Recipients may include officials of the Royal Household, family members or perhaps British Ambassadors who have helped to organise a State Visit to a particular country.
The Order was founded in April 1896 by Queen Victoria as a way of rewarding personal service to her, on her own initiative rather than by ministerial recommendation.
The Order was, and remains, entirely within the Sovereign's personal gift.
The anniversary of the institution of the Order is the 20th June, the day of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne.
There have never been any limits on the number of appointments made. Today, people receive their award either privately from The Queen or another member of the Royal Family, or during an Investiture.
Often, after a State Visit, the Queen will invest people in the country visited before returning to the United Kingdom.
The Order is also conferred on foreigners, and it is often awarded by the Sovereign during official tours overseas.
The Chapel of the Order is The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, a 'Royal peculiar' which for historic reasons is in the private possession of the Sovereign in his or her right as the Duke of Lancaster.
The number of members in recent years has outgrown the available space in the Savoy Chapel, so the service for those who have received awards is now held in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle every four years.
Many members of the Royal Family who have themselves received the award are present, along with the many recipients, who include servants of The Queen who have served the Monarchy for many years.
The Order's ribbon is blue with red-white-red stripe edging, the only difference being that for foreigners appointed into the society, their ribbon bearing an additional central white stripe. For Knights Grand Cross, the ribbon is 3.25 inches wide; for Dames Grand Cross, 2.25 inches; for Knights and Dames Commander, 1.75 inches; and for all other members, 1.25 inches.
Chapel: The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy
Ranks: Knight/Dame Grand Cross, Knight/Dame Commander, Commander, Lieutenant and Member
Post-nominals: GCVO, KCVO/DCVO, CVO, LVO and MVO