House Order of Saxe-Ernestine, Type II, Civil Division, Silver Merit Cross (1866-1890)
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The Order was jointly founded by Duke Ernst I of Coburg-Gotha, Duke Friedrich of Altenburg, and Duke Bernhard Erich Freund of Saxony-Meiningen.
This Order originally consisted of the grades of Grand Cross with Grand Cross Breast Star, I Class Commander Cross with I Class Commander Breast Star, II Class Commander Cross, Knight Cross, and Silver Merit Cross.
It was awarded to members of the aforementioned families, civil servants, citizens of Coburg-gotha, Altenburg, and Meiningen, and foreign citizens to recognize valuable and loyal services.
To be officially conferred upon a foreigner, the award had to have been supported by at least two Duchies.
The awards conferred upon citizens of the three founding Duchies had an oak wreath surrounding the centre medallion, while the awards conferred upon foreigners did not have an oak wreath surrounding the centre medallion.
Additionally, the Order awards were decorated with a letter on the obverse of the upper cross arm that was associated with the awarding Duchy.
The Order awards from Altenburg had the letter "F" on the obverse.
The Order awards from Saxony-Meiningen had the letter "B" on the obverse.
The Order awards from Coburg-Gotha had the letter "E" on the obverse.
In 1850 the Order was amended to allow crossed swords, through the centre of the cross or on the surmounting ring, to be added to the awards conferred to recognize wartime merits.
They Type II Order awards underwent multiple changes. From 1864 onward, the awards no longer had an obverse letter associated with a Duchy, the awards conferred upon native citizens and foreigners both featured an oak wreath surrounding the centre medallion, and a Gold Medal grade was added to the Order.
The awards conferred for exceptional merit during World War I had years added to the obverse, including "1914", "1914 1915", and "1914 1916".
In 1890 the Knight Class was divided into two separate classes, I Class Knight and II Class Knight. The II Class Knight was abolished later in 1913.
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