Order of the Union, Type IV, Collar
Image courtesy of Alphonse Pierre Giraud, Wikipedia
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The Order of the Union was established by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, King of Holland, in 1806. It underwent a number of name and design changes in its short 5-year lifespan. For the sake of clarity and continuity, all variants are treated here as types within a single order.
The first Order (Type I), the Grand Order of the Union, was founded on December 12, 1806, along with a sister order, the Order of Merit (Type II). The Grand Order of the Union was supposed to be composed of 30 Grand Crosses, while the Order of Merit was supposed to be composed of 50 Commanders and 300 Knights. These Orders were reunited as the Royal Order of Holland (Type III) only a short time later on February 13, 1807.
The Royal Order of Holland was composed of 30 Grand Crosses, 50 Commanders, and 450 Knights. The King’s brother, Emperor Napoleon I of France, did not approve of the Order, and it was altered again in February 1808. The new order was called the Order of the Union (Type IV). It was composed of 30 Grand Crosses, 50 Commanders, and 450 Knights (expanded to 500 Knights later in the same year). This Order introduced Collars and Breast Stars, but it was also short-lived. It was finally superseded by Napoleon’s Order of the Reunion in 1811.
The Collar is composed of 23 links. There are 11 links that depict the arms of the departments of the Kingdom of Holland and 12 links of bundled arrows. The badge appendant hangs from a crown link that features the motto of the Order. The badge appendant has an obverse inscription that translates to "Do what you ought, and come what will," and a reverse inscription that translates to "Strength in Unity."
A total of 30 Collars were produced, but only one remains in a private collection. There is a Collar in the collection of the museum at Fontainebleau, but it is made of gilded silver and is a later copy.
See also the Order of the Reunion in the Orders of the First Empire (1800-1813) in France.
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