The Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis
was a military Order of Chivalry
An order or order of merit is a visible honour, awarded by a government, dynastic house or international organization to an individual, usually in recognition of distinguished service to a nation or to humanity. The distinction between orders and decorations is somewhat vague, except that most...
founded on 5 April 1693 by Louis XIV
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...
and named after Saint Louis
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...
(Louis IX). It was intended as a reward for exceptional officers, and is notable as the first decoration that could be granted to non-nobles. It is a predecessor of the Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...
(Legion of Honour), with which it shares the red ribbon (though the Légion d'honneur
is awarded to military personnel and civilians alike).
The King was the Grand Master
Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...
of the order, and the Dauphin was automatically a member as well. The Order had three classes:
- Grand-Croix (Grand Cross)
- Commandeur (Commander)
- Chevalier (Knight)
The entire order included 8 Grand Crosses, 28 Commanders and a variable number of Knights. Officers of the Order included, after the Grand Master, a Trésorier
A treasurer is the person responsible for running the treasury of an organization. The adjective for a treasurer is normally "tresorial". The adjective "treasurial" normally means pertaining to a treasury, rather than the treasurer.-Government:...
), a Greffier
A secretary, or administrative assistant, is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication & organizational skills. These functions may be entirely carried out to assist one other employee or may be for the benefit...
) and a Huissier
Gentleman Usher is a title for some officers of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom. See List of Gentlemen Ushers for a list of office-holders.-Historical:...
A badge is a device or fashion accessory, often containing the insignia of an organization, which is presented or displayed to indicate some feat of service, a special accomplishment, a symbol of authority granted by taking an oath , a sign of legitimate employment or student status, or as a simple...
of the order consisted of a portrait of Saint Louis surrounded by the motto « LUD(OVICUS) M(AGNUS) IN(STITUIT) 1693 » ("Louis the Great instituted it in 1693"). The reverse features a sword interlaced with a laurel crown and a white sash, with the inscription « BELL(ICAE) VIRTUTIS PRAEM(IUM) » ("reward of wartime valour"). Knights wore the badge suspended from a ribbon on the breast, Commanders wore a red ribband (sash) over the right shoulder, and recipients of the Grand Cross wore the ribband as well as a star on the left breast. The general assembly of the Order was held annually on 25 August, the feast day of Saint Louis, in the residence of the King.
Conditions to obtain the award did not include nobility; however, Catholic faith was mandatory, as well as at least ten years' service as a commissioned officer in the Army or the Navy. Members of the Order received a pension. Hereditary nobility was granted to a knight's son and grandsons. Another decoration, the Institution du Mérite Militaire
("Institution for Military Merit')(:fr:Institution du mérite militaire) was created for the Protestant officers in service of the French king (mainly foreign mercenaries, as French protestants were not tolerated at the time).
Until the death of Louis XIV, the medal was awarded to outstanding officers only, but it gradually came to be an award that most officers would receive during their career. On 1 January 1791, during the French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...
, a decree changed the name to décoration militaire
("military decoration"). It was subsequently withdrawn on 15 October 1792.
One of the first acts of Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...
was to reinstate the Order of Saint Louis, awarding it to officers of the Royal and Imperial armies alike. In 1830 the new king Louis-Philippe
Louis Philippe I was King of the French from 1830 to 1848 in what was known as the July Monarchy. His father was a duke who supported the French Revolution but was nevertheless guillotined. Louis Philippe fled France as a young man and spent 21 years in exile, including considerable time in the...
abolished the order, which was never reinstated.
Decree by His Majesty the King Louis XIV of France
- Louis, by the grace of God King of France and Navarre, to all present and yet to come, hail.
- The officers of our troops have distinguished themselves by so many actions of considerable virtue and courage, in the conquest which it pleased God to bless the justice of our arms, that, ordinary awards becoming insufficient to the affection and the thankfulness which we have for them, we have deemed it necessary to seek new ways to reward their zeal and fidelity.
- In this view have we decided to establish a purely military Order to which, in addition to the external marks of honour which are associated to it, we shall guarantee revenues and pensions which shall rise in proportion to them growing more and more worthy through their behaviour.
- We have decided that only officers still serving in our troops shall be introduced and that virtue, merit and distinguished service in our armies shall be the only criteria to enter. We shall also in the future give a particular attention to increase the advantages of this order, so that we shall ever have the satisfaction to always be able to grant graces to the officers, and on the other hand, seeing rewards guaranteed by valour, they would every day bear renewed ardour in deserving them by their actions.
- In these causes, with the advice of our council, and our certain science, full power and royal authority, we have created, instituted and built, by the present, our military Order with the name of Saint Louis, and with the forms, statutes, ordinances and rules as follow: (...)
Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis
—includes photographs, explanations and a 20,000 name list of recipients Histoire de l'Ordre royal & militaire de Saint-Louis
—History of the Order