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Royal Order of the Lion of Rwanda

 Royal Order of the Lion of Rwanda

 

The Order of the Lion (Intare in the native Kinyarwandan language) is the lowest Order in the de jure Kingdom of Rwanda. It is the inheritor of the Rwandan Umudende ceremony, the necklace of the seventh. This was a Rwandan custom where a warrior was honoured for having killed his seventh enemy in combat. The rules were similar to the aforementioned Impotore.


The historical distinction of the Umudende granted the recipient a necklace of iron that held small bells in an even number: two, four, or six bells were displayed at chest height. The necklace was historically protected in a separate house and could not be placed on the ground. Pre-conversion to Catholicism, the bells were regarded as a religious talisman that warded off evils spirits. The recipient was also awarded a lion’s pelt, and the investiture ceremony literally clothed the recipient in the pelt. This ritual demonstrated that the bravery of the grantee was akin to the lion, the king of beasts. The recipient was also expected to have a superior social status within the kingdom that would now be described as a noble class, and an annual tribute to the King was required with the regular sacrifice of a young bull. However, a decision of H.M. Kigeli Kigeli IV Rwabugili (a predecessor to the current King) removed some of the earlier obligations of Umudende recipients to allow the honour to be accessible to heroes of modest fortune. Under precise rules regarding the conquest or liberation of other kingdoms, a King could also be decorated in this way. Historical recipients include King Ruganzu II Ndoli (1510 – 1543 A.D.), King Mutara I Semugeshi (1543 – 1576), King Kigeli II Nyamuheshera (1576 – 1609), King Kigeli III Ndabrasa (1708 – 1741), King Kigeli IV Rwabugili (1853 – 1895), and King Yuhi V Musinga (1896 – 1931). King Yuhi V removed the killing requirements for the honour after Catholic missionaries and German colonists began their work, and this honour was granted to some of them.

 

The spirit of the Umudende ceremony was retained by the reverence granted to recipients of the Order of the Lion. The Order was founded in 1946 by King Mutara III Rudahigwa, the first Catholic King of Rwanda. It was created as a Royal State Order of the Kingdom of Rwanda, registered with the Vatican State in 1947 (through the Foreign Missions Office in Paris), and it has been awarded to such distinguished international figures as H.H. Pope Pius XII (1950), H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1957), H.M. King Baudouin of Belgium (1955), and H.G. Don Francisco Borbon y Escasany, 5th Duke of Seville and Grandee of Spain (2005), among others. The design for the insignia of the Order dates to 1955 when it was drafted by artisan company Arthus-Bertrand. The grant to H.H. Pope Pius XII also contained the traditional lion’s pelt, and His Holiness received the first Letters Patent of the Order.  Shortly before, H.H. Pope Pius XII had granted King Mutara III and future Catholic Rwandan kings the title of “Most Christian King of the Rwandans”, which is similar to a previous style used for the historic kings of France. The lion also serves as a supporter in His Majesty King Kigeli V’s heraldry. Its creation as a Royal State Order makes it unique from the other Rwandan honours since the others were created as royal House dynastic honours. The Republic of Rwanda did not retain the Order of the Lion, and H.M. King Kigeli V continues to grant the Order in his right as a de jure head of state.


There are five ranks in the Order. The highest rank is Grand Cross, which is followed by the Grand Officer rank. The third-highest rank is Knight Commander or Dame Commander, which is followed by the Officer rank. The lowest rank is the Knight or Dame rank. The Order may be granted as a hereditary award or as a non-hereditary honour. Nobility is conferred upon the grantee.

  

Order of the Lion breast star

Order of the Lion insignia for sash

All pictures are courtesy of our official supplier, Unique Jewelry and Regalia of El Paso, Texas.

 

Article 70

 Style of the Chevalier/Dame

 

A recipient at the rank of Grand Cross is entitled to the style of “Son Excellence”. A recipient at the rank of Grand Officer is entitled to the style of “L’honorable”. No other ranks in the Order are entitled to a style.

 

Article 71

 Title and Address

 

The title and honour of Chevalier is granted to all male members of the Order regardless of rank. Similarly, the title and honour of Dame is granted to all female members of the Order regardless of rank. This Order confers nobility upon the member. The post-nominal for Grand Cross recipients of the Order is “GCLR”. This stands for [G]rand [C]ross of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for a Grand Officer recipient of the Order is “GOLR”. This stands for [G]rand [O]fficer of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for male Commander recipients of the Order is “KCLR”. This stands for [K]night [C]ommander of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for female Commander recipients of the Order is “DCLR”. This stands for [D]ame [C]ommander of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for an Officer recipient of the Order is “OLR”. This stands for [O]fficer of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for male Knight recipients of the Order is “KLR”. This stands for [K]night of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. The post-nominal for female Dame recipients is “DLR”.  This stands for [D]ame of the [L]ion of [R]wanda. Therefore, the full name, title, and style of a male holder of the Grand Cross rank is “Son Excellence Chevalier First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, GCLR”. The full name, title, and style of a male holder of the Grand Officer rank is “L’honorable Chevalier First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, GOLR”. The full name, title, and style of a male holder of the Knight Commander rank is “Chevalier First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, KCLR”. The full name, title, and style of a male holder of the Officer rank is “Chevalier First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, OLR”. The full name, title, and style of a male holder of the Knight rank is “Chevalier First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, KLR”. Similarly, the full name, title, and style of a female holder of the Grand Cross rank is “Son Excellence Dame First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, GCLR”. The full name, title, and style of a female holder of the Grand Officer rank is “L’honorable Dame First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, GOLR”. The full name, title, and style of a female holder of the Dame Commander rank is “Dame First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, DCLR”. The full name, title, and style of a female holder of the Officer rank is “Dame First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, OLR”. The full name, title, and style of a female holder of the Dame rank is “Dame First Name Middle Name Second Middle Name [if any] Surname, DLR”. If the Letters Patent for a particular recipient contains a different style, title, and address than the above, the Letters Patent will triumph only for that particular recipient.

 

Article 72

 Regalia of Order

 

Recipients at the rank of Grand Cross are entitled to a breast star 85 millimeters wide that is a circular star of wavy gold (Or) rays. In the center of the star is a red enamel cartouche charged with a gold (Or) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of gold (Or). Individuals at the rank of Grand Cross rank are also entitled to a sash of the Order. The sash of the Order is red (Gules) and edged with purple (Purpure). The sash is 100 millimeters wide for males, while females have an option of the 100 millimeter wide sash or else a 50 millimeter wide version. The sash is worn over the right shoulder and it rests on the left hip. The sash has an insignia. The insignia is 65 millimeters wide from left to right, and it is a gold (Or) cross. The arms of the cross are conjoined wavy gold (Or) rays. Three silver (Argent) rays are positioned in the principal angles.  In the center of the insignia is a red enamel cartouche charged with a gold (Or) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of gold (Or). The insignia is surmounted by a gold (Or) Crown of Rwanda.

 

Recipients at the rank of Grand Officer are entitled to a breast star 85 millimeters wide that is a circular star of wavy silver (Argent) rays. In the center of the star is a red (Gules) enamel cartouche charged with a silver (Argent) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of silver (Argent).  Individuals at the rank of Grand Officer are also entitled to a neck riband of the Order. The neck riband for the Grand Officer is 50 millimeters wide and is red (Gules) and edged with purple (Purpure). Suspended from the riband is the insignia of the Order. The insignia is 65 millimeters wide from left to right, and it is a silver (Argent) cross. The arms of the cross are conjoined wavy silver (Argent) rays. Three silver (Argent) rays are positioned in the principal angles. In the center of the insignia is a red (Gules) enamel cartouche charged with a silver (Argent) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of silver (Argent). The insignia is surmounted by a silver (Argent) Crown of Rwanda. 

 

Recipients at the rank of Knight Commander or Dame Commander are entitled to a neck riband of the Order. The neck riband for the Commander is 50 millimeters wide and is red (Gules) and edged with purple (Purpure). Suspended from the riband is the insignia of the Order. The insignia is 65 millimeters wide from left to right, and it is a silver (Argent) cross. The arms of the cross are conjoined wavy silver (Argent) rays. Three silver (Argent) rays are positioned in the principal angles. In the center of the insignia is a red (Gules) enamel cartouche charged with a silver (Argent) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of silver (Argent). The insignia is surmounted by a silver (Argent) Crown of Rwanda.

 

Recipients at the rank of Officer are entitled to a breast ribbon. The ribbon is 40 millimeters from left to right, and it is red (Gules) edged in purple (Purpure). A red (Gules) and purple (Purpure) rosette is on the ribbon. Suspended from the ribbon is an insignia. The insignia is approximately 45 millimeters from left to right, and it is a gold (Or) cross. The arms of the cross are conjoined wavy gold (Or) rays. Three silver (Argent) rays are positioned in the principal angles. In the center of the insignia is a red (Gules) enamel cartouche charged with a gold (Or) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of gold (Or). The insignia is surmounted by a gold (Or) Crown of Rwanda.

 

Recipients at the rank of Knight or Dame are entitled to a breast ribbon. The ribbon is 40 millimeters wide from left to right, and it is red (Gules) edged in purple (Purpure). Suspended from the ribbon is an insignia. The insignia is 45 millimeters wide from left to right, and it is a gold (Or) cross. The arms of the cross are conjoined wavy gold (Or) rays. Three silver (Argent) rays are positioned in the principal angles. In the center of the insignia is a red (Gules) enamel cartouche charged with a gold (Or) lion rampant guardant with the body facing left (Dexter). The cartouche is edged with two bands of gold (Or). The insignia is surmounted by a gold (Or) Crown of Rwanda.

Image by Mathieu Chaine.

 

Article 73

 Courtesy Spousal Title and Courtesy Titles for Children

 

There is no courtesy title for the lawful spouse or children of a member of the Order. However, the lawful spouse of a member of the Order is noble for as long as the spouse is married to the member or is the widow/widower of the same. Yet, the children of the member are not noble.

 

Article 74

 Passage of Title and Honour

 

The titles and honours of the de jure Kingdom of Rwanda may only pass to another person in strict accordance with this document. They cannot be sold, transferred, or otherwise altered. If a grant of the Order is hereditary, the Letters Patent and it alone will state it. Unless the Letters Patent for a particular grantee specifically stipulates another method of transmission, the default method of transmission is bloodline absolute primogeniture springing solely from the original grantee. That is, the honour and  title of Chevalier or Dame will only pass from a current substantive title-holder to the eldest child of the title- holder (or the next in line to the title and honour if there are no living descendants of the current title-holder but there are living collateral descendants elsewhere who spring from the original grantee of the noble title and honour) upon the death of the current title-holder, unless the current title-holder renounces the honour in accordance with Article 75. There may only be one inheritor of the title and honour at any time. The rank within the Order will be retained by transmission. Said another way, a member of the rank of Grand Cross who passes the title and honour to an heir will have the heir also be at the rank of Grand Cross. Similarly, a member of the rank of Commander who passes the title and honour to an heir will have the heir also be at the rank of Commander.

 

Written notice of each transfer of the title and honour should be made to the current Head of the Rwandan Royal House so that good record-keeping is maintained and registration occurs of the new holder of the title and honour. A small registration fee might be necessary to record this transfer. However, title passage will occur without the need for official blessing by a future Head of the Rwandan Royal House. For example, if a title holder dies, his heir according to either the individualized Letters Patent or this document immediately becomes the next holder of the title and honour. This ensures the smooth and immediate transmission of the title and honour. But notification to the Royal House is required after transmission so that proper record keeping can be maintained. If more than 100 years passes after a legitimate transfer of a title and honour and the Royal Rwandan House has not received notification and recorded the transmission, the title and honour becomes extinct and reverts back to the Royal Rwandan House. Only if the Head of the Royal Rwandan House then regrants the title and honour can it be restored after 100 years of lack of registration after it legitimately transfers.

 

In the event that the descendant lines of the original grantee of the noble title and honour all fail – that is, that each line eventually has no bloodline heirs left – the title will become extinct, as all possible heirs have died out. Similarly, the title becomes dormant if no person has claimed the title or no claim has been satisfactorily proven. A period of 100 years of dormancy results in the dissolution of the title with no restoration possible except for an explicit new grant from the Head of the Rwandan Royal House. In the event of a dispute regarding who is the true inheritor of the title and honour, the current Head of the Rwandan Royal House has ultimate jurisdiction as to the rightful holder of the title.   Note, for purposes of this document, the word bloodline heir means all issue (descendants), not just the immediate children of the original Chevalier or Dame.

 

In the event that an inheritor of the title and honour resides in a domicile/jurisdiction/state/country of residence that prohibits the use of titles and honours at the time of receiving the title, or a current Chevalier or Dame moves into such a domicile/jurisdiction/state/country of residence, the title becomes honorary solely to allow the grantee to not violate the law in the place of residence. However, this honorary state exists and accords the Chevalier or Dame all rights accorded a non-honorary substantive title and honour. Put another way, the honorary title and honour are honorary in name only, but the title and honour still are substantive in the de jure Kingdom of Rwanda. This state of the noble title and honour being honorary will exist until the current Chevalier or Dame moves into another domicile/jurisdiction/state/country of residence that recognizes titles and honours, the domicile/jurisdiction/state/country of residence changes its stance on titles and honours, or a new inheritor, residing in another domicile/jurisdiction/state/country of residence has a claim to the title through the previous title-holder dying or renouncing the honour. Under no circumstances is the title and honour of a hereditary Chevalier or Dame considered extinct until all possible heirs to it have died out. A foreign government cannot extinguish this title and honour as the title falls under the legal jurisdiction and protection of the de jure Kingdom of Rwanda.

 

Article 75

 Renunciation of Title

 

The title and honour may be renounced by the current Chevalier or Dame at any time and for any cause. The renunciation must be in writing and witnessed by two individuals not related to the current Chevalier or Dame. Both witnesses should sign and date the renunciation along with the renouncing Chevalier or Dame, and the document should be delivered to the current Head of the Royal House of Rwanda. Upon signing, the title and honour of Chevalier or Dame will pass by the rules of Article 74 as if the renouncing Chevalier or Dame died. Thus, a renunciation of the title and honour does not dissolve it; the title and honour merely passes to the next lawful recipient under Article 74 or the Letters Patent of the original grantee. Per Article 74, only an extinction of the title and honour by the death or renunciation of all bloodline descendants springing from the  original grantee,  or all eligible  recipients outlined  in  a  specific  Letters  Patent  if the specific Letters Patent outlines a different mode of title transmission, can effectively end its existence.

 

Article 76

 Armorial Achievement

 

Heraldry is not a significant part of the historic cultural tradition of Rwanda, but there are some precedents. For example, His Majesty King Kigeli V has a heraldic achievement with a Bantu-style shield. The coronet for a Chevalier or Dame will be an Or coronet surmounted by eight balls of pearl. The band of the coronet will display white and blue beading similar to the Crown of Rwanda. The heraldic representation for the Chevalier or Dame coronet will be:


 

Grantees and inheritors of the title and honour may display their heraldry with a Bantu- style shield or else a heater-style shield, the above coronet, a helm, a torse, mantling, and supporters or a combination of these. Recipients of the Order at any rank may, but are not required to, also display a lion on his or her escutcheon or crest. A lion may also be used as a heraldic supporter.

 

 

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