Jeweled Austrian Awards Part IV

Introduction:

In the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire there were 11 awards that were issued in jeweled versions. Seven of these awards were authorized by statute, three were awarded at the direction of the emperor even though there was no statutory provision for them and one was issued by the officer corps of the empire to honor the emperor. The six jeweled awards which were authorized by statute were: The Knights Order of the Golden Fleece, Military Maria Theresia Order, the Royal Hungarian St. Stephan Order, the Imperial Austrian Leopold Order, the Order of Franz Joseph and the Military Merit Cross. These jeweled awards were not a special class of the awards noted above but rather constitute a sign of the special esteem or regard the emperor had for the recipient and their service to the empire. These awards were paid for by the emperor out his personal funds and were conferred by him on the recipients. There were four additional awards that were occasionally issued in a jeweled version. These awards were issued in all cases with the exception of one by the emperor without regard for the statutory restrictions. Awards known in this category which were authorized by the emperor are the Officers Military Service Cross, first class as issued from 1890-1918, the Commemoration Badge of the Field-Marshal Archduke Albrecht, issued in 1899 and the Civil Merit Cross in Time of War, issued in 1917. The one jeweled award issued without the express approval of the emperor was the Army Homage Cross, issued in 1908

What follows is the fourth and last of four blogs on the jeweled awards. This blog will describe the jeweled examples of the Officers Military Service Cross, first class, the Commemoration Badge of the Field-Marshal Archduke Albrecht, the Civil Merit Cross in Time of War and the Army Homage Cross.

1. Officers Military Service Cross, first class as issued from 1890-1918 with diamonds. This cross which was issued to commemorate 50 years of military service by officers was authorized to be awarded in diamonds by Emperor Franz Joseph to those who warranted special distinction. The only known recipient was Generaloberst Freidrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky.

Figure 1: Generaloberst Freidrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky the only known recipient of the Officers Military Service Cross, first class (1890-1918) in diamonds. Image from the author’s archive.

2. The Commemoration Badge of the Field-Marshal Archduke Albrecht. This award that was issued in 1899 to reward those officers and officials, still living, who had served on Archduke Albrecht’s staff. The award was issued on the occasion of the unveiling of a monument to Archduke Albrecht, the victor of Custozza, in Vienna. This award could be granted by the authority of Emperor Franz Joseph to specially deserving individuals in diamonds. It is reported to have been awarded only once. (the image below is of the standard badge as the author does not have an image of a jeweled insignia. If anyone viewing this blog has an image of the jeweled badge I would like to see it.)

Figure 2: Commemorative Insignia of the Field-Marshall Archduke Albrecht, obverse. Image courtesy of the Dorotheum.

Figure 2A: Commemorative Insignia of the Field-Marshall Archduke Albrecht, reverse. Image courtacy of the Enzo Calabresi

3. The War Cross for Civil Merit, first class. This award was issued once in 1917 in a jeweled version to Kajetan Merey von Kapos-Mere the Plenipotentiary and ambassador to the peace talks in 1917 which took place at Brest-Litowsk. This award was authorized by Emperor Karl.

Figure 3: Kajetan Merey von Kapos-Mere, recipient of the War Cross for Civil Merit, first class in diamonds. Image from the author’s archive.

4. The Army Homage Cross. This award which is encrusted in diamonds was issued only once in the year 1908 and in a way which varied from the norm. It was created and issued not by the Austro-Hungarian Empire but by the loyal officers of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces. Rather than being authorized by the emperor it was presented to him by the officer corps of the armed forces as a sign of appreciation and respect on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph. Interestingly I have never seen a picture of the emperor wearing this award. Thus although it was presented to him there is no indication that he ever wore it.

Figure 4: Army Homage Cross, Image attributed to Vaclav Mericka, Orden Und Ehrenzeichen, Anton Schroll & Co

I hope you have enjoyed this discussion. I look forward to sharing with you in the future. Until next time I hope you enjoy the adventure of medal collecting and the research that goes with it as much as I do.

Rick

6 Comments
  1. Hello,
    these pages devoted to the orders and decorations of Austria-Hungary are extremely interesting and a fine, online reference on the subject.
    Re. the Comemmorative Badge to FM Erzherzog Albrecht, I can say that it wasn’t awarded as a jewelled decoration.
    I would also like to add that the pictured piece, is of a later production of Rothe, Vienna. The awarded pieces, were slightly different and above all, the reverse was fitted with a diagonal pin.
    For confrontation, I would like to post a picture of an awarded piece, from my own collection.

    • Enzo
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments which I much appreciate. With regard to the diagonal pin on the reverse I also have reverse images with the pin positioned as you describe and agree that this is as it should be. With regard to the badges not having been issued in a jeweled version I am open to being educated on this matter. The data I have indicates that jeweled badges unless specifically prohibited by statute could be issued by the emperor at his discretion. I also have contemporary data indicating that such a badge was issued. The information I have is not definitive and I am open to challenges to this idea. Thus if you have any statutes or other data that you have noted that convinced you that jeweled badges of this type were never issued I would be eager to see that data and to learn from it. Lastly I will check to see what obverse image I used in the blog to illustrate this badge. I do have what is purported to be an obverse image of a genuine badge from Dorotheum which I can substitute or perhaps you would be willing to send me a high quality image of your badge on a white or light gray background which I could then format and place in the blog, crediting you of course as the source of the image. Also if you wouldn’t mind, please share with me the hallmarks to be found on the revers of the badge in your collection. I have seen so few of these badges that I an still trying to verify the hallmarks commonly found on them. Let me conclude by saying I really appreciate your thoughtful comments and obvious expertise and appreciate your taking the time to help me make this blog even more accurate and useful to our fellow collectors.

      Rick

  2. Dear Rick,
    I’m glad if my contributions could be of help in these pages.
    Regarding the badge in its original form, it can be observed that it has to be in silver, with a diagonal pin and bearing the correct maker’s and silver marks as usual on Austrian decorations of that period.
    In my opinion, it’s important to note that badges not corresponding to what we could call “award type”, have been made at an early stage too, although non contemporarily to the institution: in Michetschläger’s book (“Das Ordensbuch der gewesenen Oesterreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchhie”), published shortly after the fall of the monarchy, the badge clearly appears illustrated in a colour plate, where surprisingly it is not of the award type! I put this question in 1982 to Mrs. Rothe and she replied that when the book was prepared, they prepared a piece, using the original dies, although with some differences in the assembly of the parts. The badge used for the Michetschläger was still preserved in their workshop and, from this model, Messrs. Rothe produced their well-known collector’s copies.
    At the Austrian State Archives, it is preserved the original list of the recipients of this badge and none is indicated as having been awarded in a “jeweled” version.
    Now, I would like to add some further pictures, showing the reverse and where the marks are struck.

    • Enzo

      Thank you for the further elaboration on the badge. I will replace the obverse image in the blog with one provided by Dorotheum which is supposed to be a correct badge. The picture is not quite as good as the one I used but the badge should be correct. Once again thank you for sharing your expertise.

      Rick

  3. The maker’s and silver marks:

  4. The pin:

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