Order of Merit, Civil Division, I Class Cross (in copper gilt, 1896-1918)
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The Order of Merit was originally founded as a medal by Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1857, but in 1871, it was made into an Order by Prince Georg Viktor. The Order of Merit was conferred upon citizens of Waldeck who rendered exceptional service to the Princely House and contributed to the welfare of the state.
The Order was established in two classes, I Class and II Class. The II Class Medal was the Medal of Merit that had been established in 1857. The II Class was awarded in this form until 1891 when it was reintroduced in a cross design. Recipients of the medal were able to exchange their decoration for the newly designed cross version.
In 1878, the II Class Cross and Silver Merit Medal were added to the Order. In 1896, the names of the Order’s decorations were changed from “Verdienstorden” (ex: Verdienstorden 1. Klasse) to “Verdienstkreuz” (ex: Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse). At the same time, the IV Class Cross was added to the Order.
In 1899, the Silver Merit Cross and Golden Merit Medal were introduced. The Gold Merit Medal was produced in a similar design to the original 1857 Merit Medal.
In 1912, the Officer’s Cross was established as the Order’s V Class.
As of 1915, swords could be added to all classes to denote military merit. As of 1918, an individual had to have previously received the Iron Cross in order to receive a decoration with swords.
From 1871 until 1896, the I Class Cross was surmounted by a golden oak leaf and from 1896 until 1918, it was surmounted by a golden crown.
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