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The Prince Electors Saxon St. Henry Order - thoughts on secondary literature research

Prince Elector Friedrich August II. of Saxony, King of Poland and son of August the Strong, thought about rewarding his military personnel with a new order quickly after taking the thrown in 1733. He choose Henry II. (1002-1024) as the new orders patron.


On October 7, 1736, the knight military order of the holly Henrico was therefore founded.


The tie between Saxony and Poland ceased to exit with the death of August II. in 1763. Since Prince Elector Friedrich August III. was still not of legal age at the time his brother Prince Xaver took over the administration until 1768. 


Img 1: Friedrich August III.

Img 2: Prince Xaver


He resurrected the Military St. Henry order after it fell dormant during the last years. Following a cooper plate showing the 1796 design:


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Img 3: Cooper Plate 1796


Only seven knights were bestowed in total in 1796.


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 Img 4: List of the few knight cross recipients in 1796


Napoleon lifted the Saxon Electorate in 1806 to a proper kingdom and Prince Elector Friedrich August III. from now on King Friedrich August I. of Saxony changed the old design of his order by altering the medallion and upgrading to a proper kings crown.


Finally on December 23, 1829, proper statues to the order were released by his successor King Anton.


The following knight cross seems to be an example of this timeframe. Still showing Prince Xaver's name on the medallion wreath it already has the king's crown. A sensational find since the literature claims none of the early crosses survived.


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Img 5: Avers

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Img 6: Reverse


But is this really on of the seven in 1796 awarded pieces that somehow was adapted in 1807, since the motto reads:"XA P... OLO * DUX ET RO * 1738" But why does St. Henry hold a palm branch in his hand instead of the sword? Here a detailed image of the center medallion:



Unfortunately after further research it becomes clear that we are looking at a later French manufactured decoration. The literature stays correct with its statements that no example from 1806 and earlier exist.


A.M.Perrot's book, "Ritterorden der verschiedenen Nationen" from 1821 does picture a similar piece. Besides the motto we find the palm branch here as well:


Img 8: From Perrot: "XA. PRIN. POLO. DUX ET RO 1738."


During the earlier part of the 19th century images from books were very often used to craft an actual order decoration. This is especially true if a recipient in a foreign country had to obtain an example for reasons of destruction or loss. Most imagery from period literature was based on descriptions in order statues which left the illustrator with wide margin of error in his interpretation of the actual design.

It is therefore normal to find order decorations from the earlier 19th century that are not exactly true to the correct design. 

Image 3 from D.Weber/P.Arnold/P.Keil, "Die Orden des Königreich Sachsen"


  © A. Schulze Ising, IV/13

© 2005