Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III, Grand Cross
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The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III (Real y Muy Distinguida Orden de Carlos III) was established by King Carlos III/Charles III of Spain on September 19, 1771, to mark the occasion of the birth of his grandson Carlos V/Charles V, future heir of the Spanish thrown. It was dedicated to Immaculate Conception, and was confirmed by Pope Clement XIV on February 21, 1772.
Originally, it was awarded to individuals who had displayed actions that enhanced the prestige and goals of the Spanish crown. The Order had two original grades, i.e. the Grand Cross, and Knight. The Commander by Number was added in 1783 while the Knight of the Collar was added in 1878. The Dame’s Bow was incorporated in 1983.
During the reign of Joseph Bonaparte (1808-1815) the Order was abolished, but after the restoration of King Fernando VII/Ferdinand VII, the Order was restored. During the First (1874-1875) and Second Spanish Republics (1931-1938), the Order was abolished again each time. However, with the consecutively Restoration of the Bourbon's House, the Order was finally restored.
Since its founding, it has been considered the most prestigious civil order within Spain.
Currently, the Order is conferred upon Spanish and foreign citizens for extremely meritorious domestic and foreign service to Spain. There are five grades; Collar, Grand Cross, Commander by number, Commander, and Knight.
The badge has to be returned to the Order once the recipient passed away.
The Order is conferrable upon women with the suffix Dame instead of Knight.
The Order depicts an inscription that stands to “Virtuti et Mérito” (Virtue and Merit,) which is located on the reverse of the crosses, alongside the cipher of Carlos III.
The earlier versions of the Grand Cross have an enameled suspension ring featuring the colors of the Order (Blue-White-Blue). The later versions of the Grand Cross have the suspension ring composed of gold or gilt, without any enamel.
There are rare examples of the Grand Cross with reversed enamel colors on the central medallion, with a blue background and a white border.
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