The Queen heads the two Danish Royal Orders of Chivalry, the Order of the Elephant and the Order of the Dannebrog, while Prince Henrik is their Chancellor.
The most distinguished is the Order of the Elephant, which is believed to date back to the 15th century. Originally, it was mainly bestowed on foreign princes and exalted Danish noblemen. Now, the Order is almost exclusively bestowed on foreign heads of state and members of the royal family.
The Order of the Dannebrog was instituted by Christian V in 1671, but its statutes were changed along the lines of the French Legion of Honour in 1808, when it was divided into various grades. It is now mainly used to honour meritorious Danish citizens.
Any decision about the bestowal of honours continues to lie solely with the Head of the Order, but the day-to-day administration of the honours system is undertaken by the College of Arms, which forms part of the royal court. By virtue of the relatively broad bestowal of the lower grades of the Order of the Dannebrog and the Royal Orders of Merit, the honours system today acts as a link between the population and the royal house.
Knud J. V. Jespersen, Professor, dr. phil.