Since 1946, the Head of the Royal House of Savoy has continued to bestow four Orders of Chivalry that are dynastic and hereditary—that is, the Head of the House of Savoy serves as the Orders' titular Grand Master. The following is a brief description of the four Orders:
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy instituted this Order in 1362. The Annunziata was the highest Order bestowed by the House of Savoy and was reserved for notable men-at-arms, particularly of Catholic and noble birth. Today, the Order is limited to twenty. By tradition, Knights are Catholic. On rare occasions, a non-Catholic, such as a foreign sovereign, may be made an honorary member of the Order. The Head of the House of Savoy serves as the Order's hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master.
The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
This Order is the combination of two ancient Orders. Amadeus VIII, the first Duke of Savoy, founded the Order of St. Maurice in 1434 when he retired to the Castle of Ripaille on the south shore of Lake Geneva. The Order consisted of a few knights he carefully selected to advise him on such affairs of state as he continued to control. The Order of St. Lazarus was founded as a hospitaller order during the Crusades. Its primary object was assisting lepers, many of whom were among its members. In 1572, the Orders of St. Lazarus and St. Maurice were incorporated by Pope Gregory XIII into one community under the perpetual Grandmastership of the heads of the House of Savoy. After the unification of Italy in 1861 and the proclamation of the Italian Kingdom under the Savoy dynasty, the knighthood of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus became a state dignity conferred by the King. Today the Order is conferred by its 17th Grand Master, H.R.H. Prince Victor Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, to recognize those who support philanthropic causes and have contributed to the benefit of mankind through good works, the arts and letters, sciences and humanitarian disciplines. The Holy See recognizes it as a Dynastic Order. Although recipients need not be Roman Catholics, they must be Christians.
The Civil Order of Savoy
The Civil Order of Savoy was founded by King Charles Albert of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1831. The Civil Order is a rare award bestowed only on Italians who, having devoted themselves to professions no less useful than those of the Army, have become, through deep and long studies the ornament of the State or who have through their toils been of use "to the public well being.¨ Among distinguished recipients will be found the names of Cavour, Verdi and Marconi.
The Order of Merit of Savoy
The Order of Merit of Savoy stems from the Civil Order of Savoy. In 1988, HRH Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoy created the Order of Merit of Savoy. It is a dynastic order of the Royal House of Savoy bestowed by the Prince, as Grand Master, upon individuals whose special and particular achievements in various fields of endeavor have made them worthy of recognition or who have worked to benefit the House of Savoy and its institutions.