French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
An order of merit is an honorific order that is conferred by a state, government, royal family, or other sovereign entity to an individual in recognition of military or civil merit. The historical background of the modern honours system of orders of merit may be traced to the emergence of orders of chivalry in the Middle Ages.
A military is a heavily-armed, highly-organised force primarily intended for warfare, also known collectively as armed forces. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards.
A motto is a maxim; a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of an individual, family, social group or organization. Mottos are usually found predominantly in written form, and may stem from long traditions of social foundations, or from significant events, such as a civil war or a revolution. A motto may be in any language, but Latin has been widely used, especially in the Western world.
In legal English, the seat of a corporation or organisation, as a legal entity, is the location of its headquarters. According to international and national procedural law, "specific legal actions with legal effect for and against the legal entity can be performed at the seat of this entity." However, "the term 'seat' is sometimes also used in a broad sense without a specific legal meaning. In this case [it] only defines where an entity is located and does not mean that this location is a legal seat where specific juridical acts can be performed."
The Palais de la Légion d'honneur is a historic building on the Left Bank of the River Seine in Paris, France. It houses the Musée de la Légion d'honneur and is the seat of the Légion d'honneur, the highest French order of merit.
The order is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand officier (Grand Officer), and Grand-croix (Grand Cross).
A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.
Commander, or Knight Commander, is a title of honor prevalent in chivalric orders and fraternal orders.
Grand Cross is the highest class in many orders, and manifested in its insignia. Exceptionally, the highest class may be referred to as Grand Cordon or equivalent. In other cases, the rank of Grand Cross may come after another even higher rank, e.g. Grand Collar. In rare cases, solely the actual insignia is referred to as the "grand cross".
During the French Revolution, all of the French orders of chivalry were abolished, and replaced with Weapons of Honour. It was the wish of Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers. From this wish was instituted a Légion d'honneur, a body of men that was not an order of chivalry, for Napoleon believed that France wanted a recognition of merit rather than a new system of nobility. However, the Légion d'honneur did use the organization of the old French orders of chivalry, for example the Ordre de Saint-Louis. The insignia of the Légion d'honneur bear a resemblance to those of the Ordre de Saint-Louis, which also used a red ribbon.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
A chivalric order, order of chivalry, order of knighthood or equestrian order is an order, confraternity or society of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades, paired with medieval concepts of ideals of chivalry.
Weapons of Honour are ceremonial weapons awarded for service or assistance to France.
Napoleon originally created this award to ensure political loyalty. The organization would be used as a façade to give political favours, gifts, and concessions. The Légion d'honneur was loosely patterned after a Roman legion, with legionaries, officers, commanders, regional "cohorts" and a grand council. The highest rank was not a Grand Cross but a Grand aigle (Grand Eagle), a rank that wore the insignia common to a Grand Cross. The members were paid, the highest of them extremely generously:
A Roman legion was a large military unit of the Roman army.
The Roman legionary was a professional heavy infantryman of the Roman army after the Marian reforms. These soldiers, alongside auxiliary and cavalry detachments, would first conquer and then defend the territories of the Roman Empire during the late Republic and Principate eras. At its height, Roman legionaries were viewed as the foremost fighting force in the Roman world, with commentators such as Vegetius praising their fighting effectiveness centuries after the classical Roman legionary disappeared.
An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.
The franc is the name of several currency units. The French franc was the currency of France until the euro was adopted in 1999. The Swiss franc is a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions. The name is said to derive from the Latin inscription francorum rex used on early French coins and until the 18th century, or from the French franc, meaning "frank".
Napoleon famously declared, "You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led... Do you think that you would be able to make men fight by reasoning? Never. That is good only for the scholar in his study. The soldier needs glory, distinctions, rewards." This has been often quoted as "It is with such baubles that men are led."
The order was the first modern order of merit. Under the monarchy, such orders were often limited to Roman Catholics, and all knights had to be noblemen. The military decorations were the perks of the officers. The Légion d'honneur, however, was open to men of all ranks and professions—only merit or bravery counted. The new legionnaire had to be sworn into the Légion d'honneur.
It is noteworthy that all previous orders were crosses or shared a clear Christian background, whereas the Légion d'honneur is a secular institution. The badge of the Légion d'honneur has five arms.
In a decree issued on the 10 PluviôseXIII (30 January 1805), a grand decoration was instituted. This decoration, a cross on a large sash and a silver star with an eagle, symbol of the Napoleonic Empire, became known as the Grand aigle (Grand Eagle), and later in 1814 as the Grand cordon (big sash, literally "big ribbon"). After Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French in 1804 and established the Napoleonic nobility in 1808, award of the Légion d'honneur gave right to the title of "Knight of the Empire" (Chevalier de l'Empire). The title was made hereditary after three generations of grantees.
Napoleon had dispensed 15 golden collars of the Légion d'honneur among his family and his senior ministers. This collar was abolished in 1815.
Although research is made difficult by the loss of the archives, it is known that three women who fought with the army were decorated with the order: Virginie Ghesquière, Marie-Jeanne Schelling and a nun, Sister Anne Biget.[lower-alpha 3]
The Légion d'honneur was prominent and visible in the French Empire. The Emperor always wore it and the fashion of the time allowed for decorations to be worn most of the time. The king of Sweden therefore declined the order; it was too common in his eyes. Napoleon's own decorations were captured by the Prussians and were displayed in the Zeughaus (armoury) in Berlin until 1945. Today, they are in Moscow.
The Legion of Honour under the Empire
A depiction of Napoleon making some of the first awards of the Legion of Honour, at a camp near Boulogne on 16 August 1804.
Louis XVIII changed the appearance of the order, but it was not abolished. To have done so would have angered the 35,000 to 38,000 members. The images of Napoleon and his eagle were removed and replaced by the image of King Henry IV, the popular first king of the Bourbon line. Three Bourbon fleurs-de-lys replaced the eagle on the reverse of the order. A king's crown replaced the imperial crown. In 1816, the grand cordons were renamed grand crosses and the legionnaires became knights. The king decreed that the commandants were now commanders. The Légion d'honneur became the second-ranking order of knighthood of the French monarchy, after the Order of the Holy Spirit.
Following the overthrow of the Bourbons in favour of King Louis Philippe I of the House of Orléans, the Bourbon monarchy's orders were once again abolished and the Légion d'honneur was restored in 1830 as the paramount decoration of the French nation. The insignia were drastically altered; the cross now displayed tricolour flags. In 1847, there were 47,000 members.
Yet another revolution in Paris (in 1848) brought a new republic (the second) and a new design to the Légion d'honneur. A nephew of the founder, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, was elected president and he restored the image of his uncle on the crosses of the order. In 1852, the first recorded woman, Angélique Duchemin, an old revolutionary of the 1789 uprising against the absolute monarchy, was admitted into the order. On 2 December 1851, President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte staged a coup d'état with the help of the armed forces. He made himself Emperor of the French exactly one year later on 2 December 1852, after a successful plebiscite.
In 1870, the defeat of the French Imperial Army in the Franco-Prussian War brought the end of the Empire and the creation of the Third Republic (1871–1940). As France changed, the Légion d'honneur changed as well. The crown was replaced by a laurel and oak wreath. In 1871, during the Paris Commune uprising, the Hôtel de Salm, headquarters of the Légion d'honneur, was burned to the ground in fierce street combats; the archives of the order were lost.
In the second term of President Jules Grévy which started in 1885, newspaper journalists brought to light the trafficking of Grévy's son-in-law, Daniel Wilson, in the awarding of decorations of the Légion d'honneur. Grévy was not accused of personal participation in this scandal, but he was slow to accept his indirect political responsibility, which caused his eventual resignation on 2 December 1887.
During World War I, some 55,000 decorations were conferred, 20,000 of which went to foreigners. The large number of decorations resulted from the new posthumous awards authorised in 1918. Traditionally, membership in the Légion d'honneur could not be awarded posthumously.
The establishment of the Fourth Republic in 1946 brought about the latest change in the design of the Legion of Honour. The date "1870" on the obverse was replaced by a single star.
Legal status and leadership
The Legion of Honour is a national order of France, meaning a public incorporated body. The Legion is regulated by a civil law code, the "Code of the Legion of Honour and of the Military Medal". While the President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the order, day-to-day running is entrusted to the Grand Chancery (Grande Chancellerie de la Légion d'honneur).
Since the establishment of the Legion, the Grand Master of the order has always been the Emperor, King or President of France. PresidentEmmanuel Macron became the Grand Master of the Legion on 14 May 2017.
The Grand Master appoints all other members of the order, on the advice of the French government. The Grand Master's insignia is the Grand Collar of the Legion, worn only by the President of the Republic, as Grand Master of the order.
The Grand Chancery
The Grand Chancery is headed by the Grand Chancellor, usually a retired general, and the Secretary General, a civilian administrator.
Chevalier (Knight): minimum 20 years of public service or 25 years of professional activity with "eminent merits"
Officier (Officer): minimum 8 years in the rank of Chevalier
Commandeur (Commander): minimum 5 years in the rank of Officier
Grand officier (Grand Officer): minimum 3 years in the rank of Commandeur
Grand-croix (Grand Cross): minimum 3 years in the rank of Grand-officier
The "eminent merits" required to be awarded the order require the flawless performance of one's trade as well as doing more than ordinarily expected, such as being creative, zealous and contributing to the growth and well-being of others.
The order has a maximum quota of 75 Grand Cross, 250 Grand Officers, 1,250 Commanders, 10,000 Officers, and 113,425 (ordinary) Knights. As of 2010, the actual membership was 67 Grand Cross, 314 Grand Officers, 3,009 Commanders, 17,032 Officers and 74,384 Knights. Appointments of veterans of World War II, French military personnel involved in the North African Campaign and other foreign French military operations, as well as wounded soldiers, are made independently of the quota.
Members convicted of a felony (crime in French) are automatically dismissed from the order. Members convicted of a misdemeanour (délit in French) can be dismissed as well, although this is not automatic.
Wearing the decoration of the Légion d'honneur without having the right to do so is a serious offence. Wearing the ribbon or rosette of a foreign order is prohibited if that ribbon is mainly red, like the ribbon of the Legion of Honour. French military personnel in uniform must salute other military members in uniform wearing the medal, whatever the Légion d'honneur rank and the military rank of the bearer. This is not mandatory with the ribbon. In practice, however, this is rarely done.
There is not a single, complete list of all the members of the Legion in chronological order. The number is estimated at one million, including about 2,900 Grand Cross.
French nationals, men and women, can be received into the Légion, for "eminent merit" (mérites éminents) in military or civil life. In practice, in current usage, the order is conferred to entrepreneurs, high-level civil servants, scientists, artists including famous actors and actresses, sport champions[lower-alpha 4] as well as others with connections in the executive. Members of the French Parliament cannot receive the order, except for valour in war, and ministers are not allowed to nominate their accountants.
Until 2008, French nationals could only enter the Legion of Honour at the class of Chevalier (Knight). To be promoted to a higher class, one had to perform new eminent services in the interest of France and a set number of years had to pass between appointment and promotion. This was however amended in 2008 when entry became possible at Officer, Commander and Grand Officer levels, as a recognition of "extraordinary careers" (carrières hors du commun). In 2009, Simone Veil became the first person to enter the Order at Grand Officer level. Veil was a member of the Académie française, a former Health Minister and President of the European Parliament, as well as an Auschwitz survivor. She was promoted to Grand Cross in 2012.
While membership in the Légion is technically restricted to French nationals, foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive the honour. Foreign nationals who live in France are subject to the same requirements as the French. Foreign nationals who live abroad may be awarded a distinction of any rank or dignity in the Légion. Foreign heads of state and their spouses or consorts of monarchs are made Grand Cross as a courtesy. American and British veterans who served in either World War I on French soil, or during the 1944 campaigns to liberate France, may be eligible for appointment as Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, provided they were still living when the honour was approved.
The military distinctions (Légion d'honneur à titre militaire) are awarded for bravery (actions de guerre) or for service.
award for extreme bravery: the Légion d'Honneur is awarded jointly with a mention in dispatches. This is the top valour award in France. It is rarely awarded, mainly to soldiers who have died in battle.
award for service: the Légion is awarded without any citation.
For active-duty commissioned officers, the Legion of Honour award for service is achieved after 20 years of meritorious service, having been awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite. Bravery awards lessen the time needed for the award—in fact decorated servicemen become directly chevaliers of the Légion d'Honneur, skipping the Ordre du Mérite. NCOs almost never achieve that award, except for the most heavily decorated service members.
Collective military awards
Collective appointments can be made to military units. In the case of a military unit, its flag is decorated with the insignia of a knight, which is a different award than the fourragère. Twenty-one schools, mainly schools providing reserve officers during the World Wars, were awarded the Légion d'Honneur. Foreign military units can be decorated with the order, such as the U.S. Military Academy.
The Flag or Standard of the following units was decorated with the Cross of a Knight of the Legion of Honour:[lower-alpha 5]
The order has had five levels since the reign of King Louis XVIII, who restored the order in 1815. Since the reform, the following distinctions have existed:
Chevalier (knight): badge worn on left breast suspended from ribbon.
Officier (Officer): badge worn on left breast suspended from a ribbon with a rosette.
Commandeur (Commander): badge around neck suspended from ribbon necklet.
Grand officier (Grand Officer): badge worn on left breast suspended from a ribbon, with star displayed on right breast.
Grand-croix (Grand Cross) formerly Grande décoration, Grand aigle or Grand cordon: the highest level; badge affixed to sash worn over the right shoulder, with star displayed on left breast.
The badge of the Légion is a five-armed "Maltese Asterisk" (for want of a better description—see Maltese Cross) in gilt (in silver for chevalier) enamelled white, with an enamelled laurel and oak wreath between the arms. The obverse central disc is in gilt, featuring the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend République Française on a blue enamel ring. The reverse central disc is also in gilt, with a set of crossed tricolores, surrounded by the Légion's motto Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland) and its foundation date on a blue enamel ring. The badge is suspended by an enamelled laurel and oak wreath.
The star (or plaque) is worn by the Grand Cross (in gilt on the left chest) and the Grand Officer (in silver on the right chest) respectively; it is similar to the badge, but without enamel, and with the wreath replaced by a cluster of rays in between each arm. The central disc features the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend République Française (French Republic) and the motto Honneur et Patrie.
The badge or star is not usually worn, except at the time of the decoration ceremony or on a dress uniform or formal wear. Instead, one normally wears the ribbon or rosette on one's suit.
For less formal occasions, recipients wear a simple stripe of thread sewn onto the lapel (red for chevaliers and officiers, silver for commandeurs). Except when wearing a dark suit with a lapel, women instead typically wear a small lapel pin called a barrette. Recipients purchase the special thread and barrettes at a store in Paris near the Palais Royal.
Original Légionnaire insignia (1804).
Late Empire Légionnaire insignia: the front features Napoleon's profile and the rear, the imperial Eagle. An imperial crown joins the cross and the ribbon.
Louis XVIII era (1814) Knight insignia: the front features Henry IV's profile and the rear, the arms of the French Kingdom (three fleurs-de-lis). A royal crown joins the cross and the ribbon.
Rear of a Republican cross, with two crossed French flags.
Fifth Republic Knight insignia: the centre features Marianne's head. A crown of laurels joins the cross and the ribbon.
Current medal for the officer class, decorated with a rosette.
Chiang Kai-shek's Légion d'honneur plaque. In his day, the plaque was made of silver.
Chiang Kai-shek's Légion d'honneur. This is the reverse of his Grand Cross.
The insignia of a Grand Cross. Nowadays the star of a Grand Cross is gilt. The silver star is the Grand Officer's badge.
↑ The full official name is National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour (Ordre royal de la Légion d'honneur).
↑ The award for the French Legion of Honour is known by many titles, also depending on the five levels of degree: Knight of the Legion of Honour; Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur; Officer of the Legion of Honour; Officier de la Légion d'honneur; Commander of the Legion of Honour; Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur; Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour; Grand officier de la Légion d'honneur; Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour; Grand'Croix de la Légion d'honneur. The word honneur is often capitalised, as in the name of the palace Palais de la Légion d'Honneur.
↑ All Olympic Gold Medal winners are awarded the Légion.
↑ Officially, military units are not members of the Legion of Honour, which include only individuals. As for foreign Legionnaires, they are "decorated with the Legion of Honour insignia", not "member of the Legion of Honour". Do not confuse military units that received the fourragère to the colour of the ribbon of the Legion of Honour (units quoted at six, seven or eight times in the order of the army with military units whose flag is decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honour.
↑ Pierre-Louis Roederer, "Speech Proposing the Creation of a Legion of Honour", Napoleon: Symbol for an Age, A Brief History with Documents, ed. Rafe Blaufarb (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008), 101–102.
↑ Jones, Colin. The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p.196. ISBN0-521-43294-4.
↑ Antoine Claire Thibaudeau (1827). Mémoires sur le Consulat. 1799 à 1804[Memories of the Consulate, 1799–1804] (in French). Paris: Chez Ponthieu et Cie. pp.83–84.
The Order of Ouissam Alaouite or the Sharifian Order of Al-Alaoui is a military decoration of Morocco which is bestowed by the King of Morocco upon those civilians and military officers who have displayed heroism in combat or have contributed meritorious service to the Moroccan state. The decoration was established on 11 January 1913 in replacement of the Order of Ouissam Hafidien. It is awarded in five classes: Grand Cordon, Grand Officer, Commander (Commandeur), Officer (Officier) and Knight (Chevalier).
The Order of Leopold is one of the three current Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood. It is the oldest and highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of its founder; King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civil division. The maritime division is only awarded to personnel of the merchant navy, and the military division to military personnel. The decoration was established on 11 July 1832 and is awarded by Royal order.
The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam was created on March 14, 1886, in the ancient Vietnamese city of Huế, by Emperor Đồng Khánh of the Imperial House of Annam, upon the "recommendation" of the President of France as a jointly awarded French colonial order. The Order was designed as a reward for services to the state, the French colonial government, or the emperor.
The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is an Order of France, established on 2 May 1957 by the Minister of Culture, and its supplementary status to the Ordre national du Mérite was confirmed by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963. Its purpose is the recognition of significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these fields.
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The Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis is a dynastic order of chivalry founded 5 April 1693 by King Louis XIV, named after Saint Louis. It was intended as a reward for exceptional officers, notable as the first decoration that could be granted to non-nobles. By the authorities of the French Republic, it is considered a predecessor of the Legion of Honour, with which it shares the red ribbon.
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James Waddell was one of New Zealand’s most highly decorated soldiers of the First World War. Waddell was received in the French Legion of Honour and promoted twice. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre seven times during the war.
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Paul-Frédéric Rollet (1875–1941) was a Général who led in the Marching Regiment of the Foreign Legion RMLE, and was the 1st Inspector of the Foreign Legion, a post which he created under his intentions. Rollet accumulated 41 years of military service out of which 33 were in the Legion and also planned the 100th anniversary of the legion on Cameron day of 30 April 1931. Consequently, he was responsible for creating many of the Legion's current traditions.
The Ordre national du Mérite is a French order of merit with membership awarded by the President of the French Republic, founded on 3 December 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. The reason for the order's establishment was twofold: to replace the large number of ministerial orders previously awarded by the ministries; and to create an award that can be awarded at a lower level than the Legion of Honour, which is generally reserved for French citizens. It comprises about 187,000 members worldwide.
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