13 November 2014

The Order of Merit of the Principality of Liechtenstein

Prince Hans-Adam wears the order, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein became the tiny principality's sovereign prince. To celebrate his silver jubilee, we're dedicating today's post to Liechtenstein's order of chivalry: the Order of Merit of the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Princess Elisabeth "Elsa" of Liechtenstein

The order was founded on July 22, 1937, by Prince Franz I of Liechtenstein. The date was significant: it was his wedding anniversary. Eight years earlier, he had married Elisabeth von Gutmann, an Austrian noblewoman. He'd had to wait until he became sovereign prince to marry her, even though they'd been in love for more than a decade, because his family didn't approve of the marriage. Quite romantic to basically dedicate an entire order of chivalry to your wife, no?

Princess Sophie and Prince Alois wear the order, 2013

Hans-Adam, as the current sovereign prince, is the person who has the right to award the order. The order has five classes: Grand Star, Grand Cross (which can also be awarded "with diamonds"), Commander with Star, Commander, and Knight. As you might have guessed, it's awarded for services to the country. Most of the senior members of the princely family, including Prince Hans-Adam, Princess Marie (his wife), Hereditary Prince Alois (their son), and Hereditary Princess Sophie (Alois's wife), all have the order. You'll often see them wearing the order when they attend white-tie events in other countries, like weddings and inaugurations.

Prince Alois wears the order, 2010

The order's insignia immediately marks it as belonging to the principality. The sash of the order is red and blue, the same colors found in the country's flag. The order's star has eight diamond points; in the center, it bears the order's badge, a blue and red enamel cross with the letter "L" in elaborate script.

Princess Sophie and Prince Alois wear the order, 2013

These days, Hans-Adam has essentially retired, having handed over the everyday duties of running the principality to Hereditary Prince Alois. Because of this, you're more likely to see Alois and Sophie attending grand events wearing the sash and star of the Order of Merit. The princely family doesn't participate in many state visits, so they don't have a huge collection of royal orders. So next time you see them at a white-tie royal wedding, look carefully: you'll probably find them wearing the order of their home country, the Order of Merit.