|Badge of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India |
|Queen Victoria, ca. 1882 |
|Nawab Shahjihan Begum
of Bhopal, ca. 1872 
Eight royal Indian women were also among the original membership of the order. Maharani Bamba, something of a real-life Cinderella, was the wife of the last Maharaja of Lahore. Nawab Shahjihan Begum was the ruler of Bhopal in her own right; her elderly grandmother, Nawab Kudsia Begum, was also made a companion. Maharani Vani Vilasa Sannidhana Kempananja Ammani Avaru was the wife of one Maharaja of Mysore and the mother (and regent) of another. Maharini Jamnabai Sahib Gaekwad, the widow of the Maharaja of Baroda, was also the adopted mother of a subsequent Baroda ruler. Sahebzadi Dialwar unisa Begum Saheba was the grandmother of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Vijaya Mohenu Mukta Boyi was the daughter of the last Raja of Tanjore, and some recognized her as her father’s successor. Maharani Swarnamoyee of Cossimbazar was renowned for her charity work.
Seventeen additional women, all related to the past and present colonial officials in India, were also recognized as original companions of the order. The Dowager Countess of Elgin, Lady Mayo, Lady Susan Bourke, Lady Jane Baring, Lady Lytton, Lady Lawrence, and Lady Strachey were all wives, widows, or daughters of Viceroys and Governors-General of India. Lady Mary Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, Lady Hobart, Lady Napier, and Lady Denison were all wives or daughters of Governors of Madras. Lady Frere and Lady Temple were wives of Governors of Bombay. Viscountess Halifax’s husband was in charge of the British East India Company. Lady Salisbury, Lady Ripon, and Lady Northcote were wives of Secretaries of State and (Under-Secretaries of State) of India.
Over the next seventy years, many more British princesses, Indian royals, and relatives of colonial officials were added to the order’s ranks. In 1947, when British colonial control of India ended, the order was essentially suspended; as you can imagine, there’s been no need to add new companions to an imperial order of chivalry based in a country that has since gained its independence.
Today, there is exactly one living person who was invested as a member of the order during its tenure: Queen Elizabeth II, who was made a companion on June 12, 1947. Her sister, Princess Margaret, was made a companion of the order on the same day, even though she was only sixteen. (You can see Margaret wearing the insignia of the order in this portrait; it is placed on her left shoulder, above her family orders.) Both of the princesses were appointed to the order during the celebrations of the official birthday of their father, King George VI . India gained independence from Britain two months later, on August 15, 1947.