PATRON SAINT AND QUEEN OF PORTUGAL
The order was created by King John VI of Portugal in Rio de Janeiro on February 6, 1818, the date of his acclamation, in recognition for the efficient protection of the Kingdom's Spiritual Sovereign (Portugal is known as the Land of Santa Maria since its foundation). The Blessed Virgin Mother
under the invocation of the Immmaculate Conception
(see image to the right: as venerated in the Ducal Chapel of the Palace of Vila Vizosa) had earlier been acclaimed Queen
of the kingdom by King John IV on March 25, 1646 following a referendum of the Portuguese Empire that lasted 6 years and asked subjects: 1. If they believed the Blessed Virgin Mary to have been conceived without sin, and 2. If they believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the physical reigning Queen of Portugal and not just symbolically the Patroness. The people answered affirmatively and since the Coronation that took place at Vila Vizosa, the Kings of Portugal never again wore a crown. This order distinguished those who proved their loyalty to the Portuguese Royal House in the war against the Bonapartist occupying forces.
Later, in 1818, a royal decree stated that the Order would be given as a military award in four classes of Grand Cross, Commander (Comendador
), Knight, and Servant. Knighthood was given to those who were servants to the king and devoted Catholics to the pope and the Holy Mother.
The Order was originally limited to twelve Grand Crosses, forty Commanders and one hundred Knights, with the provision for the award of supernumerary Grand Crosses. [ Wikipedia