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A Most Unusual Early Grand Duchy of Baden Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross

Lorin E. Stapleton

In May of 2006, the auction firm Morton & Eden Ltd. of London sold an offering of Orders and medals which had been part of the American Numismatic Society Collection.  One such item was lot number 618, a Grand Duchy of Baden Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross, which attracted little serious attention amongst the other spectacular items which were offered.  Unfortunately, no information regarding the means by which the American Numismatic Society obtained this particular item was available in the catalogue.

The piece was probably dismissed as a modern “copy” by most prospective bidders, as it did not exactly match any of the known examples of Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Crosses.

In the 1817 Almanach der Ritter=Orden by Friedrich Gottschalck is a plate with a faithful representation of how the Order was designed to appear.  This work was published ten years after the Order was founded in 1807.  

Figure 1: Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order illustration from 1817.


Figure 2: Ex-American Numismatic Society Collection Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross Obverse.


Analysis of the design, workmanship, possible country of origin, and the possible date of manufacture of the Ex-American Numismatic Society piece

The ex-American Numismatic Society piece has some distinct differences which are readily apparent when compared to the early illustration.  The design variations would suggest that the piece was not made by a German jeweler under official contract by the Grand Duchy of Baden.

The first feature that is strikingly apparent is that the ex-ANS piece has small spheres at the end points of the cross arms.  This feature is noted on French Honor Legion Order pieces made after 1815.  It should be noted that prior to this period, Honor Legion Order pieces did not have this feature.  The small spheres were added to minimize the snagging of the arm tips on clothing, and to minimize chipping of the enamel of the Order if knocked against a hard object.  This change was therefore made out of necessity to improve the “wearability” and durability of the Order.  

Another notable difference is that the ex-ANS piece has two plain red-enameled supports connecting the crown to the body of the cross, instead of continuations of the laurel-wreath branches to form supports for the crown.  The red enamel is translucent over a hand-tooled guilloche pattern.  This type of variation is also found on Honor Legion badges from various eras.  The laurel-wreath branches do not appear at the ends of the horizontal cross arms on the ex-ANS piece.  

A third interesting feature of note is the fused grooved ribbon ring.  This type of ribbon ring is consistent with examples found on early 19th Century Orders of French manufacture.   

The three design variations listed above point to the possibility of the piece having a French influence regarding design and manufacture.  

There are also other subtle design variations that make this piece unlike the “official” design.  The laurel branches have no red berries, which is a feature that was faithfully included in all other existing representations of the Order that I have seen.  Further, at the bottom of the medallion rings, there are floral ornamentations consisting of seven dots, two lozenges at the sides of these, and two dots at the outer sides of these.  Two laurel sprays are usually found in this position on the medallion rings.   

The workmanship of the piece is also consistent with other Orders made in France (and other European countries) during the early 19th Century.  On the obverse center, the translucent red enamel covers a hand-tooled horizontal guilloche pattern.  The “C F” cipher was hand-applied in gold foil on top of the underlying enamel.  This is a similar technique to the lettering applied to contemporary Prussian Pour le Mérite Orders.  The crown is hinged so that it can swivel.  Some of the features of the crown are hand-chased, as are features of the binding and laurel branches underneath the lower cross arm.  

Figure 3: Ex-American Numismatic Society Collection Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross Reverse.  

The reverse center features a hand-tooled griffin in silver, separately applied to the center.  Behind the griffin application, is translucent red enamel, over a circular hand-tooled guilloche pattern.  

The cross body is made of an alloy with a very high gold content.  There are no hallmarks or maker’s marks found on this piece.  The absence of hallmarks is not typical for a piece of French manufacture, but it does not exclude the possibility of French origin altogether.  The cross is 37mm wide and 55mm high (excluding the ribbon ring).  The cross weighs 15.0g.  

The ribbon that accompanied this piece is made of silk, is 33mm in width, and is of the proper colors and pattern.  The ribbon is not from the early 19th Century however, and was manufactured at a later date (prior to 1918).  This is apparent due to the fineness of the silk weave.  Earlier ribbons usually had a coarser weave, as refinements in looms used in the manufacturing of ribbons did not allow for such quality until much later.  It is therefore assumed that this ribbon was added to the piece at a later time than when it was manufactured.  Such an addition could have been made by the recipient later in life, or by a collector.  

Figure 4: Ex-American Numismatic Society Collection Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross ribbon.

French recipients of the Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Cross  

All of the factors regarding the design and manufacturing methods used for this piece, as noted above, are consistent with pieces of French origin from the early 19th Century.  To explore the possibility of French origin further, we now examine the awards made to French recipients in the early 19th Century.  


Total number of awards



















Table 1: Awards of Military Karl Friedrich Merit Order Knight’s Crosses to French Officers from 1807 until 1857.

A total of 30 awards were made from 1807 until 1812, when the Grand Duchy of Baden was part of the Confederation of the Rhine . There were four awards made in 1814, just prior to the Grand Duchy of Baden joining the German Confederation in 1815. Also, from 1815 until 1857, there were only three awards.  In total therefore, there were only 37 awards of Knight’s Crosses to French Officers during this period.  It should be noted, that Knight’s Cross awards to foreign officers (from non-German states) also included awards made to Austrian Officers (15), and to Russian Officers (36) during this period.  However, analysis of the design features and workmanship of this piece, as noted above, make the possibility of Austrian or Russian origin unlikely.  

Manufacturing of foreign Orders by early 19th century jewelers  

During the early 19th Century, an officer who was awarded an Order by a foreign government would possibly only receive a notification of such an award in the form of a letter and/or a bestowal document.  It was then up to the recipient to contact a local jeweler to contract to have a representation of the Order in question manufactured at their cost.  The jeweler then had to either look in existing publications or pattern books to see what the Order was supposed to look like.  Or, if no illustration was available, they had to rely on a written description.  The jeweler would then use the methods and skills that they were familiar with in manufacturing the piece.  Such a process would account for variations of design in surviving foreign-made Orders.  In fact, each piece made under these circumstances was probably unique.  

In summary, this piece appears to have been made by a French jeweler, and to have been made in the early 19th Century.  It was probably a piece contracted for manufacture by one of the 37 French recipients noted above.  A piece such as this is almost certainly unique, and although it is technically a “copy”, it is of historical significance.  


Gottschalck, Friedrich. Almanach der Ritter=Orden. Georg Joachim Goeschen. Leipzig , 1817.  

Morton & Eden Ltd. Auction 19, Medals, Orders and Decorations from the Collection of the American Numismatic Society: Part 1. (21November 2007).

Zelosko, Frank. Für Badens Ehre, Militärischer Karl=Friedrich=Verdienstorden und Verdienstmedaille, 1807-1918, Erster Band. Frank Zelosko. Mosbach, 2003.

Copyright © Lorin E. Stapleton 2007

© 2005