The Order of the Falcon
The President of Iceland invests Icelandic citizens with the Order of the Falcon twice a year: on 1 January and 17 June. In addition, the President presents the award to a few foreign nationals each year, and others in connection with official visits.
There are currently five grades of the award: The first is the Knight's Cross, which is the most common grade awarded. The second grade is the Commander's Cross; third is the Commander's Cross with Star and fourth the Grand Cross. The highest award is the Chain with the Grand Cross breast star, which is worn only by Heads of State.
Anyone may nominate individuals whom they consider deserving of the Order. Such nominations should be directed to the Falcon Order Council, c/o Office of the President of Iceland, Sóleyjargötu 1, IS-150 Reykjavík. A nomination must include a biographical sketch of the nominee and arguments in support of awarding the Order to the nominee.
A historical sketch
Falconry was for centuries been a royal sport in Europe. Iceland was bathed in a special light as the country where the best available falcons were to be had. A white falcon on a blue field was the country's coat of arms from 1903 until 1919, when the present coat of arms, with the four guardian spirits was adopted. Then in 1920, a decree was issued concerning a special Icelandic royal flag; the falcon was to be depicted on it.
On 3 July 1921, at a time when King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine of Denmark were visiting Iceland, the royal decree founding the Icelandic Order of the Falcon was issued. The King of Iceland was the first Grand Master of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon. The original award was designed by Hans Christian Tegner, a professor at the Copenhagen Academy of Art, in collaboration with the royal secretary Jón Hjaltalín Sveinbjörnsson and Poul Bredo Grandjean, an heraldic expert. Their original designs are in the possession of the office of the President.
The royal decree set out the first rules of the Order of the Falcon, based on an initial draft by the royal secretary, Jón Hjaltalín Sveinbjörnsson, but with a substantial contribution by the prime minister, Jón Magnússon. The rules were based to a large extent on Norwegian and Danish models, though with one significant difference: unlike the Danish Dannebrog, the Icelandic Order of the Falcon could be awarded to women.
On 11 July 1944, a presidential letter was issued at a meeting of the Council of State at Þingvellir. The letter stated that the royal crown should be removed from the Order, that the wording of the motto should be modified, and that the date 17 June was to be substituted for the name of the founding monarch. On the foundation of the Republic on June 17th 1944, the President of Iceland became Grand Master of the Order of the Falcon.