Order of Saint Louis, Grand Cross
Image courtesy of Alexeinikolayevichromanov at Wikipedia
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The Order was founded by Louis XIV on April 5, 1693. It surpassed the Order of Saint Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in precedence when it was created.
It was conferred upon Catholic Officers of the Royal Army for meritorious and distinguished military service. It was the first order of merit in France which permitted an Officer who was not of noble birth to be named a Knight. Napoleon’s Legion of Honour was inspired by this Order.
It was renamed the “Military Decoration” in 1791 and was preserved for a short time during the Revolution, but was later discontinued on October 15, 1792. It was re-established by Louis XVIII in 1814 and discontinued permanently in 1830. During the July Monarchy members of the Order were permitted to wear their decorations, but only with the Fleur-de-Lys removed from between the arms of the Cross.
There were three grades of the Order of Saint Louis: Knight, Commander, Grand Cross. Under the statutes of the Order there were limits on the number of Commander and Grand Crosses and an unlimited number of Knights.
Estimates place the number of decorations awarded between 1693-1792 between 34000-35000. From 1792-1814 an estimated 2500 decorations were awarded and from 1815-1830 and estimated 20800 were awarded.
The obverse inscription, "LUDOVICUS MAGNUS INSTITUIT 1693" translates to “Louis the Great Instituted this Order in 1693.” This represents the first time that the founder’s name and institution date was inscribed on an Order’s decoration. The motto of the Order, “BELLICAE VIRTUTIS PRAEMIUM” which translates to “The Reward of Warlike Courage,” was inscribed on the reverse medallion.
The Order of Saint Louis is translated from French "Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis".
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: abbreviation of obverse and reverse inscription; size; thickness; suspension; arms with and without ball finials; shape of the medallion (oval or circle); relief of the medallion.
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