Yesterday and Today's Knights: Orders of Romania
by Antti Ruokonen
This excellent work is a labour of love, indeed of passion. In his introduction, the author explains how his fascination with European orders and enjoyment of a systematic approach led him to begin to explore Romanian orders, beginning with a series of journal articles and ending with this book. (Ending, because it's hard to think of what else needs to be said on the subject!)
Visually, it's a delight with large and detailed illustrations that show the beauty of the old Romanian orders. If you are interested in Romanian orders or in the visual aspects of phaleristics, it's worth getting for the pictures alone. However it is not just eye-candy but sound historical research as well that recommends this book as a worthy addition to your shelves.
Forewords by both the current Chancellor of the Romanian Orders and a representative of the Romanian Royal House demonstrate the strong links the author has forged with the authorities, as do the acknowledgements and image credits, showing how Romanian state institutions as well as collectors and fellow enthusiasts have aided this work.
The body of the work begins with an outline of the hierarchy of Romanian Orders, showing the strong linkages between that in operation today and that of the Kingdom of Romania, begun in 1864 with the institution of the Order of the Star of Romania, formalised with the establishment of an independent Kingdom in 1877. Context is provided by a brief history of modern Romania from 1848. This is followed by more detailed biographies of the Kings of Romania, relevant as they took a hands-on approach to rule even during the first half of the twentieth century.
So, on to the Orders themselves, with a brief glossary and notes on current administration. The first Order to be discussed is the Order of Charles I, and the author's systematic approach is established here, and mirrored as each Order in turn is discussed. First the origins of the Order in the Kingdom period are covered along with classes, terms of award, numbers and mention of prominent recipients; and then the actual insignia is described and illustrated - in lush detail! This is followed by notes on the current post-Communist incarnation of the Order. Each Order's section also contains award documents and pictures of the insignia in wear as well as the detailed images of the insignia themselves.The Order of Carol I is a special case, as it has been re-established not as an Order of the Republic but as a house order of the former monarch, Michael I - who, despite the order being reformed in 2005 has only awarded it to himself so far. Those Orders that have been re-established as Orders of the Republic are treated in precisely the same comprehensive manner.
The detailed and systematic coverage of all variations of each Order, put in context, is exemplary. Occasionally, given the Romanian habit of using 'war' ribbons as well as as diffentiating between military badges awarded in peace and and those awarded during war, it's a little unclear just which award should go on which ribbon - and at least one turns up on the ribbon of a different order unremarked - but this is a minor quibble given the scope of the work.
After the survey of Orders past and present is complete, a collection of biographies of recipients is presented along with some photographs of award ceremonies. Although he's been very quiet about it in the text, it's delightful to see the author's own award ceremony when he became a Knight of the Order of Cultural Merit is included. Romania had already recognised his contributions to the study of Romanian Orders before this book was published!
Winding up with an extensive bibliography, this work has everything one could want: detailed information on orders placed in their historical context, fine illustrations and the scholary evidence of sources... perhaps the only regret is that it has been privately published via a printer rather than through one of the 'print on demand' services available.
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Page last updated: 29 September 2014