Today is not only the 95th birthday of HM The Queen but the 125th anniversary of the foundation in 1896 by Queen Victoria of the Royal Victorian Order.
The Order was intended as, and has remained, a means of honouring those who support and assist the Sovereign, from members of the Royal Family, members of other Royal Houses and to courtiers and staff. It is normally reported as being founded in part as a memorial to the Queen’s son-in-law Prince Henry of Battenberg who had died that year of disease on the Ashanti campaign.
As an Order created by the Queen it was under her direct control whereas the established Orders, including at that time the three great national ones of the Garter, Thistle and Patrick were bestowed on ministerial advice. As one in the personal gift of the Monarch it has since 1931 been awarded in each of the Commonwealth realms.
There is a very good and detailed account, with links to other relevant entries, of the Order, its history and insignia from Wikipedia at Royal Victorian Order This also includes some discussion of the Royal Victorian Chain introduced in 1902 by King Edward VII. This is not part of the Order but is affiliated to it. In some respects it functions as an enhanced upper degree of it, reserved for monarchs and royalty, and most Archbishops of Canterbury and Lords Chamberlain. I suspect this article derived from Peter Galliway’s book on the Order which will cost you an appropriate £125.
Image: Nicholas Jackson/ Wikimedia/The Court Jeweller
The closest similar Order amongst other European monarchies is the Order of the House of Orange in the Netherlands. This was founded by Queen Wilhelmina in 1905, and re-structured by Queen Juliana in 1969. There are accounts of it and of the additions to it made in 1969 at Order of the House of Orange at Order of the Crown (Netherlands) and at Order for Loyalty and Merit