When Maria Theresia was ruling the Austrian Empire with her husband Franz Stephan von Lothringian as Empress Consort, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary medals were typically issued with her image and that of her husband on the obverse. In this case however a medal was issued in 1766 with the image of her son as Joseph II to recognize his election as the Holy Roman Emperor. The medal was intended as a reward for those members of the Austrian armed forces who had served with special distinction under the command of Joseph II.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued:  1766—1790

Reason Issued:  Issued by Joseph II on the occasion of his election as the Holy Roman Emperor as a reward for the outstanding merit by Austrian military commanders and other soldiers of the Austrian armed forces, which Maria Theresia had placed under his command, in war.

Classes or Types:  Three

  • Large Gold Medal
  • Large Silver Medal
  • Silver Medal

Interesting Facts:

  • This was the first medal that was issued as a true national award for merit. Prior to this award medals were issued as personal signs of recognition by the rulers of the Austrian Empire. This was an award from the nation for service to the nation. Thus all later Austro-Hungarian awards can trace their lineage to the award of these medals.
  • The word Gnaden (grace) as used in the name of this medal had a different meaning when it was issued than it does today. Thus “grace” should be interpreted as “honor” therefore the title in today’s terminology would be the Imperious Joseph II Honor Medal
  • From 1765 when this decoration  was established until 1790 when it was discontinued, 14 variations of the award were issued.
  • The period on which this decoration was issued covered the time from 1765-1766 when Joseph II was the Roman Emperor, 1766-1780 when Joseph II served as Emperor and Co-Regent and 1780-1790 when he was Emperor and ruler of Austria
  • This medal was issued as a wearable medal with a suspension ring and as a table medal.
  • Bronze medals are copies that were made for the collector trade

Hallmarks:  None Known

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

Figure 1: Joseph II Honor Medal, 1766-1790, obverse, image from the author’s archive.

Figure 2 : Joseph II Honor Medal, silver, table medal, 1766-1790, obverse, image from the author’s archive.


Obverse (Figure 1, above):  A youthful bust of Joseph II, facing to the viewers right. He is portrayed with long flowing hair in which is a laurel wreath near the temples. He is dressed in an armor breastplate with and an ermine mantel and wears the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Paralleling the rim around the upper two-thirds of the medal is the inscription: IOSEPHVS II . D.G. ROM. REX. S.A.GERM.REX HVNG.BOH. &C. PRIN. HERED. A. A. &C.  Near the lower edge of the medal is the signature of the medalist: A. Wideman (Anton Wideman).

Figure 3 : Joseph II Honor Medal, gold, 1766-1790, reverse, image from the author’s archive.

Figure 4 : Joseph II Honor Medal, silver, table medal, 1766-1790, reverse, image from the author’s archive.


Reverse: The eye of God (a triangle with eye surrounded by a wreath of rays) overlooking a globe surrounded by clouds. Superimposed on the globe are a sword and a rudder which are crossed. Both are interwoven with boughs of oak and laurel. Along the top margin of the medal, above the eye of God is the inscription: VIRTVTE ET EXEMPLO (by virtue and example


  • Gold Medal = 84 grams or 24 Ducats (known to exist in 15 and 20 Ducat versions)
  • Large Silver Medal = 54 grams
  • Silver Medal = 35-40 grams
  • Bronze Medal = Unknown


  • Gold Medal = 50 mm
  • Large Silver Medal = 50 mm
  • Silver Medal = 46 mm
  • Bronze Medal = 50 mm

Type of Material:  Gold, silver and bronze

Variations:  E. Holzmair reports that there were 14 variations of this medal issued from 1764 to 1790

  • Medal with attached eye
  • Medal with a steel crimp-on eye
  • Medal with no suspension eye (table medal)

Designer: Anton Wideman

Manufacturer: The National Mint in Vienna (Vienna Hauptmuntzampt)

Number Issued: Unknown

Case:  Unknown

Figure 5: Joseph II Honor Medal, 1766-1790 ribbon. Image from the author’s archive


  • Gold medals were awarded on a gold chain
  • A 40 mm wide straight Carmen-red ribbon

Attachments:  None

Miniature:  None known

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Next time I will continue my discussion of jeweled awards.


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