Grand Order of San Leopoldo (Mantuan Order of Chivalry)

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Grand Order of San Leopoldo
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Type Order of Chivalry
Established 1705
Criteria At the Monarch's Pleasure
Founder Fabio I
Sovereign HSH Princess Fabiola
Chancellor Hereditary Prince Amadeo
Status Currently Constituted
Classes Knight/Dame Grand Cross
Knight/Dame Commander
Companion
Member

The Grand Order of San Leopoldo en la Piedra (English: The Grand Order of St Leopold on the Rock) is a Mantuan order of chivalry founded by Prince Fabio I. It is named in honour of Mantua's patron saint and is the highest order of chivalry in Mantua. By custom, the order is reserved for those Mantuans who have given extraordinary service to the country but is also regularly awarded to foreign Heads of State and members of the Princely Family of Mantua. The order was not awarded to women (other than the consorts of reigning Sovereign Princes or foreign female heads of state) until 1980 when Princess Elida, Dowager Countess of Agia was made a Dame Grand Cross. Conventionally but not according to statute, the Chancellor of the Order is always the heir apparent though there have been exceptions. It also customary for the Dauphin of Alexandria to receive the order on his 21st birthday as a gift from the people of Mantua.

History

The Order was founded by Prince Fabio I in 1705 when Mantua was granted her independence from the Empire of the Alexandrians. The order was first established as a token of gratitude from the Sovereign Prince to those heads of state who had recognised Mantua's independence with the first award being given to the Grand Duke of Ravaria in 1706. At it's creation, the order only had one class - that of Knight - but over the years the order has been reorganised several times with the introduction of Companions in 1882 and Members in 1903. The early Knights of the order were awarded a star and the badge of the order but new insignia was created as further classes were created. In 2010, the original star worn by Prince Fabio was taken to the jeweller Bliché (Court Jeweller) for cleaning. It was discovered that the enamel portrait of San Leopoldo could be removed and revealed a small lock of hair enclosed inside the star. DNA testing showed the lock of hair to be a relic taken from the body of San Leopoldo. Of the surviving three stars from the early 18th century, two were found to contain similar relics with the third containing a small piece of cloth cut from the Saint's habit. It is believed that the custom of enclosing relics inside the insignia of the order was discontinued from around 1760 onwards.

Female Membership

From it's inception, the order was restricted in regard to female members. Originally, only female heads of state were permitted to receive the order and even then, were granted the honour in the male rank of Knight. This changed in 1825 when Prince Amalio I became Sovereign Prince. The 15 year old Prince was unable to rule until his 21st birthday and so his mother Princess Elena acted as regent. With the approval of the Royal Council, Elena was made a Dame of the Order of San Leopoldo, the first time a female variant of the Knight class was introduced to the order's statute. From then on, female heads of state who received the order were granted the honour in the rank of Dame. When Prince Amalio married, his wife Princess Martha became the first consort to be awarded the order but no other female members of the Princely Family were inducted. Female members of the Princely Family were instead awarded the Holy Cross of Santa Rita, a decoration which is still considered extant but which has not been awarded since the early 20th century.

In 1978, Mantua gained her first female head of state who immediately became the Grand Master of the Mantuan Orders and Sovereign of the Order of San Leopoldo. For the first time since it's foundation, the Sovereign of the Order had not been awarded a junior class of the order before succeeding to it's sovereign. Whilst this technically made Princess Fabiola the first female member of the wear the insignia of the order, she was not the first member to be awarded the honour by a reigning monarch of Mantua. This honour fell to Princess Fabiola's sister, Princess Elida, who was made a Dame Grand Cross of the order in 1980. Whilst the order may be awarded to women, such grants are rare. The last grant was made in 1991 to Alexandra Widhoezl who married Hereditary Prince Amadeo, the heir to the Mantuan throne. Hereditary Princess Alexandra is the first female member of the Princely Family to receive the award before her marriage (the grant was made on the morning of her wedding) and is therefore the first female commoner ever to have been awarded with Mantua's highest order of chivalry.

Classes & Insignia

File:SLCollar.png
The Collar of the Order of San Leopoldo en la Piedra.

Since 1903, there has been four classes of the Order of San Leopoldo en la Piedra. These are:

  • Knight Grand Cross/Dame Grand Cross
  • Knight Commander/Dame Commander
  • Companion
  • Member

Recipients do not use post-nominals. Appointments can be made at any time throughout the year but most new appointments are announced on San Leopoldo Day which is held annually on the 15 September. A special church service is held to mark the occasion at the Basilica on the Rock with members wearing full insignia.

Knights and Dames Grand Cross are entitled to wear the badge, star and sash of the order. Only Knights Grand Cross may wear the collar of the order with the exception of the Sovereign who wears her insignia according to the male protocols established by Prince Fabio. The green sash of the order (trimmed with white for the highest ranking members) is worn over the right shoulder with the rosette placed on the left hip (from which the badge of the order is suspended for Knights Grand Cross and Knights Commander). Dames Grand Cross wear the badge mounted on a bow on their left shoulder. The star is worn on the left side of the chest for both Knights and Dames.

Knights and Dames Commander are entitled to wear the sash of the order, the star and the badge. To denote their lower rank, the green sash of the order is not edged in white but they continue to wear the star and badge as Knights and Dames Grand Cross would do. Companions receive the star of the order which is worn on the left side of the chest with the badge of the order worn as a medal pinned to the right shoulder. For women, this badge is mounted on a bow. For men, it is mounted as a campaign medal would be.

Members receive the badge of the order worn as described above for Companions.

When a member of any class dies, the insignia is traditionally returned to the Sovereign at the Cavaletta Palace either by close family members of by an Ambassador. All insignia is allocated a number so that when it is bestowed on the next recipient, they can be informed of who wore it before them. Some of the insignia has been worn for over 250 years. Princess Fabiola wears the special diamond star created for Princess Elena in 1825 and the collar worn by her father, Prince Amalio III. Until the death of Princess Sofia in 1995, Fabiola wore the badge of the order worn by her grandfather Prince Juan María but now wears the badge used by her mother.

Each member is entitled to display their coats of arms in the Knight's Chapel in the Basilica on the Rock. When a member dies and the insignia is returned, the plaque bearing the coat of arms is removed and is given to their representative. Upon the announcement of their death, the bells of the Basilica are rung for an hour and special prayers are said at the Shrine of San Leopoldo below. Their names are then inscribed on a marble tablet in the vestibule of the Basilica which contains the names of all members of the order.

Current Members

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The Badge of the Order of San Leopoldo.
  • HSH Princess Fabiola
  • HH Count Jaime Zubero y Idali
  • HSH Hereditary Prince Amadeo
  • HSH Hereditary Princess Alexandra
  • HSH Princess Elida, Dowager Countess Agia
  • HIM Emperor Edgard II of the Alexandrians
Mantuan Orders of Chivalry Flag of Mantua
Orders: Grand Order of San Leopoldo | Royal Order of Montillet
Decorations: Royal Service Medal | Princess Sofia Medal | Investiture Medals