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 ribbon.
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 are known.

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"