Order of the Iron Crown

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Order of the Iron Crown
Ordine della Corona Ferrea
Heraldic decoration of the Order of the Iron Crown.svg
Badge of the Order
Awarded by the King of Italy
Country Flag of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.svg Kingdom of Italy
Flag of France.svg French Empire
Type Order of merit
EstablishedJune 5, 1805
Next (higher) Order of the Reunion
Ordre de la Couronne de Fer Chevalier ribbon.svg
Ribbon of the Order

The Order of the Iron Crown (Italian: Ordine della Corona Ferrea) was an order of merit that was established on June 5, 1805, by Napoleon Bonaparte under his title of King Napoleon I of Italy.

Order of merit visible honorific order

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.

Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula between 1805 and 1814

The Kingdom of Italy was a kingdom in Northern Italy in personal union with France under Napoleon I. It was fully influenced by revolutionary France and ended with his defeat and fall. Its governance was conducted by Napoleon and his step-son and viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais.


The order took its name from the ancient Iron Crown of Lombardy, a medieval jewel with an iron ring, forged from what was supposed to be a nail from the True Cross as a band on the inside. This crown also gave its name to the Order of the Crown of Italy, which was established in 1868.

Iron Crown of Lombardy reliquary and royal insignia

The Iron Crown of Lombardy is both a reliquary and one of the oldest royal insignias of Christendom. It was made in the Early Middle Ages, consisting of a circlet of gold and jewels fitted around a central silver band, which tradition holds to be made of iron beaten out of a nail of the True Cross. The crown became one of the symbols of the Kingdom of the Lombards and later of the medieval Kingdom of Italy. It is kept in the Cathedral of Monza, outside Milan.

True Cross The cross upon which Jesus was crucified

The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by the tradition of most Christian Churches, are said to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

Order of the Crown of Italy Italian order

The Order of the Crown of Italy, Italian: Ordine della Corona d'Italia, was founded as a national order in 1868 by King Vittorio Emanuele II, to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1861. It was awarded in five degrees for civilian and military merit.

After the fall of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, the order was re-established in 1815 by the Emperor of Austria, Francis I, as the Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown.

Emperor of Austria

The Emperor of Austria was the ruler of the Austrian Empire and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A hereditary imperial title and office proclaimed in 1804 by Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, and continually held by him and his heirs until Charles I relinquished power in 1918.

Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor also known as Francis I, Emperor of Austria

Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation after the decisive defeat at the hands of the First French Empire led by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria, ruling from 1804 to 1835, so later he was named the one and only Doppelkaiser in history. For the two years between 1804 and 1806, Francis used the title and style by the Grace of God elected Roman Emperor, ever Augustus, hereditary Emperor of Austria and he was called the Emperor of both the Holy Roman Empire and Austria. He was also Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia as Francis I. He also served as the first president of the German Confederation following its establishment in 1815.

Order of the Iron Crown (Austria)

The Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown was one of the highest orders of merit of Austria and Austria-Hungary until 1918. It was re-established in 1815 by Emperor Franz I of Austria. The original Order of the Iron Crown had previously been an order of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.

Significance of the Iron Crown

Neck badge and breast star Koechlin - Ordre de la Couronne de Fer (Codronchi).jpg
Neck badge and breast star
Badge and ribbon of the Order Imperial Order of the Iron Crown.PNG
Badge and ribbon of the Order

The Iron Crown of Lombardy, made for Theodelinda, Queen of the Lombards, was alleged to be crafted from one of the original nails in the True Cross used in the Crucifixion of Jesus. Regardless of origin, her crown was crafted of six hinged plates of gold, set with precious gems, and held together with an iron circlet structure underneath. Thus came the term of “Iron Crown”.

Theodelinda Queen of Italy (589–616)

Theodelinda, queen of the Lombards, was the daughter of duke Garibald I of Bavaria.

Crucifixion of Jesus Jesus crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels

The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st-century Palestine, most likely between AD 30 and 33. Jesus' crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although there is no consensus among historians on the exact details.

Upon Theolinda’s death in 628, her crown was donated to the Church at Monza, where it still remains. It was used during the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, as he took the throne of Lombardy in 774. Later Holy Roman Emperors followed suit in this tradition.

Monza Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Monza is a city and comune on the River Lambro, a tributary of the Po in the Lombardy region of Italy, about 15 kilometres north-northeast of Milan. It is the capital of the Province of Monza and Brianza. Monza is best known for its Grand Prix motor racing circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, which hosts the Formula One Italian Grand Prix with a massive Italian support tifosi for the Ferrari team.

Holy Roman Emperor emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.

Charlemagne King of the Franks, King of Italy, and Holy Roman Emperor

Charlemagne or Charles the Great, numbered Charles I, was king of the Franks from 768, king of the Lombards from 774, and emperor of the Romans from 800. He united much of western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages. He was the first recognised emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire. He was later canonized by Antipope Paschal III.

Founding of the Order of the Iron Crown

During his continued expansion of power, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy in much the same manner as Charlemagne. As a symbolic gesture, he had himself crowned as King of Italy using the Iron Crown of Lombardy for the coronation, which occurred on May 26, 1805.

Soon after, Napoleon founded the Order of the Iron Crown on June 5, 1805. The Order was divided into three classes, with an allowance of up to 20 grand cross knights, 100 commander knights, and 500 ordinary knights.

With the eventual end of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, the French version of this order ceased to exist. However, the Emperor of Austria, Francis I, re-established the order in 1815 as the Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown.


The ribbon colors of the order were gold and green, with the badge of the order being an imperial eagle set upon a representation of the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

Wearing of the insignia of the Napoleonic Order of the Iron Crown.svg
Ribbon bar
Ordre de la Couronne de Fer Chevalier ribbon.svg
Ordre de la Couronne de Fer Chevalier ribbon.svg
Ordre de la Couronne de Fer Chevalier ribbon.svg
Grand Cross

Master of the Order


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