|Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire|
|The insignia of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire|
|Awarded by the British monarch|
|Awarded for||At the monarch's pleasure|
|Status||Not awarded since 1947|
Dormant order since 2010
|Sovereign||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Grades (w/ post-nominals)||Knight Grand Commander (GCIE)|
Knight Commander (KCIE)
|Next (higher)||Order of St Michael and St George|
|Next (lower)||Royal Victorian Order|
|ribbon bar of the Order of the Indian Empire|
No appointments have been made since 1947, the year of the Partition of India. With the death of the last surviving knight, the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra, the order became dormant in 2010.
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 British founded the Order in 1878 to reward British and "native" officials who served in India. The Order originally had only one class (Companion), but expanded to comprise two classes in 1887. The British authorities intended the Order of the Indian Empire as a less exclusive version of the Order of the Star of India (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 formally became "The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire" and was divided into two classes: Knights Commander and Companions, with the following first Knights Commander:
However, on 21 June 1887, 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, namely:
- HRH The Prince of Wales
- HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
- HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
- HRH The Duke of Cambridge
- Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay
- Lord Connemara, Governor of Madras
- General Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts (promoted from a Knight Commander)
Appointments to both Orders ceased after 14 August 1947. The Orders have never been formally abolished, and as of 2014[update] Queen Elizabeth II remains the Sovereign of the Orders. Today, there are no living members of the order.
- The last Grand Master of the Order, Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900–1979), died on 27 August 1979.
- The last surviving GCIE, HH Maharaja Sri Sir Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (1912–1991), the Maharaja of Travancore, died on 19 July 1991 in Trivandrum.
- The last surviving KCIE, HH Maharaja Sri Sir the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra (1923–2010), the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad, died at Dhrangadhra on 1 August 2010.
- The last surviving CIE, Vice-Admiral Sir Ronald Brockman (1909–1999), died on 3 September 1999 in London.
The fictional characters Purun Dass (invented by Rudyard Kipling) and Harry Paget Flashman (invented by George MacDonald Fraser) each held a KCIE; Kipling's engineer Findlayson in The Day's Work (1908) aspires to the CIE.
The British Sovereign serves as the Sovereign of the Order. The Grand Master held the next-most senior rank; 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 foundation in 1878 the order had only one class, that of Companion, with no quota imposed. In 1886, 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 composition of the other two classes remained the same. The statue also provided that it was "competent for Her Majesty, Her heirs and successors, at Her or their pleasure, to appoint any Princes of the Blood Royal, being descendants of His late Majesty King George the First, as Extra Knights Grand Commanders".
By Letters Patent of 2 Aug 1886, the number of Knights Commander was increased to 82, while Commanders were limited to 20 nominations per year (40 for 1903 only). Membership was expanded by Letters Patent of 10 June 1897, which permitted up to 32 Knights Grand Commander. A special statute of 21 October 1902 permitted up to 92 Knights Commander, but continued to limit the number of nominations of Commanders to 20 in any successive year. On 21 December 1911, in connection with the Delhi Durbar, the limits were increased to 40 Knights Grand Commander, 120 Knights Commander, and 40 nominations of companions in any successive year.
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
Members of the Order wore elaborate costumes on important ceremonial occasions:
- The mantle, worn only by Knights Grand Commanders, comprised dark blue satin lined with white silk. On the left side was a representation of the star (see photo at right).
- 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.
- 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
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.
- Obituary of The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad – Website Telegraph.co.uk, 2 September 2010
- 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.
- Debrett's website Orders Associated with the Indian Empire
- "No. 25673". 15 February 1887. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/25673/page/
- "No. 25773". 5 January 1888. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/25773/page/
- London Gazette, 21 June 1887, page 3364
- London Gazette, 1 January 1903, page 2.
- Edinburgh Gazette, 15 December 1911, page1317.
- Boutell, Charles (1908). English Heraldry, p. 290. London: Reeves & Turner.
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