The House Order of The Golden Lion of Nassau was founded by Grand Ducal decree on 31 March 1858 by King-Grand Duke William III. The honour was to be shared between both branches of the House of Nassau, under agreement between William, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Adolphe, Duke of Nassau and future Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The order originally included only one grade, but this was increased to four by William III in 1873: Grand Cross,
Grand Officer, Officer, Knight. The further (lower) rank of Commander was introduced in 1882.
None of the changes made by William III were confirmed by Adolphe, with whom the order was supposed to be shared, and Adolphe refused to award any of the new grades. When William died without a male heir, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg passed to Adolphe, as dictated by the Nassau Family Pact. Two years later, he abolished the grades that William had created unilaterally, and, to this day, the order has maintained just one grade, i.e. that of Knight. In 1905, Adolphe agreed with Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to once again share the order between both ruling branches of the House of Nassau. At the present King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands as well Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg are joint Grand Masters of the Order of the Golden Lion of Nassau. The order is awarded only on rare occasions in the Netherlands or Luxembourg. For example, the former Dutch Foreign Secretaries Max van der Stoel and Pieter Kooijmans have been made a knight of this order by the Queen of the Netherlands.