Honor Medal, 1789-1791

Introduction:

In this blog I am going to discuss the 1789-1791 Honor Medal (Ehren Medaille). This was in fact the first medal issued by the Austrian Empire specifically as a bravery medal. In this and subsequent blogs I am going to take the reader through the evolution of the bravery medals from this one which was issued from 1789-1791 by the authority of Emperor Joseph II  to the last of this type of medal issued in 1917-1922 by Emperor Karl I.  There were 30 versions of the bravery medal issued in all. These are numbers one and two.

Decoration Numismatics:

Figure 1: 1789-1791 Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 1: 1789-1791 Gold Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Date Issued:  July 19, 1789 – 1791

Reason Issued:  As a reward for acts of bravery or gallantry in time of war by non-commissioned officers and soldiers who were not otherwise eligible for the Order of Maria Theresia

Classes or Types:  Two

  • Gold Bravery Medal
  • Silver Bravery Medal

Interesting Facts:

  • The creation of this award was suggested by Field Marshal, Count Laudon.
  • This is the oldest Austrian valor insignia specifically for non-commissioned officers and enlisted men.
  • This decoration was often referred to in the Austrian Army as the soldiers Maria Theresia Order
  • The first issue of these decorations was for those who served in the war with Turkey from 1788 – 1791.
  • Soldiers could receive both the silver and gold medals if they were awarded consecutively
  • This decoration was sometimes called the Ehren Medal (Honor Medal) and sometimes the Denkmunze fur Tapferkeit (Commemorative for Bravery)
  • From 1789 to 1918 there were 30 different versions of the bravery medal. These decorations are versions 1 and 2
  • This decoration in all of its variations was up to the issuance of the Karl Troop Cross in 1916 the most issued armed forces decoration.

Hallmarks:  None Known

Design:  A round medal with an attached round flat suspension eye at the top.

Figure 2: 1789-1791 Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 2: 1789-1791 Silver Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse (Figure 1&2):  Inside a raised rim is a youthful bust of Joseph II, facing to the right. He is portrayed with long flowing hair in which is a laurel wreath near the temples.  Paralleling the rim around the upper half of the medal is the inscription: IOSEPH II. Near the lower edge of the medal is the signature of the medalist: I. N. WIRT F. (Johann Nepomuk Wirt (note the F is for the German word fabrikat (fabricated) and is not a part of the signature).

Figure 3: 1789-1791 Gold Honor Medal reverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 3: 1789-1791 Gold Honor Medal reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 4: 1789-1791 Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 4: 1789-1791 Honor Medal Obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse (Figure 3&4): The reverse of the medal has four crossed flags and two crossed standards at the bottom.  The two front flags can be seen through the leaves of the laurel wreath and appear to have the Austrian Coat of Arms (the barred shield), with an archdukes hat above it, the latter is also recognizable on the standard over which is superimposed a laurel wreath which is tied at the bottom with a bow. Within the wreath and above the flags are the words DER TAPFERKEIT (for bravery).

Weight:

  • Gold Bravery Medal = 8 Ducats (28 grams)
  • Silver Bravery Medal = 17 grams

Size: 

  • Gold Bravery Medal = 40 mm in diameter
  • Silver Bravery Medal = 40 mm in diameter

Type of Material:  Gold and Silver

Variations: 

  • Type I: As described above
  • Type II: As described above except that the obverse does not have the makers name at the bottom

Designer: Johann Nepomuk Wirt (Wirth, Wurth)

Manufacturer: Vienna Hauptmunzampt (Vienna Mint)

Number Issued:  For bravery in the war with Turkey in 1791, 74 gold medals and 611 silver medals were awarded

Case:  Unknown

Figure 8: Red and White laddered ribbon. Image from author's archive

Figure 5: Red and White laddered ribbon. Image from author’s archive

Ribbon: A 40 mm wide dark rose-red and white laddered ribbon with a 21 mm horizontal striped center portion and 4.5 mm red side stripes and 5 mm wide white edge stripes

Attachments:  None

Miniature:  None known

I hope you have enjoyed this discussion.
Rick

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