The Queen’s Service Order (QSO) was instituted by Royal Warrant dated 13 March 1975 and in an amending Royal Warrant dated 15 October 1981, as a single fourth-level Order sub-divided into two divisions: “For Community Service” and “For Public Services”. Instituted under the same Royal Warrant was an associated Medal of the Order, designated The Queen’s Service Medal (QSM), which ranks as a sixth level honour and, like the Order, had the same two sub-divisions.
The title of the Order recognises the fact that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the first “Queen of New Zealand”.
The Order and Medal arose out of the 1974 – 75 review of the honours system at a time when only traditional British honours were available. It met the need for an honour to recognise voluntary service to the community and service through elected and appointed office. A conscious decision was also made that both the Order and Medal would be for civilians only and military service would not be eligible.
In 1995 the honours system was reviewed by the Prime Minister’s Honours Advisory Committee. In its report, the Committee recommended that the Order and associated Medal be retained, but reconstituted without the sub-divisions should a new New Zealand Order of Merit be instituted. The New Zealand Order of Merit was subsequently instituted in 1996 and after 10 years of operation side by side, it was decided that the time had come to disestablish the two sub-divisions.
On April 2007, Queen Elizabeth II signed a new Royal Warrant cancelling the 1975 and 1981 Warrants and instituting the Order and its associated Medal without sub-divisions. The opportunity was also taken to clarify the status of the Governor-General as both Principal Companion of the Order and as an “Additional Companion” in his or her own right.
On 29 May 2023, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Queen’s Service Order and Queen’s Service Medal will be renamed in honour of King Charles III.
A change of name to the King’s Service Order and King’s Service Medal will acknowledge the new monarch.
Transitional matters currently being worked through include updating the Royal Warrant governing the Order, and the insignia of the Order.
The first honours using the new titles are likely to be announced as part of the King’s Birthday Honours List 2024.
For current Companions of the Queen’s Service Order, who use the post-nominals QSO, there will be no change to the title of their honour, the insignia they received at their investiture, or their postnominals. The same applies to those awarded the Queen’s Service Medal, who use the post-nominals QSM.
The Order consists of The King as “Sovereign of the Order” and those persons appointed to its membership, who are styled “Companions”. Companions may use the letters “QSO” after their name.
Ordinary membership is limited to 50 appointments per annum; however, this number does not normally exceed 30 appointments.
Princes and Princesses of the Blood Royal and members of the Royal Family may be appointed “Extra Companions”.
Persons who are not New Zealand citizens or citizens of Commonwealth nations of which The King is head of state, may be appointed “Honorary Companions”.
“Additional Companions” of the Order may be appointed in commemoration of any important Royal, State or national occasion. The Governor-General, former Governors-General or their spouses, if not already a “Companion”, may be appointed an “Additional Companion” at any time.
The Governor-General is “Principal Companion” of the Order.
The Clerk of the Executive Council, or such other person who may be appointed by the Sovereign, is the “Secretary and Registrar” of the Order.
Associated with the Order, but not part of it, is a Medal designated “The Queen’s Service Medal”. Recipients of the Medal may use the letters “QSM” after their name.
There is no limit on the number of Medals that can be awarded in a year.
Persons who are not New Zealand citizens or citizens of Commonwealth nations of which The King is head of state, may be awarded an “Honorary” Medal.
Click here to see the Royal Warrant of the Queen's Service Order.
1975 – 2007
Badge of the Order
The Badge of the Order is based on a stylised representation of a manuka flower. It consists of five large and small stylised petals in frosted Sterling silver, 49mm in diameter, superimposed in the centre of which is a silver-gilt medallion bearing the crowned effigy of Queen Elizabeth II (after Cecil Thomas, OBE, FRBS) within a circle of red enamel surmounted by a Royal crown (St Edward’s Crown) also in silver-gilt. The full name of the appointee is engraved on the reverse of the badge.
The Medal is of Sterling silver, 36mm in diameter. The obverse bears the same effigy of The Queen as the Badge of the Order surrounded by the Royal styles and titles “ ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F.D.”. The New Zealand Coat of Arms surrounded by the inscription “THE QUEEN’S SERVICE MEDAL” and the name of the sub-division appears on the reverse. The initials and name of the recipient is engraved on the rim of the Medal.
The Badge and Medal were made by the Royal Mint, United Kingdom.
From 2007. With the disestablishment of the sub-divisions in April 2007, new insignia were introduced with effect The Queen’s Birthday Honours that year.
Badge of the Order
The new Badge is identical in design to the earlier type except that the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II is the profile designed by Ian Rank-Broadley (as used on the New Zealand Gallantry and Bravery Medals and New Zealand General Service Medal 2002). The circle of red enamel now bears the inscriptions “ FOR SERVICE” and “ MO NGA MAHI NUI”.
The new Medal is of Sterling silver, 36mm in diameter. The effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse is the profile designed by Ian Rank-Broadley surrounded by the Royal styles and titles “ ELIZABETH II QUEEN OF NEW ZEALAND”. The New Zealand Coat of Arms surrounded by the inscription “ THE QUEEN’S SERVICE MEDAL” and “for service – MO NGA MAHI NUI” appears on the reverse.
The current insignia of the Queen's Service Order and associated Queen's Service Medal is supplied by Thomas Fattorini Ltd., of the United Kingdom, and Eng Leong Medallic Industries Pte Ltd., of Singapore.
The ribbon of both the QSO and QSM is identical. It has central alternating stripes of red ochre (kōkōwai), white and black in a descending step pattern from left to right with narrow red ochre edges. The design is based on the Māori Poutama (stepped) pattern used in Tukutuku wall panels. It is usually interpreted as the “stairway to heaven”, but in this case alludes to “steps of service”.
Both the QSO and QSM are worn on the left lapel of the coat or from the ribbon tied in a bow and worn on the left shoulder.
Lapel badges, for everyday wear, for Companions of the QSO and holders of the QSM were introduced in 1999.
See also the Design of the New Zealand Orders Insignia - the Māori Dimension and the Designer.