National Order of Merit, Grand Officer Breast Star (1963-1980)
Image courtesy of Andreas Thies
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The National Order of Merit was established on December 3, 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. It was created as an effort to streamline the growing number of orders in France, as well as to re-establish the pre-eminence of the Legion of Honour.
With its creation, the following ministerial orders were permanently discontinued: Order of Social Merit, Order of Public Health, Order of Commercial and Industrial Merit, Order of Artisanal Merit, Order of Touristic Merit, Order of Combatant Merit, Order of Postal Merit, Order of the National Economy, Order of Sport Merit, Order of Labour Merit, Order of Military Merit, Order of Civil Merit. The last colonial Orders, the Order of the Star of Anjouan, the Order of Nichan El-Anouar, the Order of the Black Star, and the Order of Saharan Merit, were also permanently discontinued. The only four Orders that were preserved were the Order of Arts and Letters, Order of Academic Palms, Order of Agricultural Merit, and the Order of Maritime Merit. These were preserved due to their prestige, their age, and the status of their members.
The Order has five grades and is based on the Legion of Honour. The Knight is awarded for 15 years of distinguished service. Knights may be promoted to Officer after 7 years, Officers may be promoted to Commander after 5 years, Commanders made be elevated to the dignitary position of Grand Officer after 5 years, and Grand Officers may be elevated to the position of Grand Cross after 5 years. All promotions must be accompanied by new meritorious service.
Approximately 70% of members are decorated for civilian merit, and 30% for military merit.
The obverse inscription translates to "French Republic," and the reverse inscription translates to "National Order of Merit, December 3 1963."
Prior to 1980, the Breast Star did not have enamel, and as a result there are multiple versions. The award is manufactured by the Monnaie de Paris and the Arthus Bertrand firm.
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