Royal Order of Francis I, Grand Cross (in gold)
Image courtesy of "The Book of Orders of Knighthood and Decorations of Honour of all Nations" by Sir Bernard Burke
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The Order was founded as a civil award by Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies. It was primarily conferred to recognize meritorious civil services within the realms of culture, agriculture, science, commerce, and art. Later, the Order was amended to also reward meritorious service within the military.
It originally consisted of five grades, the Grand Cross with Grand Cross Breast Star, Commander, Knight, Gold Medal, and Silver Medal.
On December 21, 1858, Ferdinand II amended the Order, adding a Breast Star to the Commander grade, and creating the II Class Knight. He also altered the wearing style of the Grand Cross. Prior to 1858, the Grand Cross was worn on a ribbon around the neck, following the amendments of Ferdinand II in 1858 the Grand Cross was worn on a sash.
Following the unification of Italy in 1860, the Order was officially discontinued. Unofficially, the Order was continued by the exiled King Francis II until his successor stopped the conferral of the Order in 1934.
This Order is also known as the Royal Order of Francis I of the Two Sicilies.
The motto and obverse inscription of the Order is “Optime merito de Rege,” which roughly translates to “The King deserves the best.”
There are examples of the Order awards in which the reverse inscription is only composed of the date "1829" (M.DCCC.XXIX).
The Grand Cross was awarded to high ranking individuals who had rendered exemplary services to the Crown.
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