Order of Virtuti Militari, Type II, Grand Cross (1792-1795)
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The Order of Virtuti Militari was established by King Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1792. It was abolished following the Third Partitioning of Poland in 1795 and was not awarded again until 1807 when it was revived by the Duchy of Warsaw. It was awarded from 1815-1831 by Tsar Alexander I ruling as King of Poland, but after Poland had been fully incorporated into the Russian Empire, the Tsar did not continue to confer the Order. Instead, a badge was created in its likeness for Russian military personnel in an effort to humiliate the defeated Polish forces. The Order was not awarded again until the restoration of Polish independence in 1921. It has since been awarded by the Polish People’s Republic from 1944-1989, by the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile from 1939-1989, and by the Republic of Poland since 1992.
The Order is currently conferred upon Polish military personnel in recognition of bravery and gallantry in combat. It may also be awarded posthumously.
The Order is classified into two types based on changes in form. Type I decorations are medals and Type II decorations are crosses.
There are four different models of the Type II cross. The first model, awarded from 1792-1795, features a crowned eagle and the arms of Lithuania on the obverse and initials that stand for “Stanislaus Augustus Rex Poloniae” (Stanisław August, King of Poland) on the reverse. The second model, awarded from 1807-1831, resembles the first model except that the arms of Lithuania have been replaced by an inscription that translates to “King and the Fatherland.” The third model was introduced in 1921 and features a crowned eagle on the obverse and the Order's motto, “Honour and Fatherland,” on the reverse. The fourth model was awarded during the Polish People’s Republic and features an uncrowned eagle in the obverse medallion.
The Grand Cross is conferred upon the Supreme Commander of the Polish Army for war victories or upon high-ranking Commanders for meritorious command in war operations.
See also the Order of Virtuti Militari in the Orders of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) and Government of the Republic of Poland in exile (1939-1989), the Polish People's Republic (1944-1989), and the Third Polish Republic (1989-).
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