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 Ribbons, Attachments, Miniatures, and Documents associated with this award.

Miniature: Various miniatures are known to exist. I have provided images of some of them below.

Figure 1: Gold Merit Cross with crown and with war decoration and swords, miniature. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 2: Gold Merit Cross with crown on civil ribbon, miniature. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 3: Gold Merit Cross with crown with war decoration, miniature. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 4: Gold Merit Cross on civil ribbon, miniature. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 5: Silver Merit Cross with crown on civil ribbon, miniature. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 6: Silver Merit Cross with crown and with war decoration, miniature with attached bow. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 7: Gold Merit Cross and Gold Merit Cross with crown on a miniature chain. Image from the author’s archive

 

Figure 8: Court mounted group with the Gold Merit Cross with war decoration in the senior position. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Documents were issued with this decoration. An example is provided below.

 

Figure 9: Gold Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon document to Franz Liebing February 19, 1917. Image from the author’s archive.

Here are pictures of service personnel wearing the awards which I have been describing. Including in the bottom picture below an officer wearing two awards at the same time.

 

Figure 10: A Hungarian Ornogy (Major) wearing
the Gold Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon with swords. Image from the author’s archive

 

Figure 11: An Air Fleet Feldwebel wearing the Gold Merit Cross with crown on the war ribbon. Image courtacy of Roger Salisch.

 

Figure 12: A Quartermaster Lieutenant wearing two merit crosses: The Gold Merit Cross with crown on the civil ribbon and The silver Merit Cross with crown on the civil ribbon. Image from the author’s archive

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time I hope you find joy in our shared interest

4 Comments
  1. Mr. Lussier,

    Any chance there is an official list of 19th century winners of the Gold Merit Cross?

    • Dear Mr. Eaeckart

      I have not encountered a list of recipients for the Gold Merit Cross in my research. The only guidance I can provide is that if you are looking for a specific recipient and if that recipient is an officer then you could look them up on a reference from the Period. It is called the Ehrenbuch Der Osterreichischen Ungarischen Wehrmacht: Die Ausgezeichneten Im Weltkrieg. This book which came in several volumes had an alphabetical listing of all serving officers and a brief resume of their careers including awards received. There is also the Militar Schematismus des Osterreichischen Kaiserthums. These are directories of Austrian officers and their biographies including awards that were issued each year at least as early as 1820. Those for the years 1820, 1835, 1843, 1848, 1850, 1856 and 1865 are found on line here :kt.lib.pte.hu/konyvtar/kt04121801/tartalom.html, Schematismus for the years 1870, 1875, 1880 and 1885 are found here: kt.lib.pte.hu/konyvtar/kt04121802/tartalom.html. You may be able to find others on line as well but these are those I am aware of. I am sorry that I can not be more helpful but I have never even seen an valid and reliable list of the numbers of awards issued let alone a list of recipients.

      Rick

  2. Dear Mr. Lussier,
    I have a gold cross of merit from my great-grandfather but it looks slightly different than the pictures shown. Can you identify this one and it’s significance?
    Sincerely,
    Katy Rudie

    • Dear Ms. Rudie

      With the caveats that the picture is only of the reverse and is not especially clear I offer the following analysis. It appears to be a genuine gold merit cross from the period 1849-1918. The cross is on the civil ribbon that would indicate that it was issued for non-combat merit. These crosses were a reward for proven devotion to the Emperor and the fatherland, many years of valuable service, or other significant services in support of the public welfare. The crosses were originally awarded personally by the emperor which will give you a since of their value to the recipients. Recipients of the cross were entitled to add “Holder of the Service Cross” to their name. The cross could be awarded to men and women, although awards to Women were uncommon. It appears as if it may have a hallmark on the ring and on the ball suspension. If you can determine what these marks look like I may be able to give you more information about this cross. Also if you can tell me the diameter of the cross in millimeters I can probably narrow the dates when it was issued. Please check to see if the obverse center medallion can be opened like a locket. If so that would indicate that your cross is an early issue and probably of gold alloy. I hope this information proves helpful

      Rick

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