Military Order of St. Henry, Type II, Commander Cross
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The Military Order of St. Henry was first instituted by King Augustus II of Poland, Elector of Saxony, on his 40th birthday. The original title of the order was the "Knightly Military Order of St. Henry".
The order was awarded to the crown prince and several generals in recognition of military and wartime merit. This order is the oldest German war medal, and until 1918, was the highest Saxon honour for bravery.
Type I decorations were awarded from 1736 to 1768. According to the statutes of 1736, the order was comprised of six Commanders and 30 Knights. The decoration is slightly larger for the Commander than the Knights, but is of the same design. The obverse arms present the crowned monogram "AR III" for Augustus Rex III. A total of 31 Type I decorations were awarded, including 22 in 1769, four in 1737, three in 1738, and two in 1745.
Type II decorations were introduced when Augustus III died, and the end of the Saxon/Polish Union occurred in 1768. On September 4, 1768 the order was renewed and redesigned by Prince Xavier. The prince expanded the order to include three main grades, Grand Cross with Grand Cross Breast Star, Commander Cross, and Knight Cross, and one small cross for officials of the order. The order continued to be awarded in recognition of military merit.
The Polish eagles were removed and were replaced by green enamelled diamond shaped wreaths between the arms. The medallion was changed from a profile to a standing emperor with the inscription XAVERIUS P P D E AD S INSTIT 1768, translating to "Xavier, Prince of Poland, Duke and Administrator of Saxony has (the order) erected in 1768". Minor changes to the order also occurred in 1806, following the Poznan Peace. The crossed swords on the reverse were replaced with the new royal national coat of arms.
Type III awards were awarded during the period of 1829 to 1918. On December 23, 1829 the order was renewed by King Anton. He changed the order title to "Order to the Military Order of St. Henry" and added the grades of Grand Commander and Grand Commander Breast Star. He also connected the gold and silver military merit medal to the V class.
Over the course of 182 years, this order was awarded a total of 3,843 times. The military medals in gold were awarded 403 times (including 47 copper and gold-plated), as well as 8,995 silver military merit medals, the majority of which were awarded during the First World War.
The original motto of the Order is PIETATE ET BELLICA VIRTUTE, meaning “For Piety and Martial Bravery”, until 1768, when it was altered to VIRTVTI IN BELLO meaning “For Bravery in War”. Makers of this order include Karl Wilhelm Hoeckner, Friedrich Ulbricht, and Rothe.
Prior to 1777, the Commander Cross was worn the same way as the Grand Cross, but without the Breast Star.
Obv: VIRTVTI IN BELLO Rev: XAVERIVS P.P.D.E.AD.S.INSTIT: 1768
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