ⓘ Order of the Indian Empire. The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of ..

Order of the Indian Empire

ⓘ Order of the Indian Empire

The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of three classes:

  • Knight Commander KCIE
  • Knight Grand Commander GCIE
  • Companion CIE

No appointments have been made since 1947, the year of Indian independence and the Partition of India. In 2010 the last surviving knight, The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra, died and the order became dormant.

The motto of the Order is Imperatricis auspiciis, Under the auspices of the Empress, a reference to Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India. The Order is the junior British order of chivalry associated with the Empire of India; the senior one is The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.


1. History

The British founded the Order in 1878 to reward British and "native" officials who served in India. The Order originally had only one class Companion, but a second class, Knights Commander, was added in 1887. The British authorities intended the Order of the Indian Empire as a less exclusive version of the Order of the Star of India founded in 1861; consequently, many more appointments were made to the former than to the latter.

On 15 February 1887, the Order of the Indian Empire formally became "The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire" and was divided into two classes: Knights Commander and Companions, with the following first Knights Commander:

  • Sayyid Hassan Ali Khan Bahadur, Nawab of Murshidabad
  • Surgeon-General Benjamin Simpson
  • Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, Maharaja of Vizianagram
  • Donald Mackenzie Wallace
  • Maxwell Melvill
  • Donald Campbell Macnabb
  • Alexander Cunningham
  • Sir Alfred Comyns Lyall
  • Alfred Woodley Croft
  • General Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts
  • George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood
  • Ranjit Singh, Raja of Ratlam
  • Sir Monier Williams
  • Nawab Munir ud-Daula Salar Jang, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad
  • Robert Anstruther Dalyell
  • Rana Shankar Baksh Singh
  • Dietrich Brandis
  • Bapu Sahib Avar
  • Albert James Leppoc Cappel
  • Bradford Leslie
  • Edward Drummond
  • Bhagvatsingh of Gondal
  • Honourable Nawab Sir Imam Buksh Khan Mazari, The Nawab of Mazari.Pakistan
  • Lachmessur Singh, Maharaja of Darbhanga

However, on 5 January 1888, a further proclamation regarding the Order was made; the Order was expanded from two classes to three - Knight Grand Commander, Knight Commander and Companion. Seven Knights Grand Commander were created; they were:

  • The Lord Connemara, Governor of Madras
  • HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
  • HRH The Duke of Cambridge
  • HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
  • The Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay
  • HRH The Prince of Wales
  • General Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts promoted from a Knight Commander

Normally the highest grade in British orders is Knight Grand Cross, but Knight Grand Commander was chosen for the two Indian awards because of the Christian symbolism of the cross.

Appointments to both Orders stopped after 14 August 1947. The Orders have never been formally abolished, and Queen Elizabeth II remains the Sovereign of the Orders to this day. Today, there are no living members of the order.

  • The last Grand Master of the Order, Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma 1900-1979, died on 27 August 1979.
  • The last surviving CIE, Vice-Admiral Sir Ronald Brockman 1909-1999, died on 3 September 1999 in London.
  • The last surviving GCIE, HH Maharaja Sri Sir Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma 1912-1991, the Maharaja of Travancore, died on 19 July 1991 in Trivandrum.
  • The last surviving KCIE, HH Maharaja Sri Sir the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra 1923-2010, the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad, died at Dhrangadhra on 1 August 2010.

The fictional characters Purun Dass invented by Rudyard Kipling and Harry Paget Flashman invented by George MacDonald Fraser each held a KCIE; Kiplings engineer Findlayson in The Days Work 1908 wants the CIE.


2. Composition

The British Sovereign is the Sovereign of the Order. The Grand Master held the next-most senior rank; the position was held, ex officio, by the Viceroy of India. Members of the first class were known as "Knights Grand Commanders" rather than "Knights Grand Cross" so as not to offend the non-Christian Indians appointed to the Order.

At the time of foundation in 1878 the order had only one class, that of Companion. There could be any number of members. In 1887, the Order was divided into the two classes of Knights Commander 50 at any given time and Companions no quota. The following year the class of Knight Grand Commander 25 at any given time was added; the composition of the other two classes remained the same.

British officials and soldiers were eligible for appointment, as were rulers of Indian Princely States. Generally, the rulers of the more important states were appointed Knights Grand Commanders of the Order of the Star of India, rather than of the Order of the Indian Empire. Women, except the princely rulers, could not be members the Order. Female princely rulers were admitted as "Knights" rather than as "Dames" or "Ladies".

As well, other Asian and Middle Eastern rulers were also appointed.

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