Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Order of the Star of India

Today is the 150th anniversary of the foundation of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India by Queen Victoria in 1861. There is an illustrated account of the Order and its history here. The last surviving member died in 2009.

The Order, designed to be awarded to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, is an interesting example of mid-Victorian inter-faith dialogue. Hence it avoided the use of the cross or terminology such as Knight Grand Cross in favour of Knight Grand Commander, and used as its motto the phrase "Heaven's Light Our Guide."

The Mantle of a GCSI

The star of the Order on the mantle
Images: Wikipedia

It is also interesting in that from the beginning women were admitted as KSI or later GCSI - something that was not possible in this country until the Order of the British Empire was created in 1917, and for the older Orders not until the reign of the present Queen.



Two contemporary views of Queen Victoria presiding over the first Chapter of the Order in 1861

Image: Columbia.edu

The insignia was particularly handsome, and the Prince Consort is often claimed to have had a hand in its design. The links with roses clearly derive from the Orders of the Garter and St Patrick. These alternate with the lotus flower to symbolise India. I have read, though I am not sure if the story is true, that some of the insignia which had been returned to the Crown was destroyed as superfluous in the 1950s. If so it was a very regretable decision.

 Magnificent Collar and Badge of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India

This is the magnificent Collar and Badge of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, Knight Grand Commander (GCSI), awarded to General His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan, Abassi, Bahadur, Nawab of Bahawalpur.

On his accession in 1907, he reigned under a Council of Regency until he came of age and was invested with limited administrative powers in 1922; he became President of the Council of Regency in May 1923, and almost a year later was invested with full ruling powers at Bahawalpur by His Excellency the Marquess of Reading, Viceroy of India.

He acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947 and merged his state into the province of West Pakistan in 1955.

At the ages of seven, His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan attended the Delhi Durbar 1911, where he commanded his state troops. He also attended the coronations of both King George VI 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II 1953. He served in the Great War and the Third Afghan War 1919; was ADC to the Prince of Wales 1921-22; and again served in the Second World War. General His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan, Abassi, Bahadur, Nawab of Bahawalpur died in London in 1966.

The estimate for this collar when it was sold was £20,000-25,000.

Illustration and information from Spink.com

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