Légion d'honneur

Légion d'honneur

Infobox Military Award
name = Ordre de la Légion d'honneur

caption = Officier medal of the French "Légion d'honneur"
awarded_by = FRA
type = Order with five degrees
eligibility =
for = Excellent civil or military conduct delivered, upon official investigation
status = Open since 1802
description =
clasps =
established = May 19, 1802
first_award = July 14, 1804
last_award =
total =
posthumous =
recipients = The maximum quotas:
Knight: 125,000
Officer: 10,000
Commander: 1,250
Grand Officer: 250
Grand Cross: 75
individual =
higher ="None"
same =
lower = Ordre de la Libération

caption2 = Ordre de la Légion d'honneur streamer

The "Légion d'honneur" or "Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur" (National Order of the Legion of Honor) is a French order established by Napoléon Bonaparte, First Consul of the First Republic, on May 19, 1802. [French, translatable as "Legion of Hono(u)r" (see spelling differences), but known as the "Légion d'honneur" to avoid confusion with similarly-named decorations (e.g. the Philippine Legion of Honour)] This world-renowned Order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five various degrees: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-Croix (Grand Cross).

The order's motto is " _fr. Honneur et Patrie" (Honour and Fatherland), and its seat is the "Palais de la Légion d'Honneur" on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris.The award for the French Legion of Hono(u)r is known by many titles, also depending on the five levels of degree:Knight of the Legion of Honour; "Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur"; Officer of the Legion of Honour; "Officier de la Légion d'honneur"; Commander of the Legion of Honour; "Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur"; Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour; "Grand Officier de la Légion d'honneur"; Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour; "Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur". The word "honneur" is often capitalised, as in the name of the palace "Palais de la Légion d'Honneur".]



In the French Revolution all the orders of the kingdom were abolished. It was the wish of Napoléon Bonaparte, the First Consul and "de facto" sole ruler, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers and from this wish was instituted a "Légion d'Honneur", [Pierre-Louis Roederer, "Speech Proposing the Creation of a Legion of Honour", "Napoleon: Symbol for an Age, A Brief History with Documents", ed. Rafe Blaufarb (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008), 101-102.] a body of men that was not an order of chivalry, for Napoleon knew that France did not want a new nobility system, but an order of Merit. The Légion used however the organisation of old french Orders of Chivalry, like the Ordre de Saint-Louis.

The Légion was loosely patterned after a Roman Legion, with "légionnaires" (soldiers), officers, commanders, regional "cohorts" and a grand council; and the Emperor angrily rebuked anyone who called this institution an order. The highest rank was not a grand cross but a "grand aigle", a rank that wore all the insignia common to grand crosses. The members were paid, the highest of them extremely generously:
*5,000 francs to a "grand officier",
*2,000 francs to a "commandant",
*1,000 francs to an "officier",
*And 250 francs to a "légionnaire".

According to some sources Napoleon declared: " _fr. On appelle ça des hochets, je sais, on l'a dit déjà. Et bien, j'ai répondu que c'est avec des hochets que l'on mène les hommes." — "We call these children's toys, I know, it's been said already. Well, I replied that it's with such toys that one leads men." (The French word " _fr. hochet" means a child's rattle.) This has been often quoted as "It is with such baubles that men are led."

The order was the first modern order of merit. The orders of the monarchy were often limited to Roman Catholics and all knights had to be noblemen. The military decorations were the perks of the officers. The Légion, however, was open to men of all ranks and professions. Only merit or bravery counted. The new legionnaire had to be sworn in the Légion.

It is noteworthy that all previous orders were crosses or shared a clear Christian background, whereas the Légion is a secular institution. The jewel of the legion has five arms.

First Empire

In a decree issued on the tenth Pluviose XIII (January 30, 1805) a grand decoration was instituted. This decoration, a cross on a large sash and a silver star with an eagle became known as the "Grand Aigle", and later in 1814 as the "grand cordon" (French for "large sash"). After the reestablishment of the nobility in 1808, award of the Légion gave right to the title of "Knight of the Empire" ("chevalier de l'empire"). The title was made hereditary after three generations of grantees.

Napoleon had dispensed 15 golden collars of the legion among his kinsmen and the highest of his ministers. This collar was abolished in 1815.

Although research is made difficult by the loss of the archives, it is known that three women who fought with the army were decorated with the order: Virginie Ghesquière, Marie-Jeanne Schelling and a nun, Sister Anne Biget [The first recorded women's award is 1851, under Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte..

The Légion d'honneur was prominent and visible in the empire. The Emperor always wore it and the fashion of the time allowed for decorations to be worn most of the time. The king of Sweden therefore refused the order; it was too common in his eyes. Napoleon's own decorations were captured by the Prussians and were displayed in the "Zeughaus" (armory) in Berlin until 1945. Today, they are in Moscow.

Restoration of the Bourbon Kings in 1814

Louis XVIII changed the appearance of the order, but it was not abolished. This would have angered the 35-38,000 members. The images of Napoleon and his eagle were removed and replaced by the image of Henri IV, the popular first king of the Bourbon line. Three Bourbon Lilies ("fleur-de-lys") replaced the eagle on the reverse of the order. A king's crown replaced the imperial crown. In 1816 the grand cordons were renamed grand crosses and the legionnaires became knights. The king decreed that the commandants were now commanders. The legion became the second order of knighthood of the French monarchy, after the Order of the Holy Spirit.

July Monarchy

France's first constitutional monarch, King Louis-Philippe of the House of Orleans, restored the order of the Légion d'honneur in 1830 as the paramount decoration of the French nation. The insignia were drastically altered. The cross now displayed tricolor flags.Louis-Philippe abolished the other orders of the monarchy. In 1847, there were 47,000 members.

econd Republic

Yet another revolt in Paris (1848) brought a new republic and a new design to the Légion d'honneur.

A nephew of the founder, Prince Napoléon was elected president and he restored the image of his uncle on the crosses of the order. In 1852 the first recorded woman, Angélique Duchemin an old revolutionary of the 1789 uprising against the absolute monarchy, was admitted into the order. President Napoleon staged a coup d'état and made himself emperor of the French in 1852.

econd Empire

An Imperial crown was added. During Napoleon III's reign the first American was admitted — Dr. Thomas Wiltberger Evans, dentist of Napoleon III.

Third Republic

In 1870 the defeat of the army in the Franco-Prussian war brought another Republic. As France changed, the Légion d'honneur changed as well. The crown was replaced by a laurel and oak wreath. In 1871, during the Paris Commune, the "Hôtel de Salm", headquarters of the Légion, was burned to the ground in street fighting; the archives of the order were lost.

In the second term of Jules Grévy, newspaper journalists brought to light the trafficking of Grévy's son-in-law, Daniel Wilson, in the awarding of decorations of the Légion d'Honneur. Grévy was not accused of personal participation in these scandals, but he was slow to accept his indirect responsibility, which caused his eventual resignation on December 2, 1887.

During the First World War, some 55,000 decorations were conferred, 20,000 of which to foreigners. The large number of decorations results from the new posthumous awards authorised in 1918. Traditionally membership in the Légion could not be awarded posthumously.

Current organisation and officers

The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order — by convention, on the advice of the Government. Its principal officers are the Chancellor and Secretary-General.

Current officers of the Order include:
*Grand Master: Nicolas Sarkozy
*Grand Chancellor: Jean-Pierre Kelche
*Secretary-General: Jacques Carrère

French nationals, men and women, can be received into the légion, for "eminent merit" ("mérites éminents") in military or civil life. In practice, in current usage, the order is conferred, in addition to military recipients, to many entrepreneurs, high-level civil servants, sport champions [All Olympic Gold Medal winners are awarded the Légion.] in as well as other people with high connections in the executive. The members of the French Parliament cannot receive the order, except for valor in war , and ministers are not allowed to nominate their accountants.

French nationals are always initially received in the légion to the class of chevalier (knight). To be promoted to a higher class, one must prove new services to France and a set number of years must pass between appointment and promotion. The only exception is the President of the Republic, who is made a grand cross "de jure" upon his accession to the presidency. Foreigners are not admitted in the légion as such, but may be decorated with the insignia of the légion. A foreigner can be decorated directly with the insignia of a higher class. Foreign heads of state and the wives or consorts of monarchs are made Grand Cross as a courtesy.

The Order has a maximum quota of 75 Grand Cross, 250 Grand Officers, 1,250 Commanders, 10,000 Officers and 113,425 (ordinary) Knights. As of 2000 the actual membership was 61 Grand Cross, 321 Grand Officers, 3,626 Commanders, 22,401 Officers and 87,371 Knights.

It is a popular joke that half of France wants the order and the other half already owns it, but in reality most people have to content themselves with the less prestigious "National Order of Merit" awarded for "distinguished services".Fact|date=May 2008

Appointments of veterans of the Second World War, French military personnel involved in the North African Campaign and other foreign French military operations, as well as wounded soldiers, are made independently of the quota.

In 1998, all surviving veterans of the First World War from any allied country who had fought on French soil were made Knights of the Légion if they were not so already, as part of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the war's end. In December 2004, on the occasion of his 110th birthday, France's oldest surviving veteran of the war, Maurice Floquet, was promoted to Officer.

Members convicted of a severe crime (plain "crime" in French) are dismissed "de jure" from the order. Members convicted of a lesser felony ("délit" in French) can be dismissed too.

Wearing the decoration of the Légion d'honneur without having the right to do so is an offence. Wearing the ribbon or rosette of a foreign order of knighthood is prohibited if that ribbon is mainly red, like the ribbon of the Légion.

Collective appointments can also be made to cities, institutions, companies, or military units. In the case of a military unit, its flag is decorated with the insignia of a knight, which is a different award than the fourragère. Cities proudly display the decoration in their coat of arms.

Twenty-one schools, mainly higher educations schools providing the bulk of reserve officers during World Wars, were awarded the Légion d'honneur. They share this distinction with the Red Cross, the abbey of Our Lady of Dombes and the state-railway company SNCF.

Classes and insignia

The order has five classes:
* Two dignities :
** "Grand-Croix" (Grand Cross): Formerly "grande décoration", "grand aigle" or "grand cordon", wears the badge on a sash on the right shoulder, plus the star on the left chest.
** "Grand Officier" (Grand Officer): Wears the badge on a ribbon with a rosette on the left chest, plus the star on the right chest.
* Three ranks :
** "Commandeur" (Commander): Formerly "commandant", wears the badge on a necklet.
** "Officier" (Officer): Wears the badge on a ribbon with a rosette on the left chest.
** "Chevalier" (Knight): Formerly "légionnaire", wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest.

The sitting President of the Republic, as grand master of the order, wears the Grand Collar of the Légion, which is presented to him upon his investiture.

The "badge" of the Légion is a five-armed 'Maltese Asterisk' (for want of a better description — see Maltese Cross) in gilt (in silver for chevalier) enameled white, with an enameled laurel and oak wreath between the arms. The obverse central disc is in gilt, featuring the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend "République Française" on a blue enamel ring. The reverse central disc is also in gilt, with a set of crossed "tricolores", surrounded by the Légion's motto "Honneur et Patrie" (Honour and Fatherland) and its foundation date on a blue enamel ring. The badge is suspended by an enameled laurel and oak wreath.

The "star" (or "plaque") is worn by the Grand Cross (in gilt on the left chest) and the Grand Officer (in silver on the right chest) respectively; it is similar to the badge, but without enamel, and with the wreath replaced by a cluster of rays in between each arm. The central disc features the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend "République Française" (French Republic) and the motto "Honneur et Patrie".

The "ribbon" for the badge is plain red.

The badge or star is not worn usually, except at the time of the decoration ceremony or on a dress uniform. Instead, one normally wears the ribbon or rosette on one's suit.

=Gallery of

Louis XVIII era (1814) Knight insignia: the front features Henry IV's profile and the rear, the arms of the French Kingdom (three "fleurs de lis"). A royal crown joins the cross and the ribbon.
Chiang Kai-shek's "Légion d'honneur" plaque. In his days the plaque was made of silver.

The Order and other countries

Technically, membership in the Légion is restricted to French nationals [Légion Code, article 16] . Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds ["Les étrangers qui se seront signalés par les services qu’ils ont rendus à la France ou aux causes qu’elle soutient", Légion Code, art. 128] may however receive a distinction of the Légion, which is in nearly every aspect the same thing as membership in the Légion. Foreign nationals who live in France are submitted to the same prerequites as Frenchmen, but those who live abroad may receive a distinction of any rank or dignity in the Légion.

*In the United States, Generals of the Army Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur are among the 10,000 Americans who have received the decoration. In 1949, the Academies of West Point and Annapolis were also decorated. Although it is rare for an ambassador in Paris to be awarded the "Légion d'honneur", a posthumous exception was made for the United States ambassador Pamela Harriman in 1997. The last surviving American World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, also received this honour.

*Additionally, in the United Kingdom Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the late Lord Mountbatten have been decorated with the Grand Cross.

* English actor Sir Laurence Olivier became an Officer of the Légion d'Honneur.

*Australian General Sir John Monash was decorated with the Grand Officer during the First World War.

*A fictitious recipient of the Legion of Honour was Sherlock Holmes ("The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez").

*King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has been decorated with the Grand Cross.

*Japanese film director, film producer and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa received the award in 1984.

*Rand Araskog, an American executive, received the award in 1987. [ [http://www.palmbeachcivic.org/pivot/entry.php?id=12 Palm Beach Civic Association] ]

*Indian film director Satyajit Ray also received the award in 1987. President François Mitterrand went to Calcutta to give the award to Ray.

*His compatriot Sivaji Ganesan, one of the best actors in India, received the title of "Chevalier" on April 22, 1995.

*Richard Jenrette, an American investment banker, received the award in 1996. [ [http://www.nndb.com/people/738/000123369/ Richard Jenrette] ]

*Ross Steele, an Australian author and academic, received the title of "Chevalier" in 1996 [ [http://www.usyd.edu.au/handbooks/arts/05_staff_languages.shtml "University of Sydney Arts Handbook"] . University of Sydney. Retrieved 2008-08-02.] [ [http://www.ambafrance-au.org/lettres/douze/lettre_douze.htm "Consulat général de France à Sydney"] France In Australia. Retrieved 2008-08-02.]

*Quincy Jones, the American record producer and musician, received the award in March 2001. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1245767.stm BBC News] ]

*Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia, became a Commander of the Légion d'Honneur also in 2001.

*Joseph Walsh, former Irish Minister for Agriculture, received the Grand Cross in September 2002.

*Indian film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan received the award in 2003.

*Guadalupe Loaeza, a Mexican writer, also received the award in 2003. [ [http://www.biosstars.us/g/guadalupe_loaeza.htm Mini biography of Guadalupe Loaeza] ]

*Robert Parker, the American pre-eminent wine critic, received the title of "Officier" in 2005.

*Valentino, the Italian fashion designer, received the award in July 2006.

*Vladimir Putin, President of Russia at the time, received the award in September 2006. [ [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xhvhv_chirac-decore-poutine Video Chirac décore Poutine - Chirac, Poutine, Légion, d'honneur, Elysée - Dailymotion Share Your Videos] fr icon]

*Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, received the degree of Commander in 2007.

*Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood star of India, received the award in January 2007. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6044614.stm BBC news about Amitabh Bachchan's award of the Légion d'honneur] ]

*Clint Eastwood, the American film actor and director, received the award in February 2007. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6371461.stm BBC news about Clint Eastwood's award of the Légion d'honneur] ]

*David Lynch, the American film director, received the award in October 2007. [ [http://www.globalgoodnews.com/world-peace-a.html?art=1191356142257645 GGN news about David Lynch's award of the Légion d'honneur] ]

*Professors Lap-Chee Tsui and Malik Peiris from Hong Kong and Sri Lanka respectively were decorated as Knights also in October 2007.

*Leo Apotheker, co-CEO of German software company SAP received the award in December 2007.

*South Korean film director Im Kwon-taek also received the award in December 2007. [cite web |last=Lee|first=Hyo-won|url=http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2007/12/141_14567.html|title=France to Award Director Im Kwon-taek|date=2007-11-28|accessdate=2007-12-04|publisher=The Korea Times]

*HRH Galyani Vadhana, Her Royal Highness of Thailand, was decorated with the Grand Officer on 25 December, 2007 while she was ill and stayed at Sirirat Hospital (one week later she passed away). [http://www.uc.in.th/web/html/popup_news/Default.aspx?ColumnId=53315&NewsType=2&Template=1 th icon] [www.ambafrance-th.org/spip.php?article872 th icon]

*Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, received the award in March 2008. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3517500,00.html Sarkozy tells Peres France is Israel's true friend - Israel News, Ynetnews] ]

*Festus Mogae, the President of Botswana, also received the award in March 2008. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/fluxafp/fil_info.asp?reg_id=0&art_cle=43493 "Sarkozy décore le président du Botswana pour sa bonne gouvernance"] , AFP (Jeuneafrique.com), March 20, 2008 fr icon.]

*Steven Spielberg, the American film director, received the award in May 2008. [ [http://entertainment.uk.msn.com/celebrity/news/Article.aspx?cp-documentid=8350390 MSN article about Spielberg receiving the honour] ]

*Céline Dion, the Canadian singer, also received the award in May 2008. [http://cf.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/080413/arts/celine_legion_1]

*Randa Habib, the Lebanese-French director of Agence France Presse's office in Amman, Jordan, received the award in July 2008. [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jS2lLaxXE0cs3yrFIimt4iHQOkVA AFP: Légion d'honneur: Ingrid Betancourt, Dany Boon et Sonia Rykiel distingués] ]

*Íngrid Betancourt, a Colombian-French politician who was liberated after six years of captivity by the FARC in the Colombian jungles, also received the award in July 2008.

*Simon Serfaty, Professor of International Studies at Old Dominion University and the inaugural holder of the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was another July 2008 recipient.

Locations associated with the Order

A grand total of 68 cities and villages, amongst them Liège in 1914, Belgrade in 1920, Luxembourg in 1957 and Stalingrad (today's Volgograd) in 1984 were decorated, as were 51 regiments and the Military School of Autun.

The Order has its own "élite" boarding schools in Saint-Denis and Les Loges in the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. A thousand children and grandchildren of the members of the order are educated there. Any descendants of a recipient can study there.

ee also

* List of Légion d'honneur recipients by name
* List of prizes, medals, and awards
* Musée national de la Légion d'Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie
* Order (decoration)
* Order of the Garter
* Order of the Golden Fleece
* Ordre de la Libération
* Ordre National du Mérite
* Ribbons of the French military and civil awards
* State decoration


External links

* [http://www.legiondhonneur.fr/shared/fr/actus/factu.html Chancery of the Légion d'honneur] fr icon
* [http://www.ambafrance-ca.org/article.php3?id_article=430&var_recherche=Legion+of+Honor French Embassy in Canada article]

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