Order of Leopold, Grand Officer Breast Star (Civil Division, 1832-1951)
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
Estimated market value:
(Dutch: Leopoldsorde, French: Ordre de Léopold). Instituted in 1851. Insignia in Gold with red and black enamels, centrepiece ring inscribed ""L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE"" (Unity is Strength), mounted to a silver cross base, the arms scaled and housing ball finials at the points, five emanating rays between each arm, vertical pinback flanked by dual stays, hallmarked with a swan (French import mark) on the pin and owl as well as swan on the catch, hand inscribed ""BELGIQUE"" on the reverse cartouche, measuring 83 mm (w) x 81.5 mm (h), intact enamels, very light contact, near extremely fine.
Footnote: The Order of Leopold is one of the three current Belgian national honourary orders of knighthood. It is the highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civilian division. The maritime division is only awarded to personnel of the merchant navy, and the military division to military personnel. The decoration was established on July 11, 1832 and is awarded for extreme bravery in combat or for meritorious service of immense benefit to the Belgian nation. The Order of Leopold is awarded by Royal order and is issued in five classes: Grand Cordon, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Knight.
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 Officer Breast Star 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.
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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