Order of the Legion of Honour, Type III, Miniature Knight
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
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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First Republic, the orders of Saint Michael, of Holy Spirit, and of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem were rescinded.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 the 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 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 the 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 consists of the decoration of Third, Fourth, and Fifth Republics, respectively.
The “La Presidence” model, Type VI, the crosses were surmounted by an eight half arches crown suspension and depicted ball finials. There were two modification; first, medallions may feature either large or small facing-right portrait of Luis Napoleon on the obverse, together with an enameled crossed French flags on the reverse. Second, medallions may feature either large or small either facing-right or left portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte on the obverse, together with an eagle on the reverse.
The grades were known as Grand Cross (or Grand Cordon), Commander, Officer, and Knight.
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