On August 28, 1924, Edward W. Bok was honored as a Knight of the Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw, the Order of the Netherlands Lion.
Similar to the Presidential Medal of Freedom given in the United States, the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands honors “persons who have rendered society outstanding services of a highly exceptional nature in either the fulfillment of their civic duties or extraordinary ability in sciences and arts.1”
Bok received the Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw by royal decree of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who bestowed this great honor in “recognition of [Bok’s] faithful attachment to the country of [his] birth and of [his] untiring efforts in providing a clearer appreciation of Dutch history, culture, traditions and spirit, whereby [he has] so largely contributed to a more intelligent understanding between two nations.”
The Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood has been kind enough to loan one of the beautiful insignias of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, just like the one Edward Bok received in 1924. You can see the medal and accompanying lapel pin on display in the Visitor Center.
How did Edward Bok earn this honor?
A proud American, Edward Bok was also proud of his Dutch heritage and was strongly shaped by his experience as an immigrant. In 1921, he helped found the Netherland-American Foundation (NAF) to foster the relationship between the two countries, “in every branch of art and industry, and a clearer understanding of their peoples to each other.2” Bok served as president of the NAF (1921-1924, later as honorary president) and he and his family traveled to the Netherlands to help establish the Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Fundatie, the Dutch chapter of the NAF in the Netherlands. The Netherland-American Foundation is still in operation today.
Does this mean that he’s Sir Edward Bok?
Becoming a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion is a great honor; however, unlike a British knighthood, the designation does not confer the title of Sir or Dame, as these titles are not in use in the Netherlands – despite what the above poem says.
Symbology of the Insignia
The Order of the Netherlands Lion was established in 1815 by King William I (1772-1843), the first king of the Netherlands. The colors orange and “Nassau blue” are associated with his ancestry, the House of Orange-Nassau. The center points of the cross form a W, for William. The inscription on the front reads Virtus Nobilitat, which is Latin for “Virtue Ennobles,” meaning that character and being virtuous is what makes you noble, and not your birth or position in society. On the reverse side is an inscription of a lion, a symbol from the Orange-Nassau family crest which has become a national symbol of the Netherlands.
1 Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood, The Hague
2 “Edward Bok in Holland” New York Times, 21 July 1921
Article was written by Jaime Fogel, Library & Archival Collections Manager for Bok Tower Gardens. Learn more about our digital collection https://boktowergardens.org/library-archives-resources/.