High Order of the Black Eagle, Small Decoration (in silver gilt)


SKU: 01.PRU.0101.104.01.001

Estimated market value:

$4,250 USD

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Estimated market value:

$4,250 USD


  • Country
  • Composition
    Silver gilt/Enamelled
  • Inscription
    Obv: FR
  • Size


The High Order of the Black Eagle was founded by Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg on the day before his coronation to become King Friedrich I of Prussia. Elector Friedrich III instituted the Order to demonstrate the importance and dignity of Prussia within the European hierarchy.

The order was primarily conferred upon foreign and domestic princes, heads of state, and dignitaries in recognition of extraordinary civil and military merit and achievements. It was also awarded to members of the Prussian military.

The black eagle was chosen to symbolize justice, and to represent the coat of arms of the state. The eagle clutches a laurel wreath in one claw, as the reward of justice, and a lightning bolt, the punishment of justice, in the other claw.

The statutes for the order were largely based on the Danish Order of the Elephant, British Order of the Garter, and Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece. In line with these other European orders, the number of Knights was set at 30, not including the royal princes who were awarded the order at the time of their birth. For non-royal Knights, the minimum age was set at 30. However, the membership limit was not observed between 1713 to 1847, when the 30 member limit only applied to residents.

From 1703 to 1847, the order was only awarded to members of nobility who could trace their lineage through multiple generations.

The order featured only one grade, which included a Collar, Cross, and an associated Breast Star. The reigning king could award the order with or without the collar. The order members had to wear their decorations at all times or risk fines for violating the order’s rules. Knights of foreign states were allowed to wear the cross on a neck ribbon or a ribbon bow on the chest.

The first 19 awards of the order took place on January 17, 1701. The recipients swore by the statutes and received the decoration on the shoulder ribbon at the appointment, and at the investiture would receive the chain from the king. In May 1742, Marie August, widowed Duchess of Württemberg, was the first woman to be awarded the order.

In 1809, King Friedrich Wilhelm III considered expanding the order into four classes, with a decoration with a wreath for sub-officials, etc. However, this plan was transferred to the Red Eagle Order in January 1810.

On February 20, 1847, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV amended the order to include individuals who were not of noble lineage. These recipients, in turn, would receive hereditary nobility.

The order decorations could be conferred with diamonds to members of royal families and other high-ranking recipients for exceptional merit. In 1743, Elisabeth Petronova, Empress of Russia was awarded the order with diamonds, with a value of 40,000 thalers. In 1762, Catherine II, Empress of Russia received the order with pearls, with a value of 30,000 thalers.

The order's motto was "Suum Cuique", which translates to “To each according to their merits”.

The order was discontinued in 1918.

The Small Decoration (Kleindekoration) was added as an order grade in 1914. This decoration features a smaller version of the order cross on a triangular ribbon, and the ribbon is decorated with a miniature version of the order breast star.

The Small Decoration was worn as a less formal version of the order grades.


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