|The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India
monarch of the United Kingdom
|Order of chivalry
|Heaven's Light Our Guide
|At the monarch's pleasure
|Last appointment in 1947
Dormant order since 2009
|Order of the Bath
|Order of St Michael and St George
Ribbon bar of the Star of India
The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. The Order includes members of three classes:
No appointments have been made since the 1948 New Year Honours, shortly after the Partition of India in 1947. Following the death in 2009 of the last surviving knight, the Maharaja of Alwar, the order became dormant.
The motto of the order was "Heaven's Light Our Guide". The Star of India emblem, the insignia of order and the informal emblem of British India, was also used as the basis of a series of flags to represent the Indian Empire.
The order was the fifth most senior British order of chivalry, following the Order of the Garter, Order of the Thistle, Order of St Patrick and Order of the Bath. It is the senior order of chivalry associated with the British Raj; junior to it is the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, and there is also, for women only, the Imperial Order of the Crown of India.
Several years after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the consolidation of Great Britain's power as the governing authority in India, it was decided by the British Crown to create a new order of knighthood to honour Indian Princes and Chiefs, as well as British officers and administrators who served in India. On 25 June 1861, the following proclamation was issued by Queen Victoria:
The Queen, being desirous of affording to the Princes, Chiefs and People of the Indian Empire, a public and signal testimony of Her regard, by the Institution of an Order of knighthood, whereby Her resolution to take upon Herself the Government of the Territories in India may be commemorated, and by which Her Majesty may be enabled to reward conspicuous merit and loyalty, has been graciously pleased, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to institute, erect, constitute, and create, an Order of Knighthood, to be known by, and have for ever hereafter, the name, style, and designation, of "The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India"
19 persons were appointed Knights Companion at the creation of the Order:
12 additional Knights Companion were appointed over the next five years.
On 24 May 1866, the Order was expanded to additional ranks. All surviving Knights Companion were elevated to Grand Commander.
Additional appointments were made to the Order in the ranks of Grand Commander, Knight Commander, and Companion. These include
The last appointments to the Order were made in the 1948 New Year Honours, some months after the Partition of India in August 1947.
The Order has never been formally abolished, and Charles III succeeded his mother Elizabeth II as Sovereign of the Orders when he acceded the throne in 2022. He remains Sovereign of the Order to this day. However, there are no living members of the Order.
The Order of the Indian Empire, founded in 1877, was intended to be a less exclusive version of the Order of the Star of India; consequently, many more appointments were made to the latter than to the former.
As the last Grand Master of the Orders, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma was also the last known individual to wear publicly the stars of a Knight Grand Commander of both Orders, during the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977.
The British Sovereign was, and still is, Sovereign of the Order. The next most senior member was the Grand Master, a position held ex officio by the Viceroy of India. When the order was established in 1861, there was only one class of Knights Companion, who bore the postnominals KSI. In 1866, however, it was expanded to three classes. Members of the first class were known as "Knights Grand Commander" (rather than the usual "Knights Grand Cross") so as not to offend the non-Christian Indians appointed to the Order. All those surviving members who had already been made Knights Companion of the Order were retroactively known as Knights Grand Commander.
Former viceroys and other high officials, as well as those who served in the Department of the Secretary of State for India for at least thirty years were eligible for appointment. Rulers of Indian Princely States were also eligible for appointment. Some states were of such importance that their rulers were almost always appointed Knights Grand Commanders; such rulers included the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Maharaja of Mysore, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, the Maharaja of Baroda, the Maharajas of Gwalior, the Nawab of Bhopal, the Maharaja of Indore, the Maharajas of Singrauli, the Maharana of Udaipur, the Maharaja of Travancore, the Maharaja of Jodhpur and the Maharao of Cutch.
Kashi Naresh Prabhu Narayan Singh of Benares and Sir Azizul Haque were appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in 1892 and 1941 respectively, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) in 1898, and Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI) for his services in the First World War in the 1921 New Year Honours.
Rulers of other nations in Asia and the Middle East, including the Emir of Kuwait, the Maharajas of the Rana dynasty, the Khedive of Egypt, the King of Bhutan and the rulers of Zanzibar, Bahrain and Oman were also appointed to the Order. Like some rulers of princely states, some rulers of particular prestige, for example the Maharajas of the Rana dynasty or the Sultans of Oman, were usually appointed Knights Grand Commanders.
Women, save the princely rulers, were ineligible for appointment to the order. They were, unlike the habit of many other orders, admitted as "Knights", rather than as "Dames" or "Ladies". The first woman to be admitted to the order was Nawab Sikandar Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Bhopal; she was created a Knight Companion at the Order's foundation in 1861. The order's statutes were specially amended to permit the admission of Queen Mary as a Knight Grand Commander in 1911.
Members of the Order wore elaborate costumes on important ceremonial occasions:
On certain "collar days" designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events wore the order's collar over their military uniform, formal day dress, or evening wear. When collars were worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge was suspended from the collar.
At less important occasions, simpler insignia were used:
Unlike the insignia of most other British chivalric orders, the insignia of the Order of the Star of India did not incorporate crosses, as they were deemed unacceptable to the Indian Princes appointed to the Order.
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 initials "GCSI", Knights Commanders "KCSI" and Companions "CSI". 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, 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 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.