pearlette Louisy GCMG 1999
38 United Kingdom Sir Andrew Wood GCMG 2001
39 Tuvalu Sir Tomu Sione GCMG OBE 2001
40 United Kingdom Sir John Goulden GCMG 2001
41 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG 2001
42 Tuvalu Sir Tomasi Puapua GCMG KBE PC 2002
43 United Kingdom Sir David Wright GCMG LVO 2002
44 United Kingdom Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG 2003
45 United Kingdom Sir Rob Young GCMG 2003
46 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG PC 2004
47 United Kingdom Sir Stephen Wall GCMG LVO 2004
48 Papua New Guinea The Rt Hon. Sir Paulias Matane GCL GCMG OBE KStJ 2005
49 Solomon Islands Sir Nathaniel Waena GCMG CSI KStJ 2005
50 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG CH KBE PC 2006
51 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Lord Jay of Ewelme GCMG 2006
52 United Kingdom Sir Emyr Parry GCMG 2007
53 Jamaica The Most Hon. Sir Kenneth O. Hall ON GCMG OJ 2007
54 Antigua and Barbuda Dame Louise Lake-Tack GCMG 2007
55 United Kingdom Sir David Manning GCMG CVO 2008
56 Grenada Sir Carlyle Glean GCMG 2008
57 Jamaica His Excellency The Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen ON GCMG CD 2009
58 Solomon Islands Sir Frank Kabui GCMG CSI OBE 2009
59 The Bahamas Sir Arthur Foulkes GCMG 2010
60 Tuvalu Sir Iakoba Italeli GCMG 2010
61 United Kingdom Sir Peter Ricketts GCMG GCVO 2011
62 Papua New Guinea Sir Michael Ogio GCMG CBE 2011
63 United Kingdom Sir Nigel Sheinwald GCMG 2011
64 Barbados Sir Elliott Belgrave GCMG KA CHB QC 2012
65 Grenada Dame Cécile La Grenade GCMG OBE 2013
66 Saint Kitts and Nevis Sir Edmund Lawrence GCMG OBE 2013
67 The Bahamas Dame Marguerite Pindling GCMG 2014
68 Antigua and Barbuda Sir Rodney Williams GCMG 2014
69 United Kingdom The Rt Hon. The Baroness Ashton of Upholland GCMG PC 2015
70 United Kingdom Sir John Sawers GCMG 2015
71 Saint Kitts and Nevis Sir Tapley Seaton GCMG CVO QC JP 2015
72 United Kingdom Sir Simon Fraser GCMG 2016


Honorary Knights/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)

Star and collar of GCMG worn by Živojin Mišić
Name Post-Nominals Known for Year
Oman Qaboos bin Said al Said GCB GCMG GCVO Sultan of Oman 1976
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei GCB GCMG Sultan of Brunei 1984
Qatar Abdelaziz bin Khalifa Al Thani GCMG Member of the royal family of Qatar 1985
Nepal Gyanendra of Nepal GCMG Former King of Nepal 1986
Philippines Fidel V. Ramos GCMG Former President of the Philippines 1995
Portugal Mário Soares GCMG Former President of Portugal 1996
Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski GCB GCMG Former President of Poland 1996
Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom GCMG Former President of the Maldives 1997 [8]
Pakistan Nawaz Sharif GCMG Former Prime Minister of Pakistan 1997
Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani GCMG Former Emir of Qatar 1997
Argentina Carlos Menem GCMG Former President of Argentina 1998
Mexico Ernesto Zedillo GCMG Former President of Mexico 1998
Peru Alberto Fujimori GCMG Former President of Peru 1998
Singapore Ong Teng Cheong GCMG Former President of Singapore 1998 [9]
Hungary János Martonyi GCMG Minister of Foreign Affairs 1999 [8]
Jordan Abdullah II of Jordan GCB GCMG KCVO King of Jordan 1999
Italy Giuliano Amato GCMG Former Prime Minister of Italy 2000
Italy Lamberto Dini GCMG Former Prime Minister of Italy 2000
Denmark Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark GCB GCMG GCVO Prince Consort of Denmark 2000
Romania Emil Constantinescu GCMG Former President of Romania 2000
South Africa Thabo Mbeki GCB GCMG Former President of South Africa 2000
Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev GCMG President of Kazakhstan 2000
Jordan Ali Abu al-Ragheb GCMG Former Prime Minister of Jordan 2001
Portugal Jorge Sampaio GCMG Former President of Portugal 2001
Hong Kong Anson Chan GBM GCMG CBE JP Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong 2002 [10]
Mexico Vicente Fox GCMG Former President of Mexico 2002 [8]
East Timor Xanana Gusmão GCMG GCL Former Prime Minister of East Timor 2003
Afghanistan Hamid Karzai GCMG Former President of Afghanistan 2003
Albania Alfred Moisiu GCMG Former President of Albania 2003
Poland Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz GCMG Former Prime Minister of Poland 2004
Italy Gianfranco Fini GCMG Former Deputy Prime Minister of Italy 2005
Ghana Kofi Annan GCMG Former Secretary-General of the United Nations 2006 [11][12]
Israel Shimon Peres GCMG Former President of Israel 2008 [13][14]
United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum GCMG Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates 2010 [15]
United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan GCMG Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi 2010 [16]
United Arab Emirates Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan GCMG President of the United Arab Emirates 2010
Kuwait Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah GCMG Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait 2012 [17]

Honorary Knights/Dames Commander (KCMG/DCMG)

Name Post-Nominals Known for Year
Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa KCMG 1979
United States Richard Armitage KCMG, CNZM, AC 2005
Sweden Carl Bildt KCMG 2009 [18]
Bangladesh Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG 2010
Netherlands Jaap de Hoop Scheffer KCMG 2010 [19]
Belgium Jacques Rogge KCMG 2014
United States Angelina Jolie DCMG 2014 [20]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Duckers, Peter (2009) [2004]. British Orders and Decorations. Oxford: Shire Publications. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-7478-0580-9. OCLC 55587484.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The Royal Household (2009). "Order of St. Michael and St. George". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. London: Crown Copyright. Retrieved 28 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of Knights. William Pickering. p. 206.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. http://www.geni.com/projects/Knights/16502 Knights. at geni.com
  5. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-evelyn-bark-1493450.html Evelyn Bark, article by Independent
  6. Henry POOLE 1873–1928 (Tate Britain.) Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  7. Cross, Colin (1968). The Fall of the British Empire. London: Book Club Associates.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 http://www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/.../DEP2009-2154.doc
  9. http://www.nus.edu.sg/about-nus-2/history/chancellors/ong-teng-cheong
  10. "H.K.'s ex-No. 2 leader Anson Chan honored by Queen Elizabeth". Findarticles. 11 November 2002. Retrieved 18 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Honorary knighthood for Kofi Annan". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media. 25 October 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Honorary knighthood for Kofi Annan". Metro.co.uk. London: Associated Newspapers Limited. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Peres praises Britain as democratic role model after being knighted". Ynetnews. 20 June 1995. Retrieved 28 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  15. Alice Johnson Khalifa, Queen Elizabeth II exchange orders. Gulf News. 26 November 2010 Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  16. List of honorary British knights and dames
  17. "Sabah Dynasty". Royal Ark. Retrieved 8 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. http://www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/2009/DEP2009-2154.doc
  19. "Hoge Britse ridderorde voor De Hoop Scheffer" (in Nederlands).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Honorary British Awards to Foreign Nationals - 2014".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links