Order of Military Merit, Grand Cross
Image courtesy of Robert Prummel, Wikipedia
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The Decoration is a five-armed white-enamelled cross of gold on a gold laurel wreath, which is surmounted by a gold crown. The obverse medallion is inscribed L II, surrounded by the words MERITO MILITARE. On the reverse medallion, 1853 records the day of its creation. The ribbon is of red and black in equal stripes.
The Tuscan Order of Military Merit was founded by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, on December 19, 1853. It was awarded to foreigners and Tuscan citizens in recognition of extraordinary military service to the Duchy of Tuscany and its Duke.
The Order was originally established with three classes: I Class Knight, II Class Knight, and III Class Knight. The two first Classes were made of gold, while the third Class was made of silver.
Ferdinand IV, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany, amended the Order Statutes in 1861, expanding the Order to include five grades (Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, and Knight), and creating the Civil Merit division. He amended the Order a second time in 1862, adding the Medal of Merit in Gold, Silver, and Bronze grades. These new grades were reserved for Gentlemen and Officers.
This Order was officially abolished in 1860 when Tuscany was annexed into the Kingdom of Sardinia.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany was the Grand Master of the Order.
Upon the death of the recipient, the decoration was returned to the Secretary of the Order.
The Grand Cross features a gold-coloured surmounting crown, and it was generally restricted to Officers. If the Grand Cross was conferred upon a civilian they were bestowed with hereditary nobility.
The Grand Cross is also known as the Knight I Class.
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