Order of Military Merit, Type I, I Class Cross (red distinction, Imperial Crown)
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The Order of Military Merit (Orden del Mérito Militar) was instituted by Queen Isabel II/Isabella II on August 3, 1864. It was established to recognize either Spanish or foreign military personnel in recognition of outstanding and meritorious actions in time of war or peace.
The Order was originally awarded in two categories; White Distinction and Red Distinction. The decorations with White Distinction (white enamels) were awarded for distinguished services in peacetime, while the decorations with Red Distinction (red enamels) were awarded for courage and effective actions in combat.
Originally, there were four grades; IV Class Grand Cross, III Class Breast Star, II Class Breast Star, and I Class Cross. The IV Class Grand Cross was granted to Chiefs, III Class Breast Star was awarded to Generals, while II Class Breast Star and I Class Cross were granted to Officers and enlisted men, respectively. The Silver Cross was added by the First Republic (1873-1874) to reward the troops.
In 1889, the Crosses with Retired Distinction (with enameled stripes on the arms) were added. While the Crosses with Bi-color Distinction were added in 1925, in recognition of merits in time of piece with eminent risk of the life. However, this was suppressed by the Second Republic in 1931.
Throughout its lifespan, the Order's features were modified several times as consequence of the constantly political changes in Spain. The Order was suspended during the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1938), and it was re-instituted by General Franco after the end of the Civil War in 1939.
The Cross features a clasp on the 12 o'clock arm where is graved the date and name of the rewarded event; if the Order was awarded more than once, the clasps were added on the arms of the Cross.
The Order was amended last time by Juan Carlos I in 1995, and new grades and distinctions were created.
The Order is classified into Types based on the last Order's amended. Type I consists of the awards granted between 1864 and 1995, while Type II includes the awards granted after 1995.
In Type I, the first versions of the Order featured the cipher of Isabel II on the reverse medallion; however, after the First Spanish Republic, the Order featured the inscription MM (Mérito Militar/Military Merit). While Carlos VII granted this Order to his own men during the Carlist Wars; these awards featured the cipher of Carlos VII on the reverse of the Cross.
The I Class Cross may also be known as the Grand Cross when it is worn on a sash and awarded alongside the IV Class Breast Star. The attributes of the I Class Cross transfer over when the cross is awarded as the Grand Cross.
There is known a lot of variety in the size, composition, and design attributes of these Order grades. For instance, the possible insignia that may be featured on the Breast Stars include four Fleur de Lys, the coat of arms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Navarre (four alternating lions and castle towers), or no insignia at all. Also the surmounted crown design may be Imperial or Royal crown.
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