The RRC was founded on 23 April 1883 by Queen Victoria and was originally awarded in one class only. The Second Class was introduced in November 1915 and the bar for a second award of the First Class was instituted in December 1917. Those awarded the First Class are designated "Members" and those awarded the Second Class are designated "Associates" with post nominal letters RRC and ARRC respectively. The award is only conferred on the Nursing Services. The Statutes of the Order provide for promotion from the Second to the First Class.
It is awarded to fully trained Nurses of the official Nursing Services who have shown exceptional devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties, over a continuous and long period, or performed an exceptional act of bravery and devotion to her post of duty.
The badge of either class is worn suspended from a bow on the left shoulder. It has been said that the suggestion for the founding of this decoration was made to Queen Victoria by Miss Florence Nightingale.
The RRC cross is 1.375 inches wide, enamelled red, and edged with gold, with a circular medallion at its centre. The obverse of the RRC that was awarded during the Boer War shows a veiled head of Victoria in the centre, with the words Faith (top), Hope (left), Charity (right), and 1883 (bottom) in gold on the arms of the cross. The reverse has the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch in the centre, surmounted by a crown. The light blue ribbon is one inch wide, with red edge stripes (0.25" wide). A rosette is worn on the ribbon in undress to denote a bar to the RRC.
The errata ‘SA Honours and Awards’ page 127 state that Supts Misses M Thomas, S E Webb, S E Oram, Nursing sister Miss L W Tulloh were appointed to the RRC on 27 Sep 01 but that a notice appeared in the Gzette on 26 Jun 02 cancelling that and stating that they had been enrolled in Honorary Associates of the Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
One RRC was issued to a Canadian nurse, three were awarded to Australians; one each to New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian Nurses and one to a New Zealand Nurse.