—Business as usual, explains President's office
On December 13, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was awarded the highest national order of Iceland awarded to civilians, the Order of the Falcon’s Grand Cross. The press was not notified at the time, but DV broke the news on December 25.
The President of the Republic awards the medal, according to proposals made by the ministerially appointed Order Committee. Last January, PM Sigmundur Davíð appointed his fellow-member of the Progressive Party, Guðni Ágústsson, as Chair of that committee.
Since the news broke, the President’s office released a statement to explain that Prime Ministers are habitually awarded the medal, although socialists and social-democrats traditionally decline the award. This is, it has also been revealed, often done without ceremony. Geir H. Haarde thus received the Grand Cross in 2006 and Davíð Oddsson in 1991, but Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir declined one during her term in office.
One of the reported benefits of the order is to facilitate planning official gatherings, where people are then seated according to their prestige as signified by each person’s order or lack thereof.
Collectively, the national orders are known as “the order of the falcon”. At the establishment of the Icelandic republic, June 17 1944, the President of Iceland also became “Grand Master of the Order of the Falcon”. The order has five classes: from the lowest, the Knight’s Cross, to the highest, the Chain with the Grand Cross. The highest class is only ever awarded heads of states. Sigmundur Davíð received the highest order available to others: the Grand Cross.
An Icelandic Grand Cross set can be acquired online for US $5,500.