Austrian Orders, Decorations and Medals of the Napoleonic Period

by Stephen Herold


Most of the orders of Austria, and of other states as well, were in three classes, usually grand cross, commander and knight. The grand cross and commander insignia were usually worn around the neck on the ribbon of the order, and the knights wore theirs on the left breast hanging from the ribbon of the order. Later, grand cross insignia were worn hanging from a ribbon of the order worn diagonally across the chest. Starting around this time, and becoming general practice by 1848 or so, was the folding of the knights' ribbon into a triangular or "dreiecks" shape. It was peculiarly Austrian but also copied by many other countries who were Austria's neighbors or under her cultural or military influence. Knights grand cross, and often commanders as well, wore a breast star of the order on both ordinary and formal occasions -- with the sash for formal events and alone on the jacket or unform otherwise. On special occassions the Knights Grand Cross wore the collar of the order, and for ceremonies of the Order robes, hats and other special items as well. In later times miniatures were worn in everyday use, hanging not from a ribbon of the order but from a chain that was a minature collar of the order. In addition to being worn as a full size "bijou" and miniature, the Order of the Golden Fleece was worn in German lands as a "knopfloch" buttonhole insignia of the Fleece only with a red ribbon, sometimes full size and sometimes around half size

Although the awarding of orders of knighthood in Europe was traditionally only to members of the nobility, the growth of modern states with larger armies and bureaucracies was requiring a relaxation of the ancient restrictions. Elsewhere, as in Britain, the awarding of the order could elevate one to the nobility as a part of the reward. Similarly, further merit could be rewarded by the granting of a higher grade of the order. In ultra conservative Austria such liberties were seldom seen. Not only did a recipient have to already be a noble to receive an order, but the grade of the order one received was based on the rank of their nobility. This reinforced the ancient elitist structure of the Austrian Empire but completely failed to provide adequate rewards for the mass of he Empire's subjects. Even in such small things we can see the seeds of the collapse of of the Austrian polyglot medieval monarchy in the face of modern realities.

The Order of the Golden Fleece

Ancient and inherited from the dukes of Burgundy who founded it on 10 January 1429. Awarded only to the Imperial family and the highest of the nobility in Austria and abroad. One had to be Catholic and of good character to receive it. Except for Imperial archdukes and foreign nobility it was usually only given late in life as a reward for a lifetime of service to the Imperial family.

Ribbon: Red.
Grades: One only, as in all ancient orders of knighthood.

Also see The Society of the Golden Fleece.

The Military Order of Maria Theresa

Founded by the Empress Maria Theresa on 22 June 1757 as a reward for merit for senior military officers. The order was to be granted as a reward for acts of military valor and to perpetuate the memory of the brave officers receiving it. An officer had to command in a battle or a unit in a winning action to be eligible for the higher grades, and even Oberlieutenants had to perform prodigious feats of duty and valor to receive the knight's cross. Not often awarded in the Austrian army. As with many high orders the decoration was to be returned to the Chancellery of the Order on the death of the holder. This is one reason for its great rarity, especially of older issues. Almost all known copies in commerce are 20th century, most from the First World War or insignia made for holders of the Order after the end of the war.

Ribbon: Equal stripes of red, white and red.
Grades: Three: Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Knights

See also the Medal of Honor for the battle of Villiers-en-Couche in1794 listed below.

The Royal Hungarian Order of St. Stephen

Established by the Empress Maria Theresa on 5 May 1764 to reward her noble Hungarian subjects for civil merit. To receive it one had to have at least four quarterings of arms showing as many generations of noble status. It helped promote her position as Queen of Hungary and reinforced the quasi independent position of Hungary in the Empire. The original statutes allow for only 20 Grand Crosses, 30 Commanders and 50 Knights who are to be "distinguished for virtue and merit and noble birth". Grand Cross Knights were considered so important that the Emperor was to address them as "Cousin". These insignia were to be returned to the Chancellery of the Order on the death of the holder. There was no military application of this order. It is rare, and even modern awards of St. Stephen are seldom seen. Perhaps more than any other Austrian order, this one approached the ideal character as put forth in its statutes and regulations.

Ribbon: Violet with two smaller dark green side stripes.
Grades: Three: Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander and Knight.

The Austrian Imperial Leopold Order

Established by Emperor Francis I on 8 January 1808 in honor of his father, and to provide the Empire with an order that could be used to reward noble subjects for service to the Emperor and the State. The existing senior orders before 1808 were too limited in their scope to permit rewarding sufficient subjects for their duty. The choice of Leopold for this order's name is not too strange, since he was Francis' father, but he is also the most shadowy of the modern emperors with his brief two year reign. The Knights Grand Cross were also addressed by the Emperor (as Grand Master of the Order) as "Cousin" as with Grand Cross members of the St. Stephen Order. Collars and insignia were returnable upon death of the member, the collar to the Grand Master and the insignia to the Registar.

Ribbon: Red with two thin white edge stripes.
Grades: Three: Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander and Knight Ordinary.

The Austrian Order of the Iron Crown

When Austria resumed control of Northern Italy in 1815 she continued the Coronne de Fer as an Austrian order. The Austrian order was founded by decree of 1 January 1816. All existing noble members were eligible, but non-nobile members had to accept the Military Service Medal "Pro Virtute Militari" (listed below).

In the first issue it was given in gold to ex-dignitaries and ex-grand dignitaries and silver to knights, as in Napoleon's Coronne de Fer. Soon thereafter given in gold only (later silver gilt and finally bronze gilt). The early pieces had as much variation and irregularity as the French issue, but the order soon settled on the pattern of a slender eagle with both legs clearly showing above the Iron Crown. After 1860 the eagle's legs are smaller and the tail is placed mostly within the Iron Crown. On 12 January, 1860 the use of War Decorations ("Kriegs Decoration" or KD) was authorized for awards made during wartime. Originally there were to be only 100 members: 20 First Class, 30 Second and 50 Third (with "Princes of Our Imperial House not included in this number"), but the number was later greatly increased. The Knight's decorations of the Order were returnable upon death up to July 18, 1884, after which date they could be retained, but the higher classes of the Order were always to be returned.

Until the end of the Empire this was the most commonly awarded Austrian order. During the later part of the First World War it even turned into an officer's bravery medal that could be awarded more than once. With the loss of her Italian territories in the wars of 1859-70 Austria had little need for the Iron Crown as an Italian symbol and it became an "all purpose" order. In design, many find the order one of the most attactive of all the orders of Europe. Interestingly, the crown shown on the Coronne de Fer, Austrian Order of the Iron Crown and the Royal Italian Order of the Crown is the crown of Queen Theodolinda, not the Iron Crown of Lombardy as intended.

Ribbon: Golden yellow with two thinner blue stripes at the edges.
Grades: First,second and third classe knights (following Napoleon's three grades of Grand Dignitary, Dignitary and Knight). The insignia of the three grades were in descending size matching the grade of the member.


All of the medals issued during this period -- 1792-1815 -- were during the reign of Emperor Francis I (II). Just as Napoleon was the leader of France throughout, so Francis was the guiding spirit of Austrian policy and architect of her ultimate patient victory. It is also under Francis that there was a sudden increase in the number of medals awarded to his subjects. The prolonged importance of the wars and alliances was mirrored in the medals issued for duty and merit. Many are for the daring experiment of citizen militias, an experience so tainted by association with the citizen armies of the French revolution that it was quickly suppressed and not soon repeated.

Reward Medal of 1792 for Services to the Austrian Army in Belgium

Founded by Emperor Francis II to reward Dutch citizens who joined or rendered good service to the Austrian army fighting the French Republic. Issued in silver and gold as an eight sided medal with ball and ring suspension.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 33 mm
Obverse: head of the Emperor facing right with a circumference inscription: "FRANCOIS II. IMP DES ROM ROI DE HONG ET DE BOH" .
Reverse:Inside a laurel wreath, tied at the stem, are six lines of type: "POVR / SERVICES / RENDVES / AUX / ARMEES / MDCCXCII".

Belgium Reward Medal Reissue for 1793-94

The medal was reissued in 1793 in gold, and 1794 in gold and silver. They only differ from the item above in the changed date. In 1793 four gold medals were awarded, and in 1794 six gold and 20 silver.

Honor Medal "LEGE ET FIDE" of 1792

Founded by the Emperor on the occasion of his coronation as German Emperor at Frankfort am den Main. Issued as large, medium and small gold and large and small silver medals. However, none of the small silver medals has ever been found. (The official Austrain statutes frequently mention medal size distinctions that were never issued.) It was given to members of the Emperor's suite according to their rank. The large gold medal could be awarded with a linked mail chain of gold of the weight of the medal as an extra honor. Many Austrian medals could be so awarded with an extra gold chain suspension. Normally suspended from a soldered ring.

A variation with the Bohemian lion on the reverse may have been issued for the Bohemian coronation of Francis (v. Heyden 1058-9).

Ribbon: Red.
Size: Large, 49 mm; medium 43 mm; small 36 mm.
Obverse: Head of Francis II facing right with a laurel wreath in his hair. Circumference inscription: "IMP. CAES. FRANCICVS. II P. FG. AUG.". Signed by the designer at the base "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: An Imperial Crown above crossed scepter, sword and orb. At the top: "LEGE ET FIDE".

Honor Medal for Bravery 1792-1805

Like the bravery medal of Joseph II of 1789-92, but bearing the head of Francis II, and awarded in gold and silver.

Ribbon: White side stripes (5 mm), rose stripes (5 mm) separated by a central white and rose ladder stripe pattern (1 mm stripes) -- that came to be known as the "bravery ribbon". The rose color later became red.
Size: 40 mm
Obverse: Head of Francis II, crowned with laurel, facing right. Above "FRANZ II" and underneath the designers name "I.N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: A tied laurel wreath with flags showing Austrian arms, within the wreath is the inscription "DER / TAPFERKEIT".

Medal for the Battle of Neerwinden, 1793

Issued in silver by the Prince Friederich Josaias of Saxe-Coberg, the Imperial fieldmarshall in Belgium. The medal was granted by Francis II after the defeat of the French under General Dumouriez on 18 March 1793. Suspension was by a soldered ring.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 47mm
Obverse: Bust of Prince friederich facing right with a circumference inscription: "FRIDERIC. JOSIAS. PINC. SAXO. COB. S. R. J. SUPR. BELLI. DUX." . At the bottom is "Baldenbach", the die cutter's name.
Reverse: Roman soldiers in a ritual scene with the circumferance inscription: "RESTUTITORI. BELGII. AUSPICE. AUGUSTO." above, and below on three lines and smaller: "GALLIS MENSE. MARTIO / MDCCXCIII. UTROQUE / BELGIO EXATIS." .

Medal of Honor for the battle of Villiers-en-Couche, 1794

Issued in gold by Francis II to eight English officers of the Fifteenth Light Dragoons who personally attended and protected him during the battle of Villiers-en-Couche on 24 April 1794. The medals, although not officially established by written proclamation, were given with a letter of praise on 1 May 1798. All of the medals were also given with a golden chain of equal weight (280 grams). By some accounts the dragoons saved Francis from capture by the French. The Emperor wished to give them the Military Order of Maria Theresa, but the regulations of the order made that impossible. Later the regulations of the Order were changed and the MMTO was awarded to several Russians. The British government made repeated requests to obtain the MMTO for the dragoon officers, and it was finally granted on 7 November 1800. The medal was no longer to be worn once the MMTO was awarded, but could be kept.

Only one genuine pair of awards is known, which was in the collection of Mr. E. Hyde Greg of London as early as 1897. The pair was sold by Spink & Son in 1966 when it was purchased by Dr. Fattovich of Venice, Italy. The medal is unnamed as issued. (This interesting information is from von Falkenstien.)
Size: 60 mm
Obverse: Head of Francis with a laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "IMP. CAES. FRANCISCUS. II. P. F. AUG." . Signed by die cutter below and very small: "I. N. WIRT. F." .
Reverse: Above small crossed laurels on four lines: "FORTI. BRITANNO. / IN. EXERCITV. FOED. / AD CAMERACVM. / XXIV. APR. MDCCXCIV." .

Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1796

Issued by Emperor Francis to all Tyrolians who took up arms in the mobilization call of 12 August 1796. Given in large silver to officers and small silver to non-commissioned officers and soldiers. The ribbon is hung through a flat ring eye.

Ribbon: Multicolored green, white, black and red.
Size: Large, 40 mm; small 35 mm.
Obverse: Porfile head of Emperor Francis with a laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS. II. D. G. R. IMP. S. A. H. B. R. COMES. TYROLIS." with the smaller designers name below: "I. N. WIRT. F." .
Reverse: Circular laurel wreath, tied at the bottom. Inside the inscription: "PRO. FIDE. / PRINCIPE. / ET. / FORTITER. / PUGNANTI." (To the heroic fighter for faith, prince and country). Around the circumference: "TIROLIS. AB. HOSTE. GALLO. VNDIQUE. PETITA." on the top, and below: "MDCCXCIV.".

Medal for the Volunteers of Olmutz, 1796

Given by the civil board of the town of Olmutz to those who volunteered in the mobilization call of 12 August 1796 and formed a fully armed volunteer corps for service with the Emperor. Issued in gold plated silver, hung through a circular ring soldered on at right angles to the medal.

Ribbon: Yellow with black edges.
Size: 45 mm
Obverse: The laurel crowned head of the Emperor facing right. Beneath the bust is: "F II / R. I. S. A." (Franciscus II Rex Imperator Semper Augustus), and around the circumference inside a pearled border: "Milito Electo Caesarem et Patriam Defendenti".
Reverse: The checkered eagle of the town arms, and on its breast shield "FMT". Around the circumference: "SENATUS POPULUSQUE OLOMUCENSIS Ao: 1796" within a pearled edge.

Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1797

Founded by Emperor Francis in 1797 for those members of the Tyrolian volunteer contingent who served in the keeping the Tyrol free from the French army. Given in large gold, for highest officers, gold for officers and silver for soldiers. The large gold are very rare and the gold ones rare. Suspended from a ribbon through a circular eye. The silver medal is much commoner than that of 1796 so many more Tyrolians must have responded to the mobilization call.

Ribbon: Three black and two gold equal stripes with thin gold edging.
Size: Large gold and silver, 39 mm; small gold 35mm.
Obverse: Profile bust of Francis wearing a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANZ II R. K. ERZH. ZU OEST. GEG. GRAF VON TYROL", and below and smaller the designers name "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Within a laurel wreath tied at the bottom, on six lines: "DEN / TAPFERN VERTHEIDIGERN / DES / VATERLANDS / MDCCXCVII".

Lower Austrian Mobilization Medal of 1797

Given to those able bodied men who answered the national emergency mobilization call of Count Saurau in Lower Austria. These troops were formed into free corps called Landesstande. The medal was, on paper, awarded in five types: gold for highest officers, largest silver for officers, large silver for underofficers, silver for soldiers and black cast iron for non-combattants. The iron medal has never been seen and the soldier's silver medal is also unknown and probably not issued. The gold medal, given to Count Saurau, the Duke of Wurttemburg (as commander of the troops) and high district and government officials is very rare. Almost all medals known are the largest and the large silver. Suspended by a ribbon from a circular eye.

Ribbon: Half dark rose half white.
Size: Gold and silver 37 mm, largest silver 41 mm, Large silver and black iron 39mm.
Obverse: Bust of Francis wearing a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANZ II. ROM. KAI. ERZHERZOG ZU OESTERREICH" and smaller on the bottom edge: "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Within an oak wreath tied at the bottom, on eight lines: "DEN / BIEDEREN / SOEHNEN / OESTERREICHS / DES / LANESVATERS / DANK / MDCCXCVII".

The Ecclesiastical Cross of Merit "Pius Meritus"

Austrian military chaplains were active during campaigns and frequently awarded the Honor Medals for bravery. At the suggestion of the Apostolic Field Vicar Count Hohenwerth, and supported by a report of Archduke Charles, the ecclesiastical cross of merit was established in 1801 by Emperor Francis. Initially given in two grades -- gold and silver -- with a third added in 1860. It was to be given for outstanding performance of duty in administering to the spiritual requirements of the troops during war when under fire or in a battle area.

More like an order than a medal, the crosses had cloverleaf ends on the arms and the bottom arm was longer. The arms had a deep cut border and a flat suspension eye soldered onto the top. The central medallion in blue enamel had the words "PIIS / MERITIS" on two lines.

Ribbon: Four white and three red stripes.
Size: 53 mm high, 44 mm wide, 20 mm center medallion.

Dalmatian Service Medal of 1801

Founded by Francis in 1801 for administrative and civil merit in the Kingdom of Dalmatia which had been awarded Austria by the Peace of Campo Formio. Issued in silver and suspended from a ribbon through a soldered eye.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 43 mm.
Obverse: Laurel crowned bust of Francis facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS. II. ROM. IMP. DALMATIE. REX.". Below, in smaller letters: "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse" In two lines: "DALAMTIAE / BENEMERENTI", and smaller at the bottom "MDCCCI".

Civil Medal of Honor "JUSTITIA . . ." 1804-35

Founded on 11 August 1804 along with the next item (Honor Medal "Honori") following the change in Francis' title from German Emperor to Austrian Emperor. This medal was for persons without special rank (i.e. lower ranking non-nobles) and was largely given for service at the court. Suspended by a ribbon from a coined, vertically holed and tailed eye with a large circular ribbon ring. Issued in large gold, gold, large silver and silver.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: Large 43 mm, small 36 mm.
Obverse: Bust of Francis in profile, crowned with a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS AVST. IMP. HVN. BOH. GAL. LOD. REX. A. A.", but on the small medals FRANCISCVS is shortened to "FRANC.". On the bottom and smaller is "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Under an Imperial Crown a crossed sceptre and staff of Mercury with the scales of justice below. All connected by a flowing ribbon in a bow. Around the upper circumference: "IVSTITIA REGNORVM FVNDAMENTORVM" (Justice is the foundation of the Empire).

Civil Medal of Honor "HONORI" 1804-13

Founded by Emperor francis soon after he became Emperor of Austria so that non-nobles who could not receive the Imperial orders could be rewarded for their service. Issued in gold and silver and the gold medal could be awarded with a gold chain of the weight of the medal. One of the best known recipients of this medal, in gold with the chain, was Andreas Hofer who led the Tyrol revolt of 1809 against the French and Bavarians. Whereas the Honor Medal "JUSTITIA" was primarily awarded to members of the Emperor's entourage, this medal was for more general presentation.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 50 mm.
Obverse: Profile bust of the Emperor with laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS AVSTRIAE IMPERATOR", and smaller at the bottom "I. N. Wirt. F.".
Reverse: A classic temple with six columns, with an enthroned Austrian coat of arms in the middle. On a rectangular box on the temple plinth is found "HONORI". Around the top is the circumference inscription: "AVSTRIA AD IMPERII DIGNITATUM EVECTA", and across the bottom is the date. Von Falkenstein states that the date is "1813", but since the medal was given from 1804 that seems very unlikely. Just how often the date was changed is unknown.

Medal for the Country's Defenders of 1808

This is a medal with many questions still unanswered, including why it was given. One theory is that it was for the 10th anniversary of Francis' Hungarian coronation on 6 June 1808. Given in silver and often with no suspension, as if a display medal not intended for wearing.
Ribbon: Unknown, if any.
Size: 50 mm.
Obverse: Head in profile of Francis and Empress M. Louise Beatrix (daughter of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Duke of Modena-Breisgau, and third wife of Francis). The Emperor's head is in front and largely covering that of his wife. Beneath their busts are small laurel branches and the initials "ST" of Stuckhart, the die cutter, working in Prague in 1796 and Vienna 1801-1816.
Reverse: Two wreaths of oak leaves tied at the base. Around the top is the cirumference inscription: "SEINEM VERTHEIDIGER DAS DANKBAR VATERLAND" (To its defenders -- The thankful country) and below the wreath, on two lines "6 JUNE / 1808". At the very bottom and quite small is the engraver's name "A GUILLEMARD F.".

Medal for the Tyrol and Voralburg Defenders of 1809

Issued for service in the Tyrol by volunteer citizens in 1809. Issued in bronze.

Ribbon: Half green and half white.
Size: 49 mm.
Obverse" Within a laurel wreath on seven lines: "ZUM / ANDENKEN / DER TYROL UND / VORALBERGER / LAND- / VERTHEIDIGER / 1809" (In memory the Tyrol and Voralberg land defenders 1809).
Reverse: On the left, Andreas Hofer, his left hand on the Austrian flag and his right hand raised as in oath taking. Opposite him a Tyrolian and Voralberger in local costume with their right hands raised . At the bottom the small inscription "O. STEINBOCK INV. ET F.".

Bravery Medal of Francis I of 1809

With the change in 1805 of the Emperor's title from Francis II of Germany to Francis I of Austria new medals were required. Seemingly only issued for the war of 1809 (until 16 October 1809). No changes from the 1792 issue except for the obverse inscription. Regulations were also changed to prohibit continued wearing of the silver medal if the gold was also won. Issued in gold and silver.

Ribbon: Rose edge stripes with a white and rose ladder center.
Obverse: Head of Francis II, crowned with laurel, facing right. Above around the circumference "FRANZ KAISER VON OESTERREICH" and underneath the designers name "I.N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: A tied laurel wreath with flags showing Austrian arms, within the wreath is the inscription "DER / TAPFERKEIT".

Bravery Medal of Francis I of 1812-14

Identical to the bravery medal of 1809 except for a coined on oval suspension loop and a new designer's name on the lower obverse: "I, HARNISCH. F.". Given for service in Russia in 1812, Germany in 1813-14 and Italy in 1815. Two die types are known.

Civil Honor Medal "Honori" 1813-1835

As with the issue of 1804-1813, but the die engraver was Heuberger rather than Wirt. The only changes were to the inscription on the obverse. The new circumference inscription reads: "FRANC. I. AUST. IMP. HVN. BOH. LOMB. ET. VEN. GAL. LOD. IL. REX. A. A." and at the bottom "HEUBERGER" (missing the usual "F." for "fecit" or "I made this").

Bronze Canon Cross of 1813-14

Authorized by Emperor Francis in 1814 for award to his soldiers in memory of their participation in the Befreiungskrieg of 1813-14 to free Germany and Europe from the domination of Napoleon. It was not actually awarded until 1815. Usually called the "Canon Cross" because it was made from captured bronze canon, and sometimes wrongly called the "Leipzig Cross" after that decisive battle in 1813. It is significant in that it is the first award given equally to all serving soldiers irrespective of rank. There originally were plans for three sizes of cross, and some specimens do exist, but in the end only one type, the small bronze with green varnish background, was made and distributed. One large gilded cross with a laurel leaf decorated wearing ring was made for FM. Prince Schwarzenberg as commander in chief, and it was intended to be worn from a ribbon around the neck. This unique piece is in the Army Museum in Vienna.

Perhaps some 200,000 crosses were issued but only a few thousand at most remain today. Suspension was by an elongated and groved suspension ring for the ribbon, and the dies were by J. Harnisch. Aging and repairs have led to many variations from type, and the ribbon color comes in various hues from yellow to gold.Illustrated is the normal issued cross with groved suspension ring and a modern ribbon.

Ribbon: A golden yellow stripe between two black ones, all equal width.
Size: The issued small broze cross was 27 mm. The unissued large cross was 45 mm and the medium one 39 mm.
Obverse: On a bronze cross pate with a circular gilded wreath between the arms is the following inscription: "GRATI / PRINCEPS ET PATRIA / FRANC. / IMP. AUG.".

Proposed Cross by J. Harnisch 1813

The original design proposed by Harnisch was slightly different from the issued one. It was 39 mm and narrower where the arms met in the center. The obverse inscription was the same as on the issued cross, but the reverse read: "TORMENT / E CAPTIS BELLICUS / MDCCCXIII". The single date indicates that the original plan to issue an 1813 cross was later expanded to cover the entire befreiungskrieg. Some few specimens of this cross exist.

Officers Canon Cross 1813-14

As might be expect in such a rank conscious country many officers resented having to wear the same medal as common soldiers. It was for this reason that three sizes had originally been proposed. Probably based on the golden cross of FM. Schwarzenberg, many officers had their cross gilded, usually after removing the green varnish. Less often the cross was recast in gold, or in bronze and heavily gilded. In some cases officers had their initials or entire name, rank and unit engraved on the ends of the arms. Suspension was usually a replacement oval gold strap and they vary greatly. All officer's crosses are scarce and the named ones especially so. As these crosses were unofficial many collectors take no note of them (or at least pay no premium for them) while others prize them dearly. Illustrated is a recast and heavily gilded officers cross with gold strap suspension.


This medal was awarded to all serving soldiers in the years 1813-1814, and with so many being awarded several sets of dies (and perhaps several production facilites) were used. I am unaware of any study having been made of these variations, but I show one here that was illustrated in Die Befreiungskriege 1813: Festscrift zur Jahrhundertfeier which was the centennial volume produced by the city of Vienna on the campaigns covered by this medal. Note the deeply tailed arms, unlike the straight arms of the normal version. This piece is supposedly from the Army Museum in Vienna. Also note that original copies have a double eagle hallmark within a diamond on the top suspension strap. Since the bronze wore away quickly with use it is often replaced with a plain metal strap and so lacks the hallmark. The green lacquer applied to the background itself has numerous variations in color and composition. I have four Canon Crosses with the lacquer intact and all have noticably different shades of green and pigment types.

Civil Honor Cross for 1813-14

Established by Emperor Francis in 1814 to reward high state officials who distinguished themselves during the Befreiungskrieg of 1813-14. The award was finalized on 26 May 1815 when it was awarded. The dies were also made by Harnisch and the cross was issued in gold and silver.The Civil Cross is identical to the Canon Cross except it lacks the laurel wreath. Only 38 gold and 149 silver crosses were issued, and Gottschalk lists all recipients. As it is so rare one must be careful to avoid Canon Crosses without wreaths that have been silver or gold plated.

As a parallel to the large gold cross of FM. Schwarzenberg, a great gold cross was given to Prince Metternich, minister of foreign affairs at this time. It too was to be worn around the neck and is said to have been twice the size of the other crosses and similar in details to that of FM. Schwarzenberg. It is seen in prints and paintings of the period but its current location is unknown. It was likely taken away by Prince Metternich when he fled Vienna during the Revolution of 1848, but could either have been destroyed in the fire that later burned the family schloss on the Rhine or it could be in the possession of one of his modern heirs.On the left is an engraving of Prince Metternich wearing his special large Civil Honor Cross. On the right is a gilt museum replica of the Metternich Cross. Note that, as in the engraving, Metternich's Cross has the normal, grooved ribbon ring and not the elaborate laurel leaf ring as on Schwartzenberg's large Cross in the Army Museum in Vienna.

Ribbon: Gold/black/gold, the reverse of the Canon Cross.
Size: Accounts are confused, some saying exactly the same 27mm of the Canon Cross and others 10% larger at 30 mm. Obviously few genuine examples are around to be measured. Von Falkenstien says both, that it was the same size and also 30 mm!

Gold Cross for the Guard of Bohemian Nobles in 1814

Established by Emperor Francis toward the end of 1814 as a sign of thanks for the 38 members of the Bohemian nobility who had accompanied him in the field in 1813-14. Of these medals only 22 can be traced and 21 are in museums.

Ribbon: White, red, white stripes of equal width.
Size: 30 mm.
Obverse: A red enamelled gold cross with a center circle containing the heraldic lion of Bohemia in silver.
Reverse: The cross enamelled red with the central medallion in white enamel bearing the seven line inscription: "NOBILIBUS BOHEMIS BELLO GALLICA FIDES CORPORIS CUSTODIBUS FRANCISCUS AUGUSTUS MDCCCXIV".

Military Service Medal "Pro Virtute Militari" of 1816

Although the Coronne de Fer was for military or civil merit this replacement medal for non-noble members was for military service only. It is very rare since so few members of the Coronne de Fer were willing to exchange it for this unassuming (even dull) silver medal. It was issued in silver but is (unofficially) also known in gold and bronze gilt. Although the Austrian Order of the Iron Crown changed its ribbon from green and gold to blue and gold, this medal for lesser members retained the French green and gold ribbon. Suspended through a soldered ring.

Ribbon: Golden yellow with two thinner sides stripes in green.
Size: 37 mm
Obverse: An upright antique sword.
Reverse: Inscription: "PRO / VIRTUTE / MILITARI".

Small Reward Medal "ZUR BELOHNUNG"

Small reward medal for service to the Emperor and state. Von Falkenstien says it was issued in silver with a red ribbon, but I have an example in bronze gilt on an original ribbon of equal red and white stripes with original stitching intact (illustrated at the left).

Ribbon: Red, or possibly red and white.
Size: 22 mm.
Obverse: The laurel crowned Emperors bust in profile facing right. The circumference inscription reads: "FRANZ DER ERST KAISER VON OESTERREICH".
Reverse: A garland of flowers around the circumference, and in the center, on two lines: "ZUR / BELOHNUNG".


Gottschalck, F. Almanach der Ritterorden, 3 vols., Leipzig 1817-19.
Contemporary with this period, Gottschalck's book is a goldmine of information on the ancient orders. Very scarce, although some modern reprints exist.

Gritzner, M., Handbuch der Ritter und Verdienstorden Aller Kulturstaaten der Welt, Leipzig, 1893.

Michetschlager, H., Das Ordesbuch der gewesenen Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1918-19.

Spada, Antonio, Onori e Glorie, Vol. 3, Brescia, 1983.
One of the finest illustrated books on orders ever produced, this publication displays Dr. Spada's incomparable collection. Austrian orders and some medals of the Napoleonic period are well illustrated.

Steiner, Jörg C., Orden und Ehrenzeichen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1991.
Not complete and the prices are now out of date, although relative values are still useful. Nevertheless this is the only current listing of Austrian material and we can hope for an improved new edition.

von Falkenstien, J., Imperial Austrian Medals and Decorations, Tucson, 1972.
The only thorough discussion and catalog of Austrian medals in English (orders are not included). Uneven and has many errors but is essential for English readers.

von Hessenthal, W. and Schreiber, G., Die Tragbaren Ehrenzeichen Des Deutschen Reiches, Berlin, 1940.

von Heyden, H., Ehren-Zeichen der Erlbschenen und Bluhenden Staaten Deutschlands und Österreich-Ungarns, Meiningen, 1897-1910 editions.

von Rosenfeld, F.H., Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen der K. und K. Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1889 and 1899 editions.

von Wrede, A., K. und K. Wehrmacht, Vienna, 1901.
A complete official history of the K. und K. army. Lists awards of orders and bravery medals to officers, sometimes with details of service.

Sales Catalogs
Much useful information is also to be found in the auction and sales catalogs of the better dealers in this material such as those of Graf Klenau and Andreas Thies. Of particular value is:
The Art of Chivalry: Orden und Ehrenzeichen der Deutschen Befreiungskriege, Thies and others, Nörtingen, 1991.

Austrtian orders and decorations for sale can often be found at:
Stephen Herold Historical Objects