The Royal Order of Vasa was instituted on May 29, 1772 by the King of Sweden Gustav III (13(24).01.1746 – 29.03.1792) soon after ascending the throne of a kingdom on February 12, 1771.
An order was named after Gustav Vasa (12.05.1496 – 29.09.1560), Swedish king since June 06, 1523, the founder of the modern Sweden regarded today as “the father of the nation”.
This civil award being a “free order” was issued to subjects of Sweden as well as to foreigners unrestricted by rules of birth and education. It was instituted as an alternative to Swedish service orders and was presented to those not eligible for an Order of the Sword (Kungliga Svärdsorden) or an Order of the Polar Star (Nordstjärneorden).
The Royal Order of Vasa was the most junior of all Swedish orders and was presented for distinguished merits to state and society in the fields of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, commerce, science, arts and craft. An order was also awarded as a recognition of immaculate long service for the benefit of the Kingdom of Sweden.
It was awarded directly by Swedish kings each of them being holders of the decoration according to its statute.
Initially the Royal Order of Vasa was instituted in three classes and the number of its recipients was limited to six for the Grand Cross, eight for the Commander Cross and fifty for the Knight Cross. Recipients of the two highest classes had to pay a nonrecurrent fee worth 800 and 400 Riksdaler respectively.
It’s worth mentioning here that decoration by various classes of the Order had no consecutive order but depended entirely on the will of a king.
Commander’s class was divided into two in 1873 (Commander’s Cross and Commander’s Cross, 1st Class) and in 1889 the same happened to the Knight’s class.
Therefore since 1889 the Royal Order of Vasa was divided into five classes:
- Commander Grand Cross (Kommendör med stora korset). Worn on a collar chain or on a sash on the right shoulder together with the star of the badge on a left chest.
- Commander Cross, 1st Class (Kommendör av första klassen). Worn on a ribbon at the neck together with the star of the badge on a left chest.
- Commander Cross (Kommendör). Worn on a ribbon at the neck.
- Knight’s Cross, 1st Class (Riddare/ledamot av första klassen). Worn on a ribbon on a left chest.
- Knight’s Cross, 2nd Class (Riddare/ledamot av andra klassen). Worn on a ribbon on a left chest.
Ribbon of all the classes of the Order was green.
Since 1860 the badge of the Royal Order of Vasa had a shape of a white enameled ball-tipped Maltese cross topped by a royal crown. Four gilt Swedish crowns were placed between arms of a cross. An oval medallion encircled by a wide dark red ring bearing an inscription in gilt letters “Gustav III, founder,
Medallion itself featured an image of a gilt crowned sheaf of corn twisted by a ribbon thus representing a heraldic emblem of the Vasa dynasty. An old Swedish generic name “Vasa” was consonant to the word denoting “sheaf”. Similarity of appearance of the sheaf found on a badge and a vase led to the misinterpretation of the name of the Order as if it was derived from the vase as an interior design decoration. Above described medallion was a badge of the Order before 1860.
Obverse and reverse of crosses were similar.
Miniatures of the Order (31x17 mm approximately) were manufactured as well.
The star of the Commander Cross, 1st Class was made of silver and had a shape of the Maltese cross with a central sheaf twisted by a ribbon and topped by a royal crown.
The star of the Commander Grand Cross was the same but with an addition of nettle leaves being an emblem of a Holstein coat of arms between the arms of the cross.
The collar chain of the Commander Grand Cross that was worn during solemn ceremonies was made of gold and featured three interlaced sections: sheaf being a heraldic emblem of the Vasa dynasty; crowned shield with royal coat of arms flanked by a pair of cornucopia and a pair of caduceus; white-enameled nettle leaves bearing a shield in white above red being an emblem of Holstein.
The Royal Order of Vasa was manufactured in Sweden and Germany.
The Order was conferred until the reform of the Swedish award system in 1974. Since then decorations were postponed as the Order along with the Order of the Sword (Kungliga Svärdsorden) was declared “resting”.