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The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation

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The Order, initially called “Order of the Collar”, was founded by Amadeo VI of Savoy at the time of the wedding of his sister Bianca to Galeazzo II Visconti in 1362. The Order of te Collar, whose purpose was to “induce union and brotherhood between the powerful to avoid private wars”, was reserved for the most illustrious, faithful nobles and the statutory rules established that all those rewarded were to be considered equal and should call each other “brothers”. The original insignias were a gold-plated, silver collar with the motto “Fert”, closed by a ring with three Savoyan Knots. The “Milites Collaris Sabaudiae” were originally only 14, led by Amadeo VI, first Grand Master of the Order, for a total of 15 members in honour of the fifteen mysteries of the Virgin Mary.

Amadeo VIII of Savoy gave the Order and its decoration the first official regulations, establishing that the Savoy knots be alternated with the inscription “Fert” and 15 roses in the collar; in memory of the Golden Rose sent by Pope Urban V to Count Amadeo VI in 1364 when he was awarded the insignia of Crusading Knight. Carlo III gave the order new statutes and it took the name of Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. He also added a medal with the image of the Annunciation in the space formed by the three knots. The number of knights was increased to 20. The first statutes of the Order, created by Amadeo VI, have been lost. Those passed down till today are those amended by Amadeo VIII of Savoy in 1429. After that, Duke Emanuele Filiberto added that being admitted to the Order was subordinate to proving that four fifths of the person’s nobility dated back at least five generations.

Vittorio Amadeo secularised the Order. In 1869 Vittorio Emanuele II established that Order investiture could be without noble origins, as long as it was for the highest merits paid to the State or the Crown. At the time of investiture, the newly decorated person chose the collar from amongst those available, without prejudice to the obligation, at the time of death, to leave a will instructing heirs to return it to the House of Savoy.

Those awarded were exempted of payment of taxes and duties. They were “cousins of the king” (who they could address using the informal “tu” (you) form), had the title of “excellence”, protocol precedence before all other State offices, the right to military honours and became ipso facto Knights of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy and the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation remains the maximum honour of the Royal House of Savoy, giving those granted it ceremonial and protocol privileges valid during the Reign. The Italian Republic does not recognise this Order. However, as this order is of family origin, prior to the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy, it is still bestowed – to members of reigning Houses, high nobility families, or people who have stood out for the highest merits to the House of Savoy – and in European heraldry manuals it is compared in importance to the Order of the Garter.

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