You could say that the Order of the Falcon is to Iceland what the Purple Heart is to The United States. Well you could say that—kind of—in the sense that the President of Iceland doles out Order of the Falcon awards and other things, while the President of The United States doles out Purple Hearts and other things.
Only Falcon awards aren’t granted to wounded soldiers; Iceland has never had an army for that matter, unless you count the lone solider Herdís Sigurgrímsdóttir who was sent to Iraq (and subsequently profiled on The Daily Show). No, they are really nothing like Purple Hearts. They are really more like Presidential Medals of Freedom—but who’s heard of those?
Falcon awards are granted to Icelanders and citizens of other countries for the excellent work they do in the interest of the nation. The Order of the Falcon consists of five ranks, beginning with the least prestigious and most commonly awarded:
1.Knight’s Cross (“Riddarakrossinn”)
2.Grand Knight’s Cross (“Stórriddarakross”)
3.Grand Knight’s Cross with a Star (“Stórriddarakross með stjörnu”)
4.Grand Cross (“Stórkross”)
5.Collar with Grand Cross Breast Star (“Keðja ásamt stórkrossstjörnu”) – Reserved for Heads of State
MEET ICELAND’S PRESTIGIOUS KNIGHTED CLASS
While the wounded vet carries their Purple Heart with them so to speak, there are actually loads—too many to list—of knights in the Order of the Falcon running around in disguise of ordinarily talented Icelanders.
Though the awards can be worn according to rank and file, their owners probably have them stowed away somewhere secure for the physical award itself is incredibly divine. Selling the insignia is illegal—that ‘Grand Knight’s Cross’ on sale for $16.50 on eBay is most likely a fake—and when a recipient dies, it must be returned to the State.
SOME FAMOUS KNIGHTS
Ólafur Eggertsson, a farmer, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2009 for his innovation in farming. After Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, photos of his farm featured prominently in the international media.
Ólafur Elíasson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2008 for his work as an artist. He has since then designed the façade of Harpa, Iceland’s new concert hall and conference centre.
Iceland’s national handball team received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2008 for winning silver medals at the Olympics. Icelanders take their handball very seriously.
Baltasar Kormákur Baltasarsson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2007 for his contribution to theatre and film. He has directed films like ‘101 Reykjavík’ and ‘Jar City’.
Arnaldur Indriðason received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2004 for his work as an author. He is a best-selling crime fiction novelist (who incidentally authored the book that ‘Jar City’ is based on, ‘Mýrin’).
Ómar Ragnarsson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 1998 for his TV programmes on Iceland’s nature.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir received the ‘Collar with Grand Cross Breast Star’ in 1980 for being President of Iceland. She also received the ‘Grand Cross’ in 1996 for her work on behalf of the Icelandic nation.
Sigrún Hjálmtýsdóttir (Diddú) received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 1995 for her skills as an opera singer.
Friðrik Ólafsson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 1972 for being a chess master.
SOME LESS FAMOUS KNIGHTS
Dóra Guðbjört Jónsdóttir, a goldsmith, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2011 for her contribution to the gold and silversmith industry.
Hildur Sæmundsóttir, a midwife, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2009 for her contribution to health care and preventative measures.
Áslaug Sigríður Alfreðsdóttir, a hotel manager, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2007 for her work in the travel industry in the countryside.
Sigurður Sigurðarson, a vet, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2006 for his work in veterinary studies and disease prevention.
Finnbogi Eyjólfsson, an employee at Hekla, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2004 for his “innovative work in Iceland’s automobile industry.” He passed away last year at the age of 84.
Kaj Elkrog, Director of Customs in Denmark, received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2003.
SOME INFAMOUS KNIGHTS
Sigurður Einarsson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2007 for his “leadership in the outvasion of Iceland’s financial system.” As former president of Kaupþing when the bank crashed, Sigurður is now known as one of Iceland’s ‘banksters’.*
Björgólfur Guðmundsson received the ‘Knight’s Cross’ in 2005 for his work as a businessman. As the former president of Landsbankinn when the bank crashed, Björgólfur is also known as one of Iceland’s ‘banksters’.*
Geir H. Haarde received the ‘Grand Cross’ in 2006 when he was Prime Minister and the ‘Grand Knight’s Cross with a star’ in 2005 when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is now on trial for negligence for his role as Prime Minister when Iceland’s banks crashed.
Davíð Oddsson received the ‘Grand Cross’ in 1991 when he was Prime Minister. After the economic collapse, he became head of the Central Bank, and then went on to become editor of the newspaper Morgunblaðið. He must be a man of many talents.
Carl XVI Gustav received the ‘Collar with Grand Cross breast star’ in 1975 as King of Sweden. A book called, ‘Carl XVI Gustaf – Den motvillige monarken’, published last year, reveals his less than glamorous life as “a philanderer who attended wild sex parties abroad and in underworld Stockholm clubs while the secret police kept guard,” according the ‘The Independent’.
*Last year there was some discussion about confiscating Björgólfur and Sigurður’s awards, but nothing came of it. Sigurður told tabloid Séð og Heyrt that he would not be turning in his award voluntarily in any case.
How To Be Conferred To The Order Of The Falcon
•You must be an Icelander or a citizen of another country—anybody—who has done something great in the interest of Iceland.
•You must be nominated—anybody’s mother can do this by sending mail to: Falcon Order Council, c/o Office of the President of Iceland, Sóleyjargata 1, 150 Reykjavík, ICELAND, or email email@example.com.
•The Order of the Falcon Committee must select you from a batch of 80 to 100 other nominations received yearly.
•The President of Iceland approves the Committee’s selection and hands out your award on either January 1 or June 17.