House Order of the Golden Lion, Type I, Breast Star (embroidered)
Image courtesy of Flederratze, Wikipedia
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An eight-sided star, constructed of silver thread embroidery with polished metal rays made of silver. The star’s rays are made of silver sequin and bordered by purl wire. The medallion is made of carmine silk with the circular inscription ‘VIRTUTE ET FIDELITATE’ (‘for virtue and loyalty’) in silver thread with a decorative ribbon or star at the bottom. The centre is made of blue wool, featuring a left-facing Hessian lion in silver thread and red wool, with a gold crown. The inscription ring is bordered by golden purl wire on the inside, and golden purl wire and golden sequin on the outside. The reverse is reinforced with cardboard and often features a maker mark.
Stars with a right-facing lion are shabraque (saddle cloth) stars.
The House Order of the Golden Lion was instituted by Landgraf Friedrich II of Hesse-Kassel and was dedicated to Saint Elisabeth of Hungary, an ancestor of the founder. The order was conferred upon individuals who demonstrated exceptional civil or military merit.
In 1818, Prince-Elector Wilhelm I added three additional grades to the order, and from this point onward, the awards of the order featured his name or initials on the reverse. The classes now were: Grand Cross, I Class Commander, II Class Commander, and Knight Cross. Although the Grand Cross is documented, there is very limited information on it.
On August 20, 1851, the order was again reduced to one class, and the three lower classes were assimilated into the newly established Wilhelm Order.
The House Order of the Golden Lion and the Wilhelm Order feature a very similar obverse and reverse design. The main difference between them is that the lion featured on the obverse of the House Order of the Golden Lion has the back paw held higher than the front paw, while the lion featured on the obverse of the Wilhelm Order has both paws held at the same height.
Following the death of the last prince-elector of Hesse-Kassel, the order was taken over by Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse-Darmstadt. On June 6, 1876, the order was given new statutes and was introduced as a Grand Ducal Order.
The Grand Cross of the order was equal to the Grand Cross of the Ludwig Order.
The order became obsolete in 1918, following the abdication of the last Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.
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