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Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George
Grand Cross's insignia
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 an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later King George IV,[1] 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 is awarded to men and women who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country. It can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.


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

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

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. One of its primary symbols is that of St Michael trampling over Satan.

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."[2]

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.


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. Several expansions have been made; now, the limits are 125, 375 and 1750, respectively. Members of the Royal Family who are appointed to the Order do not count towards the limit; neither do foreigners appointed as "honorary members".

The Order has six officers: the Prelate (as of 2006 the Rt Revd David Urquhart), the Chancellor, the Secretary, the Registrar, the King of Arms and the Usher. 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 costumes 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 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.[3]

Precedence and privileges

The Duke and Duchess of Kent

Members of the Order of St Michael are assigned positions in the order of precedence. 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.) (See order of precedence in England and Wales for the exact positions.)[citation needed]

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, so, 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 Francis Grenfell

In the satirical British television programme Yes Minister, Jim Hacker MP is told an old joke[4] 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

The Lord Tweedsmuir, a deceased Knight Grand Cross wearing the riband, badge and star of the order

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Knights and Dames Grand Cross

Name Post-Nominals Year Appointed
Zanzibar Sayyid Sir Jamshid bin Abdullah of Zanzibar GCMG 1963
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent KG GCMG GCVO 1967
United Kingdom Sir Clive Rose GCMG 1981
Australia Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE PC QC 1982
United Kingdom Sir Hugh Cortazzi GCMG 1984
United Kingdom Sir James Craig GCMG 1984
United Kingdom Sir John Thomson GCMG 1985
United Kingdom Sir Antony Acland KG GCMG GCVO 1986
United Kingdom Sir John Fretwell GCMG 1987
Solomon Islands Sir George Lepping GCMG 1988
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Carrington KG GCMG CH MC PC DL 1988
United Kingdom Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG KCVO 1989
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Wright of Richmond GCMG 1989
Tuvalu Sir Toaripi Lauti GCMG PC 1990
Guyana The Hon. Sir Shridath Ramphal GCMG AC ONZ OE OM OCC QC 1990
Papua New Guinea The Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Somare GCL GCMG CH CF KStJ SSI KSG PC MP 1990
New Zealand Dame Catherine Tizard ONZ GCMG GCVO DBE QSO DStJ 1990
Jamaica Sir Howard Cooke ON GCMG GCVO CD KStJ 1991
United Kingdom Sir David Goodall GCMG 1991
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn KT GCMG 1991
Papua New Guinea Sir Wiwa Korowi GCMG 1992
Grenada Sir Reginald Palmer GCMG 1992
Antigua and Barbuda Sir James Carlisle GCMG 1993
United Kingdom Sir Ewen Fergusson GCMG GCVO 1993
United Kingdom Sir Rodric Braithwaite GCMG 1994
Papua New Guinea Sir Julius Chan GCL GCMG KBE 1994
Belize Sir Colville Young GCMG MBE 1994
United Kingdom Sir Nicholas Fenn GCMG 1995
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG CH 1995
The Bahamas Sir Orville Turnquest GCMG QC 1995
New Zealand The Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM GCMG QSO KStJ 1996
Barbados Sir Clifford Husbands GCMG KA QC 1996
United Kingdom Sir Christopher Mallaby GCMG GCVO 1996
Tuvalu Sir Tulaga Manuella GCMG 1996
Saint Kitts and Nevis Sir Cuthbert Sebastian GCMG OBE 1996
Grenada Sir Daniel Williams GCMG 1996
United Kingdom Sir John Coles GCMG 1997
Papua New Guinea Sir Silas Atopare GCL GCMG 1998
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Williamson of Horton GCMG CB PC 1998
Solomon Islands Sir John Lapli GCMG 1999
Saint Lucia Dame Pearlette Louisy GCMG 1999
United Kingdom Sir Andrew Wood GCMG 2001
Tuvalu Sir Tomu Sione GCMG OBE 2001
United Kingdom Sir John Goulden GCMG 2001
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG 2001
Tuvalu Sir Tomasi Puapua GCMG KBE PC 2002
United Kingdom Sir David Wright GCMG LVO 2002
United Kingdom Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG 2003
United Kingdom Sir Rob Young GCMG 2003
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG PC 2004
United Kingdom Sir Stephen Wall GCMG LVO 2004
Papua New Guinea The Rt. Hon. Sir Paulias Matane GCL GCMG OBE KStJ 2005
Solomon Islands Sir Nathaniel Waena GCMG CSI KStJ 2005
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE PC 2006
United Kingdom The Rt. Hon. The Lord Jay of Ewelme GCMG 2006
United Kingdom Sir Emyr Parry GCMG 2007
Jamaica The Most Hon. Sir Kenneth O. Hall ON GCMG OJ 2007
United Kingdom Sir David Manning GCMG CVO 2008
Grenada Sir Carlyle Glean GCMG 2008
Jamaica His Excellency The Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen ON GCMG CD 2009
Solomon Islands Sir Frank Kabui GCMG CSI OBE 2009
The Bahamas Sir Arthur Foulkes GCMG 2010
Tuvalu Sir Iakoba Italeli GCMG 2010
United Kingdom Sir Peter Ricketts GCMG 2011
Papua New Guinea Sir Michael Ogio GCMG CBE 2011
United Kingdom Sir Nigel Sheinwald GCMG 2011
Barbados Sir Elliott Belgrave GCMG KA CHB QC 2012
Grenada Dame Cécile La Grenade GCMG OBE 2013
Saint Kitts and Nevis Sir Edmund Lawrence GCMG OBE 2013


  • Prelate: Rt Revd David Urquhart (Lord Bishop of Birmingham)
  • Chancellor: The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG
  • Secretary: Simon Fraser, CMG
  • Registrar: The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, KT, GCMG
  • King of Arms: Sir Ewen Fergusson, GCMG, GCVO
  • Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod: Sir Anthony Figgis, KCVO, CMG

Honorary Appointments (GCMG/KCMG)

Name Post-Nominals Year Appointed
Singapore Lee Kuan Yew GCMG, CH 1972
Oman Qaboos bin Said al Said GCB, GCMG, GCVO 1976
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei GCB, GCMG 1984
Qatar Abdelaziz bin Khalifa Al Thani GCMG 1985
Nepal Gyanendra of Nepal GCMG 1986
Philippines Fidel V. Ramos GCMG 1995
Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski GCB, GCMG 1996
Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom GCMG 1997[5]
Pakistan Nawaz Sharif GCMG 1997[5]
Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani GCMG 1997[5]
Argentina Carlos Menem GCMG 1998[5]
Mexico Ernesto Zedillo GCMG 1998[5]
Peru Alberto Fujimori GCMG 1998[5]
Hungary János Martonyi GCMG 1999[5]
Jordan Abdullah II of Jordan GCMG 1999[5]
Italy Giuliano Amato GCMG 2000[5]
Italy Lamberto Dini GCMG 2000[5]
Denmark Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark GCB, GCMG, GCVO 2000[5]
Romania Emil Constantinescu GCMG 2000[5]
South Africa Thabo Mbeki GCB GCMG OE KStJ 2000[5]
Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev GCMG 2000[5]
Georgia (country) Eduard Shevardnadze GCMG 2000[5]
Jordan Ali Abu al-Ragheb GCMG 2001[5]
Portugal Jorge Sampaio GCMG 2001[5]
Hong Kong Anson Chan GBM, GCMG, CBE, JP 2002[6]
Mexico Vicente Fox GCMG 2002[5]
East Timor Xanana Gusmão GCMG, GCL 2003[5]
Afghanistan Hamid Karzai GCMG 2003[5]
Albania Alfred Moisiu GCMG 2003[5]
Poland Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz GCMG 2004[5]
Italy Gianfranco Fini GCMG 2005[5]
Ghana Kofi Annan GCMG 2006[7]
Israel Shimon Peres GCMG 2008[8][9]
United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum GCMG 2010[10]
United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan GCMG 2010[11]
United Arab Emirates Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan GCMG 2010[11]
Kuwait Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah GCMG 2012[12]
Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa KCMG 1979
United States Richard Armitage KCMG, CNZM, AC 2005
Bangladesh Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG 2010
Netherlands Jaap de Hoop Scheffer KCMG 2010[13]
Belgium Jacques Rogge KCMG 2014

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. 
  2. Townsend, Francis (1828). Calendar of knights. William Pickering. p. 206. 
  3. Henry POOLE 1873–1928 (Tate Britain.) Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  4. Cross, Colin (1968). The Fall of the British Empire. London: Book Club Associates. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22
  6. "H.K.'s ex-No. 2 leader Anson Chan honored by Queen Elizabeth". Findarticles. 11 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  7.,,-7020849,00.html[dead link]
  8. "Peres praises Britain as democratic role model after being knighted". 20 June 1995.,7340,L-3626287,00.html. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  9. Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  10. Alice Johnson Khalifa, Queen Elizabeth II exchange orders. Gulf News. 26 November 2010 Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  11. 11.0 11.1 List of honorary British knights and dames
  12. "Sabah Dynasty". Royal Ark. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  13. "Hoge Britse ridderorde voor De Hoop Scheffer".  (Dutch)

External links

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