The Imperial Austrian Order of Leopold 1914-1918

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Ritterkreuz or Knights' Cross. Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlargeThe Order of Leopold was founded by Kaiser Franz I on the 8th of January 1808. The order's statutes published on the 14th of July of the same year stipulated originally only three grades: Grand Cross, Commander and Knight. A War Decoration to the Order was introduced on the 23rd of February 1860 which took the form of a gold Laurel Wreath. During the war, in common with the other Austro-Hungarian decorations Crossed Swords were instituted to reward bravery in the face of the enemy. An Imperial Decree of the 1st of February 1901 ordered that in future the senior grade would be split into two separate awards and from then onwards there were four distinct Ranks of the Order:

Grand Cross

First Class

Commander

Knight

Until the18th of July 1884 the award of the order had also entitled the recipient if he was not already of that standing, to be raised to the following appointments and or ranks of the nobility:

Grand Cross: Privy Councillor
Commander: Freiherr or Baron
Knight Ritter

 

Both the Grand Cross and the First Class Members of the Order wore on formal occasions their orders in the form a Sash with the Order attached to the Bow and an 8 pointed breast Star. The Grand Cross was somewhat larger than the First Class as was the the width of the Sash. The Commanders' Cross was worn suspended  from a 52mm wide ribbon at the throat and the Knight wore his Order on a triangular ribbon on the left breast. The actual Order consists of a red enameled cross, with white enamel edging. The obverse of the Order displays the initials "FJA" in gold on a red enamel background. The Motto of the Order was "INTEGRITATE ET MERITO". The reverse bears the inscription "OPES REGUM CORDA SUBDITORUM". The ribbon of the Order is red with two narrow white stripes. The Cross is surmounted by a golden Emperors' Crown.

 

Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge
Knights' Cross with War Decoration - Obverse Knights' Cross with War Decoration - Reverse
Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge
Knights' Cross with War Decoration and Bar - Obverse Knights' Cross with War Decoration and Bar - Obverse
Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner. Click to enlarge
Knights' Cross with War Decoration & Swords & Bar - Obverse Knights' Cross with War Decoration & Swords & Bar - Reverse
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Commanders' Cross with War Decoration - Obverse Commanders' Cross with War Decoration - Reverse
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Commanders' Cross with War Decoration & Swords - Obverse Commanders' Cross with War Decoration & Swords - Reverse
Click to enlarge
First Class Star. From the Enzo Calabresi Collection First Class Star with War Decoration
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Grand Cross Star (1860). From the Enzo Calabresi Collection  Grand Cross Sash Decoration. From the Enzo Calabresi Collection

In common with the other high Austro-Hungarian Orders a series of "Kleine Dekorationen" or small orders were introduced in 1908 for service dress and field wear for the two highest classes. These took the form of  a Knights' Cross with a miniature of either the Grand or First Class Breast Star depending on the grade, affixed to the triangular ribbon. Again the senior of the two grades had a slightly larger miniature. The 13th of December 1916 saw  the introduction of Crossed Swords to the Order followed on the 27th of October 1917 with the introduction of a "Kleine Dekoration" for the Commanders' Cross. The following table shows the complete range of variations in use during the period of the First World War:

Grand Cross First Class with War Decoration and Golden Swords "Kleine Dekoration"
Grand Cross "Kleine Dekoration" First Class with War Decoration and Silver Swords
Grand Cross with War Decoration First Class with War Decoration and Silver Swords "Kleine Dekoration"
Grand Cross with War Decoration "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross
Grand Cross with War Decoration of a lower Grade Commanders' Cross "Kleine Dekoration"
Grand Cross with War Decoration of a lower Grade "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross with War Decoration
Grand Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords Commanders' Cross with War Decoration "Kleine Dekoration"
Grand Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross with War Decoration of the lower Grade
Grand Cross with War Decoration and Silver Swords Commanders' Cross with War Decoration of the lower Grade "Kleine Dekoration"
Grand Cross with War Decoration and Silver Swords "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords
First Class Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords "Kleine Dekoration"
First Class "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Silver Swords
First Class with War Decoration Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Silver Swords "Kleine Dekoration"
First Class with War Decoration "Kleine Dekoration" Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords with a Green Wreath for Repeat Awards
First Class with War Decoration of a lower Grade Commanders' Cross with War Decoration and Golden Swords with a Green Wreath for Repeat Awards "Kleine Dekoration"
First Class with War Decoration of a lower Grade "Kleine Dekoration" Knights' Cross
First Class with War Decoration and Golden Swords Knights' Cross with War Decoration
- Knights' Cross with War Decoration and Swords

 

The Ordens-Kanzlist or Chancery Clerk of the Order of Leopold in 1910: Hof-Zeremoniell-Direktor Wilhelm Friedrich Nepalleck. Of particular note is his badge of office worn suspended from the top button of his tunic and  his "Master of Ceremonies" Staff.  Courtesy of Jörg C. Steiner.

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