Order of the Starry Cross
2nd Class of the order
Awarded by the Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine
TypeOrder of chivalry for women
Royal houseHouse of Habsburg-Lorraine
Religious affiliationRoman Catholic
("Hail and Glory")
Awarded forDevotion to the service and worship of the Holy Cross
A virtuous life in the exercise of religion and works of charity
SovereignArchduke Karl of Austria
High Protectress (Höchste Schutzfrau)Archduchess Gabriela of Austria
ChancellorCount Norbert Salburg-Falkenstein
GradesDame, Special Class
Dame, 1st Class
Dame, 2nd Class
Dame, 3rd Class
Next (higher)Imperial and Royal Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
Next (lower)Imperial and Royal Order of the Iron Crown
EquivalentImperial and Royal Order of Leopold II

Ribbon of the order

The Order of the Starry Cross (or Order of the Star Cross/Star Cross Order; German: Sternkreuz-Orden) is an imperial Austrian dynastic order for Catholic noble ladies, founded in 1668. The order still exists under the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.


The Order was founded in 1668 by Eleonora Gonzaga of Mantua, dowager empress of the Holy Roman Empire. This all-female order was confirmed by Pope Clement IX on 28 June 1668 and was placed under the spiritual management of the Prince-Bishop of Vienna. Only high-born ladies could be invested with the Order, including “princesses, countesses, and other high nobility.” Once invested, members were to “devote themselves to the service and worship of the Holy Cross, and to lead a virtuous life in the exercise of religion and works of charity.”

According to legend, the Habsburg dynasty owned a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. Though it is impossible to prove its authenticity, the holy relic was set in gold and worn by at least two Holy Roman Emperors, Maximilian II and Ferdinand III. Ferdinand III’s last consort, Empress Eleanora, was given the relic by her stepson, Emperor Leopold I, after Ferdinand’s 1657 death. In the aftermath of a fire at the Hofburg on 2 February 1668 the relic was discovered in near-perfect condition. The dowager empress founded the Order in celebration that the relic had survived the fire, believing it to be a true miracle.

In 1881, Empress Elisabeth accorded multiple noble ladies of the royal Belgian court the Starry Cross, after the engagement of Archduke Rudolf.[1]

Members of the Order wore the following insignia:

"An oval medallion, with a broad blue enameled border, inclosing a black enameled Eagle with two heads, and claws, both of gold, on which lies a Gold Cross, enameled green, and bordered with brown wood. Over this, on an intwined (sic) wreath in black letters, on a white ground, is the motto of the Order, "Salus et Gloria” – (Gail and Glory.) It is worn, pendent to a strip of black riband (sic), on the left breast."[citation needed]


The order was conceived with only one class[2]

High Protectresses (Höchste Schutzfrauen)

Period Name remarks
1. 1668-1686 Eleanor, Dowager Holy Roman Empress born Princess Eleonora Gonzaga
2. 1686-1720 Eleanora Magdalena Theresia, Holy Roman Empress born Princess Eleonora Magdalena Theresia of Neuburg
3. 1720-1742 Wilhelmina Amalia, Holy Roman Empress born Princess Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg
4. 1742-1750 Elisabeth Christina, Holy Roman Empress born Princess Elisabeth Christina of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
5. 1750-1780 Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress and reigning Queen of Hungary and Bohemia
6. 1780-1792 Maria Ludovika, Holy Roman Empress born Infanta María Luisa of Spain
7. 1792-1807 Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress born Princess Maria Teresa of the Two Sicilies
8. 1807-1816 Empress Maria Ludovika of Austria born Archduchess Maria Ludovika of Austria
9. 1816-1835 Empress Caroline Augusta of Austria born Princess Caroline Augusta of Bavaria
10. 1835-1848 Empress Maria Anna of Austria born Princess Maria Anna of Savoy
11. 1848-1854 Archduchess Sophie of Austria born Princess Sophie of Bavaria
12. 1854-1898 Empress Elisabeth of Austria born Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria
13. 1898-1916 Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria born Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony
14. 1916-1951 Empress Zita of Austria born Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma
15. 1951-2007 Regina, Crown Princess of Austria born Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen
16. 2007–present Archduchess Gabriela of Austria current High Protectress

Current administration

According to the website of the Archdiocese of Vienna,[3] the officers of the Order are:


  1. ^ Handelsblad (Het) 07-05-1881
  2. ^ Ortner, M. Christian. (2017). Austrian orders and decorations. Ludwigstorff, Georg., Kozeluh, Anne. Vienna: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum/Militärhistorisches Institut. pp. V.2, P381. ISBN 978-3-902526-82-3. OCLC 1001429416.
  3. ^ Archdiocese of Vienna Archived 2012-12-30 at archive.today - " Oberste Schutzfrau: Gabriela Habsburg-Lothringen "
  4. ^ Sancrucensis, blog article about the Order and its Grand Mistress