Austrian Orders, Decorations and Medals of the Napoleonic Period
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.
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. An officer had to command in a battle or a unit in a
winning action to be eligible. Not often awarded in the Austrian army.
The Royal Hungarian Order of St. Stephen
Established by the Empress Maria Theresa on 5 May 1764 to reward her Hungarian
subjects for civil merit. There was no military application of this order. Even
modern awards of St. Stephen are seldom seen.
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 important subjects.
The existing senior orders 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 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).
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 really had little claim to the Iron
Crown as a symbol anyway. Despite this, the order is one of the most attractive
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.
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 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 for a red suspension
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 soldiered ring
with a red ribbon.
A variation with the Bohemian lion on the reverse may have been issued for the
Bohemian coronation of Francis (v. Heyden 1058-9). 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. Also awarded in gold and silver. Suspended from the same ribbon as well --
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
Medal of Honor for the battle of Villiers-en-Couche, 1794
Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1796
Medal for the Volunteers of Olmutz, 1796
Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1797
Lower Austrian Mobilization Medal of 1797
The Ecclesiastical Cross of Merit
Dalmation Service Medal of 1801
Civil Medal of Honor "JUSTITIA . . ." 1804-35
Civil Medal of Honor "HONORI" 1804-13
Medal for the Country's Defenders of 1808
Medal for the Tyrol and Voralburg Defenders of 1809
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.
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.".
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
Civil Honor Medal "Honori" 1813-1835
Bronze Canon Cross of 1813-14
Civil Honor Cross for 1813-14
Gold Cross for the Guard of Bohemian Nobles in 1814
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 soldiered ring.
Size: 37 mm
Obverse: An upright antique sword.
Reverse: Inscription: "PRO / VIRTUTE / MILITARI".
Small Reward Medal "ZUR BELOHNUNG"