The Portuguese honorific orders have their earliest origins in the Middle Ages, in the Christian monastic-military orders, which were extra-territorial militias headed by a master; they gradually lost autonomy and independence to the crowns, as it happened in Portugal. Likewise, the orders of knighthood, which helped to consolidate alliances in Europe, and the later orders of merit, are at the origin of contemporary honorific orders. The oldest orders gradually lost their initial mission and acquired an honorific character from the end of the Ancien Regime onwards, eventually becoming merely orders of merit. Since then, they have all gained prominence with the development of international diplomatic relations and have been consolidated as an indispensable tool for recognising merit and services of national and foreign citizens.
Grand Cross insignias: badge hanging from sash and star France, Paris, c. 1880 Kretly Gold, silver, gilded silver, enamel, silk
This order was awarded in 1881, when Kalākaua, the King of Hawaii, went on a grand tour of European capitals, including Lisbon, and was then himself honoured with the Grand Cross of the Order of Our Lady of the Conception of Vila Viçosa by the King of Portugal.