Statutes of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Order’s first statutes, imposed by Amadeus VI, were lost, but the statutes amended by Amadeus VIII in 1429 have been preserved. In these statutes it was decreed that the Knights of the Collar must “maintain, abide by, and procure the good of their master, the happiness of him and the gain of the state; they must help, serve, abet and advise him, anent any person, whoever it be.” The acolytes are called fellows and brothers, and on their behalf the count declares himself beholden to give advice, protection and favors, and the knights are held to act reciprocally. Amadeus also ordained that the Savoy rings on the collar be set, alternating, between the word fert and fifteen roses, in memory of the Golden Rose sent by Pope Urban V to Count Amadeus VI in 1364, when he received his crusader emblem. In 1518 Charles III of Savoy, known as Charles the Good, updated the ceremonial rules to resemble those of the Order of the Golden Fleece, instituted in 1430 by Philippe III of Burgundy. The name changed from the Order of the Collar to the Supreme Order of the 'Santissima Annunziata'. Thus was a medallion portraying the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary inserted into the empty space between the three love knots. In homage to the five holy wounds of Jesus Christ, he also decreed that the number of knights be raised to twenty. Duke Emanuel Philibert specified that to be admitted, a knight had to prove that his nobility went back at least five generations. In 1869 King Victor Emanuel decided that the Order could also accept people who were not noble by birth, but worthy of highest merit and service to the Crown or to Italy. In 1924 King Victor Emanuel III decreed that princes from the House of Savoy with paternal lineage up to the fourth degree, and also clergymen and foreigners, should not be counted towards the limit of twenty knights.
Amedeo VI of Savoy
The Statutes of the Order of the Annunziata Amended by Amadeus VIII in 1429 Preserved on Parchment
Amedeo VI Ruler of Savoy Institutes the Order of the Collar Known as the Annunziata (Giclee Print by Lodovico Pogliagh)
Amedeo VIII of Savoy
The Elevation of Amedeo VIII to the First Duke of Savoy by Emperor Sigismund
Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy (1666 - 1732) in the Robes of the Annunziata
Statutes of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation of the Royal House of Savoy
Vittorio Emanuele, By the Grace of God and the Will of the Nation King of Italy, Sovereign Head of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Supreme Order of the Collar of Savoy, founded by our glorious and victorious Predecessor Amedeo VI in 1362, was given in 1409, by Amedeo VIII, its first known statutes, which were subsequently amended and reformed by Carlo III in 1518, by Emanuele Filiberto in 1570, and thereafter by succeeding Sovereigns.
In the reforms of 1518, Carlo III added to the original number of fifteen knights and companions another five and decreed that within the triangular space formed between the three love knots [resembling Stafford knots] pendant from the Collar over the gorget was to be placed a representation of the Most Holy Annunciation, for which the Order is named.
This supreme recognition of distinguished services, which constituted a kind of religious and military fraternity between the Sovereign Head [i.e. "Sovereign and Head"] of the Order and his companions, was reserved exclusively to distinguished men-at-arms who, apart from exemplary service, had to be of illustrious birth. With the passing of time, it was deemed appropriate to recognise also those who had rendered distinguished service to the country in the exercise of high civil offices, not requiring, when a such achievements could be demonstrated, nobility of birth as well.
Likewise, the special political and economic privileges then associated with the rank of Knight of the Annunciation should be viewed in light of the the contemporary advancement of social institutions, and therefore associated less with those hereditary privileges which over the course of time have been abolished either by practice or by law.
Today, with the transformation of the Savoy monarchy into a constitutional kingdom of Italy we cannot but rejoice that the traditions of this most noble Order already conform to the present liberal institutions, it being incumbent upon us only to modify certain exceptional rules and to alter certain dispositions relative to the prerogatives and duties of the knights. This we declare by our motu proprio as Head and Sovereign of the Order, having heard the advice of Our Cousins, the knights of the said Order, and have and do by these presents order that:
The number of knights of the Supreme Order of the most Holy Annunciation shall be, as in the past, twenty. In keeping with the traditional Statutes, the Sovereign Head, the Hereditary Prince, his kinsmen to the fourth grade of consanguinity inclusive as well as ecclesiastics and foreigners are not included in this number.
The knights shall be chosen from distinguished individuals in recognition of their eminent services in high military positions, as well as from those who have distinguished themselves in senior positions in the civil service, and from those who,as private citizens have brought distinction upon Italy as exemplary benefactors of the Nation or of Mankind, or have rendered particularly noteworthy services to Our House.
The Grand Chancellor of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus shall continue to exercise the office of Secretary of the Order of the Annunciation, accepting and following our commands pertaining to the same.
The knights of the Supreme Order may wear either of two Collars: one large, the other small.
The large collar is worn on the first day of the year, on the feast of the Most Holy Annunciation, and on all of the principal national holidays and at important royal functions.
The small collar is worn on every other occasion which necessitates the display of order insignia. Knights also wear, on the left breast, a star badge bearing the image of Holy Mary of the Annunciation, in conformity with the specifications prescribed by the Royal Lady Maria Giovanna Battista, Duchess Regent of Savoy, at the chapter general of the Order convened 24 March 1680.
Upon a knights death, his heirs shall return the Great Collar to the Sovereign Head of the Order.
The knights of the Order of the Annunciation shall enjoy all of the prerogatives, distinctions and precedence set forth by articles 1 through 6 of our decree of 19 April 1868, and the military honours established by the Disciplinary Regulations.
In keeping with their quality of Our Cousins, the knights of the Order, like every other great officer of the state, shall be called upon to be present at events commemorating the births, marriages and deaths of the Princes of Our House. They are likewise called upon to take part in all the other ceremonies, at which their precedence shall immediately follow that of the Royal Princes.
The right to appoint knights and officers of the Order appertains exclusively to the Sovereign Head. Nevertheless, when there are vacancies, the Sovereign Head meets with the the Chapter of knights to hear their advice on the proposal of candidates whom he alone may select. The Sovereign Head may delegate the Hereditary Prince, or another Royal Prince, or the dean of the knights to preside over the Chapter.
Present at a Chapter must be, in addition to the Sovereign Head or his representative, a quorum of at least six knights. Whoever presides shall announce the names of the candidates, any of whom may be proposed, and following deliberation a vote shall be taken by secret ballot by means of paper ballots, on each of which shall be written the name of the candidate accompanied by a si or a no.
The presiding knight opens each ballot and reads the votes and then announces the result. Above all else, the Chapters balloting is intended to be plainly consultative and secret.
On the day designated by the Sovereign Head, the postulant to be invested shall be presented to him, accompanied by two or more knights, in the presence of the Secretary of the Order. He shall kneel before the Sovereign Head, and with a hand on the Holy Gospel swear an oath according to constitutional form.
The oath shall be sworn by the postulant and and by the other knights present, following which the postulant shall bow to the Sovereign Head, who decorates him with the Collar and then embraces him.
On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Annunciation the knights assemble formally to attend the Divine Office and pray for the Heavenly Blessing of the Sovereign Head, the Royal House of Savoy and Italy.
On this occasion one of our chaplains shall serve as master of ceremonies.
On the occasion of feasts, balls and formal dinners the knights of the Annunciation are introduced into Our Cabinet, and given a place in our cortege along with those entitled to the privilege of a formal announced entrance.
In compliance with the terms of the Statutes observed until now in this Supreme Order, the notice of the death of a knight shall be communicated to each of the other knights, brothers and companions, inviting them to pray for his soul in accordance with ancient tradition and with the specifications of the Statutes, when this is in keeping with the religious faith of the deceased.
In the event that, God forbid, a knight should be found guilty, either by a [criminal] sentence or by the judgement of competent [civil] authorities, of having gravely failed in his duty or his honour toward the Nation or to the Sovereign Head, the Chapter of the Order, having the legal written proof of the offense and having heard, and deliberated, the merits of the accuseds own defence, and sitting in a quorum of ten knights, may by a vote of two-thirds recommend that the Sovereign Head consider the removal of the accused knights name from the Roll.
The decision resulting from this deliberation shall be announced as early as possible to the accused by the Secretary of the Order. The accused is thereby deprived of the right to wear the decorations of the Order.
The present Royal Document shall be entered into the Register of Statutes and communicated to each of the knights of the Order.
Given at Florence this 3rd day of June 1869
[signed] VITTORIO EMANUELE
Countersigned L.F. Menabrea, Knight and Secretary of the Supreme Order.
Approved at Geneva under date of 11 June 1985 [signed] VITTORIO EMANUELE, Grand Master