announced (external link) that Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has given her daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) on the seventh anniversary of her wedding to the Prince of Wales.
The Royal Victorian Order was, as the name suggests, founded by Queen Victoria in 1896. It is in the personal gift of the monarch, meaning that appointments are not made on ministerial recommendation, and is mostly used to reward people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way. The order has five grades in addition to a medal (while the Royal Victorian Chain counts as an order on its own).
According to Wikipedia there are currently 54 holders of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, including nine members of the British royal family: The Duke of Kent (1960), Princess Alexandra (1960), the Princess Royal (1974), the Duek of Gloucester (1974), the Duchess of Kent (1977), the Duchess of Gloucester (1989), Prince Michael (2003), the Countess of Wessex (2010), the Duke of York (2011), the Earl of Wessex (2011) and the Duchess of Cornwall (2012).
Unlike some of her predecessors and some of her foreign contemporaries, Elizabeth II has been quite strict in awarding orders to her family members. They are generally not given upon coming of age or marriage, but have to be earned through years of service. It is worth noting that until the award of the GCVO to the Countess of Wessex on her 45th birthday in 2010, no daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth had been given any British royal order (except for the private family order, which was given to the late Princess of Wales).
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