Institution of Military Merit, Breast Star (embroidered)
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This Order was founded by King Louis XV on March 10, 1759. It was created as a Military Order that rewarded the exceptional services rendered by Protestant Officers in the French Army; mainly foreigners Officers originated from Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.
After 1814 it was awarded to all non-Catholic Officers, French or foreign, in the French Army. It represents the first instance of a royal award whose recipients were not required to observe the religion of the state.
The Order did not have a Grand Master, and was therefore not technically an Order; it was known as Institution of Military Merit.
During the Revolution, the Institution was merged with the Order of Saint Louis under the name “Military Decoration.” It was suppressed on October 15, 1792 and was re-established by Louis XVIII on November 28, 1814. It was permanently discontinued in 1830. During the July Monarchy members of the Institution were permitted to wear their decorations, but only with the Fleur-de-Lys removed from between the arms of the Cross.
The motto of the Institution, “PRO VIRTUTE BELLICA,” which translates to “For War Merit,” is inscribed on the obverse medallion. The reverse medallion is inscribed with “LUDOVICUS XV INSTITUT 1759” which translates to “Louis XV Instituted this Order in 1759.”
The Order of Military Merit is translated from the French "Institution du Mérite militaire"; the Order is also known as Institution of Military Merit.
The only official characteristic was that the Grand Cross and Commander had to be larger than the Knight. Coupled with its long history and the fact that many manufacturers were used, there is no definite dating scheme for these crosses.
The following variables may be encountered on the Grand Cross: the obverse and reverse inscriptions may be abbreviated in a number of different ways; the size; the thickness; the suspension; arms with and without ball finials; the shape of the medallions (oval or circle); the relief of the medallions.
The Breast Star was worn by a Grand Cross. The first Breast Stars were embroidered with gold paillettes, gold wire, and silk thread. Later, during the Restoration, versions were entirely metallic and made of silver gilt.
The Breast Star was worn by a Grand Cross. During the Restoration the Breast Star was entirely metallic and made of silver gilt. There may be a great deal of variation in the Breast Star, including one version with a red enamelled medallion, although it is uncertain whether this version was merely a fantasy model.
The Institution of Military Merit is listed in the Ancien Regime, the First Restoration, the and Second Restoration.
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