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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 10:45 GMT
What are Prince Charles's medals for?
The Magazine answers...

Prince Charles
1: Order of Merit, civil version
2: GCB
3: Queen's Service Order (New Zealand)
4: Queen's Coronation medal
5: Queen's Silver Jubilee medal
6: Queen's Golden Jubilee medal
7: Canadian forces decoration
8: NZ commemorative medal
9: Knight of Most Noble Order of the Garter
Prince Charles has risen to four star rank in the armed services this week, but what are all his medals for?

The Prince of Wales has just turned 58, an occasion marked by rising to four-star rank in each of the armed services - a general in the Army, admiral in the Navy and air chief marshall in the RAF, further adding to the breast-full of medals he wears with his military uniforms.

But Prince Charles last saw active service - rather than his honorary or ceremonial roles - 30 years ago. After training in the early 1970s, he served in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, culminating in 1976 as captain of coastal minesweeper HMS Bronington.

So what are his collection of 31 decorations for?

Unlike his brother Andrew, awarded the Falkland Islands medal, Prince Charles has not been decorated for active service in a war. Instead his honours are made up of awards for serving in a particular time or place, being a member of a high-ranking order or medals from other countries.

Starting with the bar of medals pinned to his breast, he has the Queen's Service Order (New Zealand), awarded in 1983; the Queen's Coronation medal, awarded in 1953 when he was four-years-old; the Queen's Silver Jubilee medal, awarded in 1977; the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal, awarded in 2002; the Canadian forces decoration, awarded in 2002; and the New Zealand commemorative medal, awarded in 1990.

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Some, like the coronation and jubilee awards, mark the fact that he was present for these events and ceremonies. The golden jubilee medal was awarded to all serving personnel of five years standing.

Below those, the large silver star with the cross of St George in the centre shows he is a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. This was awarded in 1958 when he was nominated as the Prince of Wales.

The white enamelled Maltese Cross at his neck is the GCB, worn as Grand Master and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, a military version of the honour awarded in 1974.

And on the right is the red enamelled Order of Merit, civil version, awarded in 2002.

What to wear

These show that Charles is a member of high-ranking military orders, and those headed by his mother show that he is next in line for the throne.

The Knights of the Garter, for example, include the sovereign, the successor and up to 25 other "companions" - former prime ministers and other figures with a solid record of service to the country.

But don't expect to see the future king wearing all of his military bling at once - he picks and chooses from his collection to suit the occasion.

Fortunate, as he would be hard-pressed to fit all on at once. In addition to his domestic honours he has neck orders, breast stars, medals, decorations and awards from another 18 other countries, many given to mark his birthdays.

Send us a comment on this story, using the form below.

I met Prince Charles in 2004 during the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. I was part of a parade when he was opening a garden of remembrance. At this time I didn't have any medals and when he spoke to me he asked me why, I told him I hadn't been in the army that long and asked jokingly if I could have one of his. He was wearing a blue suit, not military, and he had lots of medals on it. He roared with laughter and said I could have one of his "chocolate" ones. He was really down to earth and it seemed he understood that his medals weren't of any real value. I'll be getting my Iraq medal when I return to UK in Jan 2007.
Tosh, Baghdad

I was in number 1 uniform at a ceremonial event recently (not Remembrance Day) and asked a colleague what the 4th medal on his chest was. I was extremely amused (and how I kept a straight face, I don't know) to learn it was his Securicor service medal. Delivering cash to ATMs under fire?
David, Kent, UK

Like many Scots I served in the jungles and swamps of Malaya in the late 50s yet the British Civil Service say that the Queen has refused me the right to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia - an honourable medal awarded by the Supreme Head of the Federation of Malaysia. Yet the same Queen has given Australia and New Zealand veterans the right to wear it. What a funny old royal family we have in Britain.
Andy Nicoll, Annan, Scotland

The presence of the Canadian Decoration always amuses me - it is Canada's military Long Service award, given in HRH's case for long service as an honorary Colonel-in-Chief of some Canadian regiments. Those interested in such matters may wish to browse my medals of the world site.
Megan, Cheshire UK

It would be nice to have something to show for my eight years served in the RAF during the 60s. Or don't people think the Cold War was for real. Getting a Vulcan ready to fly at 3.00am in the middle of winter because of some Soviet bombers encroachment wasn't a lot of fun.
Alison, Sydney, Australia

Whilst I have no problem with Prince Charles wearing his honorary medals, I do wish the government were as keen to award the servicemen who have actually served in the forces with the medals that they are owed. Veterans of the Suez had to fight tooth and nail to get recognition for their service. Many men and women who were fortunate to serve at a time of relative peace have no visible recognition of their service to Queen and country. Time for the Government to redress that omission.
Mick, Marlborough

My father and little brother did tours of Northern Ireland and were given one simple general service medal, whilst a mate who served in the Falklands war was also given just the basic campaign medal. Recently, there has been an increase in made up, internet-available medals that are now being seen on unworthy chests during Remembrance Day events and I regard the wearers with utter contempt.
Stewart, Dundee

When Prince Harry passed out from Sandhurst he and William were wearing a medal each - what were those for?
Don, Bristol

I wish I had a breast-full of medals. I have been to most of the past and present areas of conflict in the 90s like Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and also to Iraq on numerous occasions in the past couple of years, but only for short periods at a time. The rules state that you should be in a theatre of operations for at least a month without leaving to qualify for a medal. If you are there for 29 days and then leave, you are entitled to nothing. Fair or not?
Simon, Carterton

"He has neck orders, breast stars, medals, decorations and awards from another 18 other countries, many given to mark his birthdays." So they are just a posh version of those 'I am 5 years old' badges you get on children's birthday cards then?
Liz, London

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