Order of the Southern Cross

Emperor Pedro I of Brazil founded the National Order of the Southern Cross (Portuguese: Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul) as a Brazilian order of chivalry on 1 December 1822. The order aimed to commemorate the independence of Brazil (7 September 1822) and the coronation of Pedro I (1 December 1822).[5] The name derives from the geographical position of the country, under the constellation of the Southern Cross and also in memory of the name – Terra de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross) – given to Brazil following its first discovery by Europeans in 1500.[4]

National Order of the Southern Cross
Grand Collar of the National Order of the Southern Cross
Awarded by the Government of Brazil
and the Brazilian Imperial Family
TypeNational Order and dynastic order
MottoBenemerentium Præmium[1]
EligibilityForeign nationals[2]
Awarded for"As a token of gratitude and recognition for those who have rendered significant service to the Brazilian nation."[2]
StatusCurrently awarded
FounderPedro I of Brazil
Grand MasterHis Excellency the President of Brazil[3] (the national order)
ChancellorHis Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs[3]
GradesGrand Collar
Grand Cross
Grand Officer
First inductionDecember 1, 1822[4]

Ribbon bar of the National Order of the Southern Cross
Grand Cross


Originally known as the Imperial Order of the Cross (Ordem Imperial do Cruzeiro), the Order was created by Emperor Pedro I on the day of his Coronation, 1 December 1822. Also on the same date the first knights of the order were appointed, to commemorate the crowning of the Empire's first monarch. After the proclamation of the independence of Brazil on 7 September 1822 other honorific awards had been made, but of the Orders of chivalry shared with Portugal, Brazilian branches of which had been created upon independence; the Order of the Cross, created to mark the Coronation of the Empire's founder, was thus also the first purely Brazilian Order.

After the fall of the monarchy, Brazil's first republican Constitution, enacted on 24 February 1891, abolished all titles of nobility and all Imperial Orders and decorations.[4] The Order was later re-established by the government of Getúlio Vargas on December 5, 1932, as the National Order of the Southern Cross.[4]

The Grand Coat of Arms of the Empire of Brazil displayed the badge of the Imperial Order of the Cross suspended from a blue necklet.

During the Old Republic period (from the Proclamation of the Republic until the Revolution of 1930), National Orders did not exist and the Brazilian State bestowed only military medals.[6] Restored in 1932, the Order of the Southern Cross was the first Order to be created in the re-established, republican honours system. It is considered the senior Brazilian National Order.

During the Imperial period, the Order of the Southern Cross was not the highest ranking of the Imperial Orders, as it ranked below the Brazilian branches of the ancient orders of chivalry, that originated with Portugal: the Order of Christ (the senior-most Order), the Order of Saint Benedict of Aviz and the Order of St. James of the Sword. Those Orders were shared by Brazil and Portugal; the Order of Christ was shared with the Holy See similar to the Austrian and a Spanish Orders of the Golden Fleece. However among the Brazilian created Orders, the Imperial Order of the Cross ranked first, having higher status than the Imperial Order of Pedro I and the Imperial Order of the Rose.

The Imperial Order of the Cross continues to be used by both branches of the Brazilian Imperial Family as a House Order, awarded by the rival claimants to the position of Head of the Imperial Family, but such awards are not recognized by the Republic of Brazil.

Just like the Emperors of Brazil were ex officio Grand Masters of the Imperial Order, Presidents of Brazil are ex officio Grand Masters of the successor National Order. Accordingly, President Jair Bolsonaro is the Order's current Grand Master.


Pedro I, first Emperor of Brazil, founder and first Grand Master of the Order, wearing the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Cross (then the Order's highest rank) among other orders.
Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, Empress consort of Brazil, wears the insignia of the Imperial Order of the Cross and other orders.
Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, Grand Master of the Order, wearing the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Cross. The portrait displays both the star of the Order and the sash of a Knight Grand Cross.

Unlike the Imperial Order, that was awarded to Brazilians and foreigners alike, the republican National Order is awarded to foreigners only. When the Order was re-established in by presidential decree on January 13, 1932,[7] it was restricted to foreigners only with the stipulation that all awards of the Order constitute an act of foreign relations on the part of the Brazilian Government.[8]

Queen Maria II of Portugal, eldest daughter of Pedro I of Brazil and sister of Pedro II, wearing the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Cross and other orders.

Brazilians were excluded deliberately. In the Old Republic, the State regarded Orders and decorations as contrary to the principles of republicanism, and thus maintained no honours system; the creation of an Order that would admit Brazilians to its ranks was a step too far. However, the Brazilian State also resented the lack of a decoration with which to honour foreign dignitaries, as is sometimes almost required by diplomatic protocol. For instance, during the celebrations of the Centennial of Brazilian Independence in 1922, several foreign dignitaries, including the King and Queen of the Belgians, came to Brazil for the celebrations. The King of the Belgians bestowed Belgian honours to some Brazilians. Brazilian nationals needed authorization from the Government to accept foreign titles of honour, or else face loss of citizenship, and under normal circumstances permission for the acceptance of appointment to Orders of Chivalry would not have been granted. While the government of Brazil relaxed its practice and authorized both accepting induction into foreign Orders and the wearing of foreign insignia, it lacked any decorations with which to reciprocate the Belgian gesture. The National Order of the Southern Cross was intended as an Order that would fill that gap. Today, accepting foreign honours and insignia without the need of prior Government approval is allowed, and several Brazilian Orders have been established to which Brazilians may be admitted, starting with the National Order of Merit (Ordem Nacional do Mérito), created in 1946. Even so, the governing statutes of the National Order of the Southern Cross have never been reformed, and it thus remains unavailable to Brazilians. Paradoxically, therefore, the Order's Grand Master — the sitting President of the Republic — is never a member of the Order he or she oversees, and the President's connection with the Order is severed once the President leaves office.

The Decree that re-created the Order (Decree 22.165, signed by Vargas on 5 December 1932) does not mention the creation of a new Order, but the reestablishment of the old Order of the Southern Cross, that had been "created upon the advent of the political independence of Brazil". This was done to improve the prestige of the Order by linking it with the past, that is, by associating it with an Order that had been created more than one century earlier.[9]

In 1932, the republican version of the Order had the same five grades as the old imperial version. In 1939, by a statute issued on 17 July of that year, the additional grade of the Grand Collar was created.[10] Until the creation of the Grand Collar, awards of which are restricted to Heads of State, the Grand Cross was the Order's highest rank.

Awards of, and promotions in, the National Order of the Southern Cross are made by decree of the President of the Republic, in his capacity as the Order's Grand Master. The decree of appointment or promotion is, like all presidential decrees, published in the Federal Government's Official Journal, and, as per the Order's regulations, the appointment or promotion is also recorded in a book kept by the Order's secretary.

The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations serves as the Chancellor of the Order, and an officer of the Ministry of Foreign Relations that heads the ceremonial and protocol division serves as the Secretary to the Order. The Order also has a Council, chaired by its Chancellor, that recommends awards and promotions.


Empress Teresa Cristina of Brazil wearing the Sash of a Dame Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Cross, with the badge of the Order suspended from the sash.

Under its current regulations, the Order consists of the Grand Master and six Classes of members:[11]

  • Grand Collar: the recipient wears the adorned "Grand Collar", a chain from which the badge of the order is suspended. The recipient is also allowed to combine the wearing of the Grand Collar with any of the following insignia, or with both: the "Star" of the Order (a plaque modelled after the badge of the Order, to be worn on the left breast); and the Sash of the Order, that is proper to those of Grand Cross rank (a light blue sash, to be worn on the right shoulder). Awards of the Grand Collar are restricted to foreign Heads of State.
  • Grand Cross: the recipient wears the Sash of the Order, and the badge of the Order hangs from the bottom part of that sash (given that the sash is worn on the right shoulder, the badge hangs close to the left leg, by the waist line). The recipient further wears the "star" of the Order, displayed on the left breast.
  • Grand Officer: the recipient wears the badge of the Order around the neck suspended from a blue ribbon necklet, and the star of the order is displayed on the left breast.
  • Commander: the recipient wears the badge of the order around the neck, suspended from a blue ribbon necklet.
  • Officer: the recipient wears the badge of the Order on left breast suspended from a ribbon with a rosette.
  • Knight: the recipient wears the badge of the Order on the left breast suspended from a simple ribbon.
Ribbon bars
Grand Officer
Grand Cross
Grand Collar

Notable recipients


Queen Elizabeth II displays the "Grand Collar" and star of the National Order of the Southern Cross, March 2006

among others


among others


Recipients by class


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  6. Even the short-lived republican Ordem de Colombo (Order of Columbus) that had been established by the Provisional Government of the Republic as a replacement to the Imperial Orders, was abolished when Congress promulgated Brazil's first republican Constitution on 24 February 1891, declaring all Orders abolished and stating that the Republic would maintain no Orders. Only after the 1891 Constitution had ceased to operate due to the 1930 Revolution was a republican honours system created, beginning with the recreation of the Order of the Southern Cross in 1932.
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