Introduction:

When Emperor Franz Joseph assumed the throne in Austria one of his earliest actions was to establish the merit crosses to be awarded to those who demonstrated proven devotion to the fatherland, many years of valuable service, or other significant services in support of the public welfare. This decoration replaced the Civil Merit Medal which had been introduced in 1848. This decoration was highly regarded and personally approved and presented by the emperor up until World War I.  In this blog I will describe the Silver Merit Cross with crown variations.

Decoration Numismatics continued:

Silver Merit Cross with crown, variations: 

Figure 1: Type 1 Silver Merit Cross with crown, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 2: Type 1 Silver Merit Cross with crown, Reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

 

  • Type I Silver Cross with Crown 1849-1875 obverse: A Rupert type cross  with wide flared enameled arms bordered in silver. In the center of the cross is an applied, round medallion. The medallion is silver with a raised rim inside of which is inscribed VIRIBUS UNITIS (with united strength, the motto of Franz Joseph’s reign) the silver letters are separated by ovals.  At the top of the circular silver center medallion are a pair of clasped hands (this represents the loyalty of the people. Inside the first ring is a second raised silver border. Inside this inner border are the initials FJ (Franz Joseph) on a lined silver background.  The monogram is silver and is part of the center medallion.  The upper arm of the cross is attached to a crown affixed to the cross by two banderoles of metal, which extend from the lower edge of the crown to the upper edge of the cross.  The crown is the imperial crown but is smaller in this type cross than in later versions.  The crown is very detailed. Through the orb at the top of the crown passes a ring for suspending the cross from a ribbon. These crosses were made by F. Braun and A. Kittner.
  • Type I Silver Cross with Crown 1849-1875 Reverse: The reverse of the cross is red enameled with a silver border.  The center medallion is silver and has a granulated border around it. It has a raised silver rim inside of which is a round silver medallion.  On the lined silver medallion is the raised date 1849 in silver.  The date is an integral part of the silver center medallion.  The reverse of the banderoles and the crown are similar to the obverse side and are very detailed.

 

Figure 3: Type 2 Silver Merit Cross with crown, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 4: Type 2 Silver Merit Cross with crown, reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

 

  • Type II Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1914 obverse: The same as the Type I cross except the crown is larger
  • Type II Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1914 reverse:  The same as the Type I cross except the crown is larger

 

Figure 5: Type 3 Silver Merit Cross with crown, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 6: Type 3 Silver Merit Cross with crown, reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

 

  • Type III Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1918 obverse: The same as the Type II cross except the crown has a red enamel inner liner
  • Type III Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1918 reverse: The same as the Type II cross except the crown has a red enamel inner liner

 

Figure 7: Type 4 Silver Merit Cross with crown, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

 

  • Type IV Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1914 obverse: The same as the Type III cross except the raised circles of the center medallion are much finer and less raised and the crown has a red enamel inner liner
  • Type IV Silver Cross with crown, 1875-1914 reverse:  The same as the Type III cross except the outer ring of the center medallion is filled with silver laurel leaves.  These crosses were made by Rothe & Neffe

 

Figure 8: Type 5 Silver Merit Cross with crown, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 9: Type 5 Silver Merit Cross with crown, reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

 

  •  Type V Silver Cross with crown, 1914-1918, obverse: The same as the Type III cross except the crown has points on the top sides. This cross was made by Wilhelm Kunz
  • Type V Silver Cross with crown, 1914-1918, reverse: The same as the Type III cross except the crown has points on the top

I hope you enjoyed this blog. In part V of my discussion of the merit crosses I will describe some of the major variations of the Silver Merit Cross, the designer, the manufacturers of the decorations, the number issued and the cases in which the awards were issued. Until next time I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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