Order of the Legion of Honour, Type II, Grand Eagle
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During the First Republic, the orders of Saint Michael, of Holy Spirit, and of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem were rescinded. Since then, France was devoid of any system of awards or honors. On 19 May 1802, the Legion of Honour was established by a vote of the First Council who approved the formation of the Legion, 166 votes against 110. The Legion was the first European Order that was created as an Order of Merit, based on the principle of equality of birth, and which was open to individuals of all ranks and professions; only merit or bravery counted.
The Legion of Honour was proposed by Napoleon Bonaparte to the First Council, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers who had served the Republic, promoted republican principles and French interests. The Legion would ensure political loyalty and unity among the new French Republic.
The first decorations were conferred in the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1804. They were awarded to French military personnel, wounded, and civilians who had served to the Republic cause during the Revolution period (1789-1798). On August 19, 1804 Napoleon awarded the Order by second time to Officers who were in command of the army gathered in Boulogne; around 2000 crosses were awarded that day.
Since its foundation, the reverse inscription has stood "HONNEUR ET PATRIE,” which translates to “Honour and Fatherland.” However the obverse inscription has changed as a reflect of political changes in France throughout its convoluted history.
Nowadays, it is the most prestigious decoration awarded within France.
Following the usual classification, in MB the Legion of Honour is divided into ten Types according to its design changes. Type I includes all the models of the First Empire (1804-1813); Type II includes the decorations of the First Restoration and Hundred Days (1814-1815); Type III includes the Legion during the Second Restoration (1816-1830); Type IV includes the Legion during the July Monarchy (1830-1848); Type V consists of the decoration of the Second Republic (1848-1851); Type VI consists of “La Presidence” model (1851-1852); Type VII consists of the decoration during the Second Empire (1852-1870); Type VIII, IX, and X consist of the decorations of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Republics, respectively.
During the First Restorations, Type II, the crosses were surmounted by a movable crown. The crown has eight half-arches, and a small cross on top, also may be surmounted by fleur-de-lys. Medallions may feature a portrait of Henri IV on the obverse, on the reverse, the crosses have three Fleur-de-Lys surmounted by a royal crown. Some versions depicted ball finials.
While, during the Hundred Days, the crosses depicted a medium facing-right portrait of Napoleon on the obverse, together with a large facing-right eagle figure on the reverse.
On March 1 1808, the "Legionnaire" became to "Knight". The name of the decoration was changed from Grand Eagle to Grand Cross on June 21, 1814. The Grand Cross was called Grand Cordon from July 19, 1814 to March 26, 1814.
Since then, the grades were Grand Cross (or Grand Cordon), Commander, Officer, and Knight.
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