The Grand Ducal House Order of the Wendish Crown is the oldest and most senior order of the House of Mecklenburg. It was jointly instituted on 12 May 1864 by Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
The House Order of the Wendish Crown was instituted in order to show honour and respect for the special and extraordinary merit of persons who show true honesty in attitude and life. As it was jointly instituted the position of head of order was held jointly by the reigning grand duke’s of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Each state also had their own officer’s in form of a Chancellor, always the State Minister, and a Secretary.
The Order of the Wendish Crown was worn for the first time on the day of its founding when Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II wore the chain and badge of the order during his wedding to Princess Anne of Hesse and by Rhine.
The House’s of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Mecklenburg-Schwerin differed in the way the order was granted within their respective families. In Mecklenburg-Strelitz no female member of the house was given the order while the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin did award female members of his house the order. While for males in the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz it was the practice for only the Grand Duke to have the chain of the order. In the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin the chain was given to all male members.
During the monarchy the Order of the Wendish Crown was given to a number of European sovereigns and royals. The reigning emperors and kings who received the Mecklenburg-Strelitz version of the order were the reigning King Georg V of Hanover and the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Emperor Aleksandr III of Russia who all received the order in 1865, the reigning Sultan Abdul Aziz of the Ottoman Empire and King Georgios I of the Hellenes both received it in 1871 followed by the reigning King Christian IX of Denmark in 1872 and his son the future King Frederik VIII of Denmark in 1884. The future King George V of the United Kingdom, at the time Duke of York, received the order in 1893.
As the Wendish Crown is a house order and as such attached to the House of Mecklenburg rather than the state, successive heads of the House’s of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Mecklenburg-Schwerin retained their position as head of the order with the right to award it. However since the end of the monarchy this right has rarely been exercised and order has effectively lain dormant. With the extinction of the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 2001 the head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is the sole head of the order.
Members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who currently hold the highest class of the order are Duke Borwin, his wife Duchess Alice, his daughter Duchess Olga and his sons Hereditary Prince Alexander and Duke Michael. From the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Duchess Donata also holds the Grand Cross with the Crown in Ore, with the insignia in Diamonds. In the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz no female was admitted into the order until 2018 when it was given to Duchess Alice, Duchess Olga and Princess Altinai of Montenegro.
The House Order of the Wendish Crown is composed of four classes.
1a) Grand Cross with the Crown in Ore
1b) Grand Cross with the Crown in Gold
2) Grand Commander
In addition to the above classes there was also:
The Cross of Merit which was available in a) gold and b) silver, which could be given as special honorary decoration.
Under the orders statue of 12 May 1864 there are limits on the number of awards that can be given and who is eligible to receive certain classes depending on rank, although exceptions have been made to the eligibility criteria.
The insignia of the order
The badge of the order is a white eight pointed Maltese cross with each of the four angles possessing a golden griffin. The Grand Cross badge came with gold balls on the points of the four angles. The roundel of the badge has a blue centre upon which lays a gold Wendish Crown and a red outer layer which has the orders motto inscribed upon it. Depending upon the awarding sovereign the motto will differ. For the Mecklenburg-Strelitz award the motto is Avito Viret Honore while for Mecklenburg-Schwerin it’s Per aspera ad astra. On the back of the badge is the monogram of the founder with “FW” for Mecklenburg-Strelitz and “FF” for Mecklenburg-Schwerin written in gold on a blue enameled roundel. Surmounted on the badge is a gold enclosed crown. The Grand Cross badge is surmounted with the founders monogram as well as the crown. The Cross of Merit badge differs from the other classes’ badges in that it is completely gold or silver including the roundel and monogram on the back.
Holders of the class Grand Cross wear the badge hanging at the bottom of a 4 inch wide blue sash which passes from the right shoulder to the left hip. The bottom of the blue sash where the badge is located has inner yellow and outer red side stripes. Those with the Crown in Ore wear the badge on the chain if they have been awarded it. Holders of the class Grand Commander and Commander wear the badge on a 3 inch wide ribbon around the neck. Knights wear the badge on the left chest on a ribbon that is slightly narrower than that of the Grand Commander and Commander’s.
Female royals who receive the class Grand Cross with the Crown in Ore have the crown and motto on their badge made of diamonds. They wear their badge on a bow on their left shoulder, unless they have received the chain. Women can also receive the classes Grand Cross with the Crown in Gold and Grand Commander in diamonds. Only women with the Grand Cross with the Crown in Gold receive the bow.
The ribbon for the order is blue with inner yellow and outer red side stripes which are the three national colours of Mecklenburg. Holders of the cross of merit receive a red ribbon with blue inner and yellow outer stripes.
In addition to the badge those awarded the Grand Cross and Grand Commander also receive a star that is worn on the left chest. The holder of the class Grand Cross has an eight pointed silver star while the Grand Commander’s have a four pointed silver star. Both have a central roundel like the one found on the badge.
A chain could be awarded to those who hold the class Grand Cross with the Crown in Ore. It consists of four Wendish Crown’s, four monograms of the respective founder’s initials and a total of eight griffins, one either side of the Wendish Crown’s which the griffins are holding. Those who were awarded the chain would wear their badge at the front of the chain.
Heads of the order
1864-1904: Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm
1904-1914: Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich V
1914-1918: Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich VI
1918-1934: Duke Carl Michael
1934-1963: Duke Georg
1963-1996: Duke Georg Alexander
1996-present: Duke Borwin
1864-1883: Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II
1883-1897: Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III
1897-1945: Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV
1945-2001: Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Franz