Grand Cross (Civil Division, 1832-1951)
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The Order of Leopold was established on July 11, 1832, after a month of contentious debates in Belgian Parliament. It was named to honour King Leopold I, and it has remained the highest-ranking decoration in Belgium since its creation. It is conferred upon Belgian citizens and foreigners in recognition of brave military service and other meritorious services rendered to the state. The King is Grand Master.
The Order is awarded in three divisions. The Military Division is conferred upon military personnel and features decorations with crossed swords above the crown and cross. The Maritime Division is conferred upon civilians and features decorations with crossed anchors above the crown and cross. The Civil Division does not have any additional attributes. With the exception of the Military Division, recipients are required to be at least 40 years old.
There are a number of different clasps that have been awarded with the Order: a palm branch with the cypher of Albert I was awarded to military personnel for war merit in the First World War, a black enamelled bar clasp was worn on decorations awarded to mothers of the fallen in the First World War, a palm branch with the cypher of Leopold III was awarded to military personnel for war merit in the Second World War or the Korean War, and a palm branch (without any royal monogram) was awarded to military personnel for war merit in the Second World War or the Korean War. At present, a crossed swords clasp is awarded to military personnel for war merit, as well as to war veterans, and a gold star is awarded to civilians for mention in official dispatches. A ribbon with gold edges, or a gold centre stripe, is awarded to civilians for war merit.
There are two models of the Grand Cross which differ in the obverse inscription. The inscription of both models translates to “Strength in Unity,” but it appears on the first model in French, and on the second model in French and Dutch. The reverse inscription, “LR,” stands for “Leopoldus Rex” (King Leopold).
There are many variations present in this Order, due primarily to its age and the number of manufacturers. The following variables may be encountered: size; composition; manufacturer; “I” or “II” in the reverse medallion inscription; inscription punctuation; surmounting crown; and ribbon colour.
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