The History of the Order of Saint Queen Tamar


In order to undermine the Russian rearguard during World War I, National Georgian Committee operated in Berlin. It was headed by Prince Giorgi Machabeli and Mikheil Tsereteli, who recruited a Georgian Legion of 1,200 men in 1915 to fight along side Turkish Army in Transcaucasia under the command of General Leo Kereselidze, a notable military and political figure who had already led the Union of Georgian Traditionalists while in exile.

The heroic attitude and willingness to enter in combat of the Georgian troops soon demanded the creation of a military award, which was founded by the Legion itself with the name of the "Insignia of the Saint Queen Tamar". It was awarded to Georgians who had rendered extraordinary service in the cause of Georgian independence. The insignia was bestowed in two classes: civil and military. The emblem was designed by German Lieutenant Horst Schliephack and the ribbon included the national colors at the time: red and black.

This award was made official by the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1918 and recognized as an order of merit. The Order was abolished by the Communists, but its national significance was such that H.R.H. Prince Irakly – at the petition of the Union of Traditionalist Georgians – restored it and proclaimed himself Grand Master, with the consent of his father H.R.H. Giorgi XIII who was Head of the Royal House in 1942.

It was then awarded to Georgians of the Diaspora and some members of the European royalty, among whom stand out the Head of the Imperial House of Russia HIH Grand Duke Wladimiro Kirilovich and the Head of the House of Borbón-Sevilla, Duke Francisco de Borbón y de Borbón, who was already an effective collaborator at the time.

Upon the death of H.R.H. Prince Irakly, his son H.R.H. Giorgi XIII did not want to make any more concessions from this Order for reasons of discretion, and it remained inactive.

Its name refers to Saint Queen Tamar, born in 1160 to King Giorgi III and Princess Burdukhan. Princess Tamar's youth coincided with a rebellion by the nobles, who tried to dethrone her father and crown one of his nephews – son of Davit V – as King. After suppressing the rebels and Constable Juan Orbeli, the King prepared his daughter for the succession, incorporating her into the government and crowning her Co-Regent in 1178.

When Giorgi III died in 1184, she had herself crowned Queen in the Cathedral of Gelati, near Kutaisi. The nobles then tried to delegitimise the succession, calling her a usurper. The forceful reaction by Saint Queen Tamar – whose aunt Queen Rusudani and HH Patriarch Catholicos Miguel IV were not far away – was a determining factor in Queen Tamar's legitimacy not being questioned again. Married to Prince Giorgi Bobolyuski, son of Grand Duke Andrés of Kiev, as a result of pressure by nobles under  the pretext of ensuring an heir to the dynasty, she soon saw that her marriage had been a mistake. Saint Queen Tamar undertook the task of ensuring the throne for herself, and brought loyal nobles to her court, above all a family of Armenian origin, the Zacaria, known in Georgia as the Mkhargrdzeli.

In 1187, the Council of Nobles persuaded Saint Queen Tamar to divorce Prince Giorgi, who was sent into exile. Once divorced, the Queen married Prince Davit Soslan, which caused a rebellion by her first husband, who was allied with the feudal lords of the Muslim borders, but it was soon stifled. H.R.H. Prince Davit Soslan was an effective instrument of the Queen's policies, and an able military leader.

Around 1190, the Queen began to intervene in governments across the borders, and achieved total victory against the armies of the Atabeg of Azerbaijan Abu Bakar at the hands of H.R.H. Prince Davit Soslan. In 1199, the Georgian army of the Mkhargrdzeli brothers subjugated the Armenian Muslims.

Alarmed by these Georgian successes, Suleiman II, Sultan of Rum – in coalition with several vassal Emirs – launched an attack against the Queen's forces, but he was finally defeated by H.R.H. Prince Davit Soslan at the Battle of Basiani in 1204. Prior to this, the Queen had refused the Emirs' demand that she abandon Christianity and accept Islam. In 1206, the Mkhargrdzeli took Kars.

Two years earlier, the Empire of Trebizond had been founded. Saint Queen Tamar would help it with all of the diplomatic means within her reach and with large armed contingents, as she was related to its founders, the Comnenos. By now, the expansion of the Kingdom of Georgia was an irrefutable fact.

It is important to point out that the kingdom of Saint Queen Tamar coincided with a rare cultural flowering which has been called the "Golden Age". Saint Queen Tamar took the grandest title, which is: By the grace of God, King of Kings, Queen of the Queens of the Abhakazians, Armenians, Kakhetians and Kartalians, Autocrat of all of the East and the West, Glory of the World and of the Faith, Champion of the Lord.

As a consequence of all of this, her name is linked to the greatest Georgian poet of all times, Shota Rustaveli (1172-1216), author of the work "The Man in a Panther's Skin" (in Georgian "Vepkhis Tqaosani), the national epic poem of Georgia.

Rustaveli was the Queen's treasurer ("Mechurchletukhutsesi") and painted several frescoes in the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem. It is thought that he painted his self-portrait on one of the pillars of this monastery. Very few facts are known about Rustaveli's life; even the dates of his birth and his death are practically unknown.

The meaning of the surname "Rustaveli" is "owner of Rustavi" or "a man from Rustavi". Rustavi was a city in Meskhetia, in south Georgia. His work "The Man in the Panther's Skin", first published in Tbilisi in 1712, has been translated into many languages. Among the oldest illustrated works produced in Georgia, the manuscripts of "The Man in the Panther's Skin", holds an important place.

Saint Queen Tamar died in 1213 and was succeeded by her son Prince Giorgi, who was scarcely 18 years old when he ascended the throne.

The Orthodox Church canonized Queen Tamar. Her innumerable virtues are famous: humility, meekness, wisdom, religiousness, love of neighbor and beauty. Saint Queen Tamar also took an interest in the life of the Church, calling a Council through which she did away with the disorder caused by dishonorable leaders who had her completely discredited.

Called "the most strong Queen Tamar" by her contemporaries, she created the foundation for the construction of the Georgian national identity which has reached our days unscathed.

Given these historical precedents, recently H.R.H. Davit Bagrationi has resolved to reincorporate her fully into the Equestrian Heritage of the Royal House of Georgia, awarding it a new Constitutional Letter and conceding some appointments.