The Order of the Red Eagle (
German: Roter Adlerorden) was an
order of chivalry of the
Kingdom of Prussia. It was awarded to both military personnel and civilians, to recognize valor in combat, excellence in military leadership, long and faithful service to the kingdom, or other achievements. As with most German (and most other European) orders, the Order of the Red Eagle could only be awarded to commissioned officers or civilians of approximately equivalent status. However, there was a medal of the order, which could be awarded to non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, lower ranking civil servants and other civilians.
The predecessor to the Order of the Red Eagle was founded on 17 November 1705, by the
MargraveGeorg Wilhelm of
Brandenburg-Bayreuth as the Ordre de la Sincerité. This soon fell into disuse but was revived in 1712 in Brandenburg-Bayreuth and again in 1734 in
Brandenburg-Ansbach, where it first received the name of "Order of the Brandenburg Red Eagle". The statutes were changed in 1777 and the order named therein as the "Order of the Red Eagle". The order was conferred in one class, limited to fifty knights.
Kingdom of Prussia absorbed both Brandenburg-Bayreuth and Brandenburg-Ansbach in January 1792, and on 12 June 1792, King
Frederick William II again revived the order as a Prussian royal order. After the
Order of the Black Eagle, the Order of the Red Eagle was the second highest order of the kingdom in order of precedence. Every Knight of the Black Eagle now automatically became a member of the contemporary highest class of the Order of the Red Eagle.
In 1810, King
Frederick William III revised the statutes of the order, expanding it into three classes. In 1830, a breast star was authorized for the Second Class and the
First Class General Honor Decoration became the Fourth Class of the order. The statutes were further revised in 1861, and a Grand Cross was established as the highest class of the order. By change to the statutes of the Order of the Black Eagle, every member of that order was automatically invested with the new Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle, as well as with the Order of the Prussian Crown. By 1918, an affiliated soldier's medal had been made available to commoners and enlisted men.
Following the Kaiser's abdication at the close of the
First World War, a new German constitution was signed into law on 11 August 1919, effectively putting a legal end to the monarchy. All orders and decorations formally conferred by the monarchy ceased to exist, but recipients of the Order of the Red Eagle continued to wear it with their other decorations during the eras of the
Weimar Republic, the
Third Reich, and the
By the time of World War I, the order had evolved into four classes, two of them divided in two divisions each, and an affiliated medal:
Grand Cross – enameled Maltese cross badge worn on a collar (the Kette, or "chain") at ceremonial occasions or, at other formal occasions, on a sash on the right shoulder; plus a gilt, eight-pointed breast star worn on the left chest; typically awarded to male members of the royal family, to members of the Order of the Black Eagle, to
noblemen, and to foreign royalty
1st Class – oversized, enameled cross pattée badge worn on a sash on the right shoulder, plus a silver, eight-pointed breast star on the left chest; available to general officers, high nobility, and heads of foreign state
2nd Class – enameled cross pattée badge worn on a neck ribbon, plus a silver, four-pointed breast star on the left chest; available to general officers and nobility
2nd Class with star
3rd Class – enameled cross pattée badge worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to (usually no lower than) field grade officers and minor nobility
4th Class – non-enameled cross pattée badge worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to company grade officers
Medal – round gilt medal worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to enlisted men
Within these seven grades, however, were a bewildering array of variations. Among these were:
All classes but the Medal of the Red Eagle Order could be awarded with swords for distinction in wartime. The swords passed through the arms of the cross behind the center medallion.
All classes above the 4th Class could be awarded with "Swords on Ring", indicating that the recipient of that class without swords had earlier received a lower class of the order with swords. A pair of crossed swords were worn above the cross on the suspension ring or above the medallion on the upper arm of the breast star.
All classes could be awarded with or without crown as an added distinction.
The Grand Cross, 1st and 2nd Class could be awarded with oak leaves, indicating prior receipt of the next lower class of the order, and/or with diamonds, as a special distinction.
Royal family members (who were automatically awarded the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order, per statute of the Order of the Black Eagle) were awarded the Grand Cross "with crown." The Maltese cross badge was suspended from a miniature of the Prussian crown, which covered the usual suspension ring.
The Grand Cross was awarded at least once with crossed marshals' batons, as was awarded to Paul von Hindenburg. The crossed batons were worn above the Maltese cross badge of the Grand Cross, on its suspension ring.
The 3rd Class could be awarded with bow (Schleife), indicating prior receipt of the 4th Class.
For 50 years of service, a Red Eagle recipient received the "Jubilee Number" (Jubiläumszahl), a round medallion with the number "50" on it, affixed to the suspension ring or to the oak leaves or the ring of the bow, if applicable.
There were also a set of special versions, the Stars 1st through 4th Class, for non-Christians.
The badge of the order for the Grand Cross was a gold (
gilt after 1916)
Maltese cross enameled in white, with red enameled eagles between the arms of the cross; the gold central disc bore the Royal monogram, surrounded by a blue enameled ring bearing the motto of the Order, Sincere et Constanter.
The badge for the 1st to 3rd classes was a gold (gilt after 1916)
cross pattée, enameled in white; that for the 4th class was similar but with smooth, plain silver arms. After 1879 the silver arms of the 4th class cross were pebbled in texture and appearance. The central disc bore the red eagle on a white enamel background on the obverse, with the royal cipher of King Friedrich Wilhelm surmounted by the Prussian crown on the reverse. The enlisted man's medal was of a relatively simple, round design, topped with the Prussian crown, with a depiction of the regular badge in the center of the medal on the obverse, with the royal cipher of the reigning monarch on the reverse.
The breast star of the order was (for the Grand Cross) a golden eight-pointed star, (for 1st Class) a silver eight-pointed star, or (for 2nd Class) a silver four-pointed star with a white enameled cross pattée, all with straight rays. The central disc bore the red eagle on a white enamel background, surrounded by a ring (enameled blue for Grand Cross, white for the others) bearing the motto of the Order, Sincere et Constanter.
After September 16, 1848, awards of all classes (except the medal) bestowed for military merit had two golden swords crossed through the central medallion.
The traditional ribbon of the order was white with two orange stripes at the edges, but combat awards were frequently conferred with a black and white ribbon similar to that of the Iron Cross. Numerous variations of the ribbon existed, depending on the nature of the specific award.
Karl Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth (2/24/1736 – 1/5/1806), Sovereign from August 3, 1757 to January 16, 1791, when the two territories were annexed by Prussia
Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia (9/25/1744 – 11/16/1797), revived the Order as its first Sovereign as a Prussian order, June 12, 1792 – 11/16/1797
Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia (8/3/1770 – 6/7/1840), Sovereign from 11/16/1797 – 6/7/1840; revised the statutes in 1810 to add 2nd and 3rd classes; added 2nd class breast star and a 4th class, 1830
What follows are some additional details on a fair cross section of individuals who were known to be conferred with the order in its several classes, in order of precedence. The Order of the Red Eagle was conferred frequently upon foreign nationals, both royal and non-royal, to honor their individual position or work and to further the diplomatic relations with their respective nations, in much the same way that the
Order of the Bath is still conferred by the British monarchy.
Albrecht Theodore Emil, Graf von Roon (1803–1879) – previous 3rd Class Knight, automatically awarded the Grand Cross in conjunction with being awarded with the Order of the Black Eagle, ca 1866, for service during the war with Austria, immediately after his success at the battle of Nikolsburg.
Otto Theodor Freiherr von Manteuffel (1805–1882), Prussian Minister of the Interior (Prime Minister), 1848; awarded the Grand Cross, with Scepter and Crown, by Friedrich Wilhelm IV
Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, Prince Metternich-Winnebourg-Ochsenhausen (German: Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein), Austrian Foreign Minister, 1809–1848
Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1868–1937), grandson of Queen Victoria, husband of Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm II, invested with the Grand Cross or the 1st Class (?)
Alfred von Tirpitz, awarded the Order, 1st Class, with Oak Leaves, on the occasion of Kaiser Wilhelm II's birthday, January 27, 1900 (Source: New York Times)
Dr. Studt, Minister of Public Instruction, awarded the Order, 1st Class, on the occasion of Kaiser Wilhelm II's birthday, January 27, 1900
Count Hochberg, awarded the Order, 1st Class, on the occasion of Kaiser Wilhelm II's birthday, January 27, 1900
Generalleutnant á la suite Viktor Adolph Theophil von Podbielski (1844–1916), hussar general, Prussian Minister of Agriculture, Postmaster General, and President of the German Olympic Committee; awarded 1st Class with oak leaves and crossed swords, on the occasion of Kaiser Wilhelm II´s birthday January 27, 1902
Gen der INF
Otto von Below (1857–1944), awarded the Order, 2nd Class, with oak leaves and with breast star, bef. 1914
Gen. der INF
Karl Rttr von Fasbender of Bavaria (1852–1933), conferred with the Order, 2nd Class, with Crown, and with breast star
Gen der INF Paul Rttr von Kuenßl of Bavaria (1862–1928), awarded the 2nd Class with swords, 12 JUN 1915; previously awarded the 4th Class, pre-World War I
Gen-Lt Nikolaus Rttr von Endres of Bavaria (1862–1938), awarded the 2nd Class with swords24 AUG 1917; previously awarded the 3rd Class with swords, pre-World War I
Gen-Lt (later Gen der KAV)
Alfred von Kühne (1853-1945); awarded the 2nd Class in 1912 when he first retired from the army.
Gen der Kav
Ludwig Freiherr von Gebsattel of Bavaria (1857–1930), awarded the 2nd Class with breast star; previously awarded the 3rd Class with Crown
Gen-Lt (later Gen der KAV)
Otto von Stetten of Bavaria (1862–1937); awarded the 2nd Class, prior to World War I
Gen-Lt ( and later Gen der ARTy) Hermann frhr von Stein (1859–1928); awarded the 2nd Class with swords & the 2nd Class breast star with swords, 20 JAN 1917; previously awarded the 3rd Class, prior to World War I
Gen-Maj ( later Gen-Lt) Ludwig Rttr von Tutschek of Bavaria (1864–1937); awarded the 2nd Class with Swords, 3 Feb 1917; previously awarded the 4th Class, prior to World War I
Gen-Lt (later Gen der INF)
Hermann von Kuhl (1858–1956); awarded the 2nd Class with Oak Leaves and swords, and the 2nd Class breast star, 15 JAN 1916 & 12 JAN 1918
Wilhelm Gröner of Württemberg (1867–1939), awarded the 2nd Class with Crown & Swords, and with breast star, 15 Jun 1918; previously awarded the 2nd Class w/o breast star (16 AUG 1917), 3rd Class (19 JUL 1913), 4th Class with Crown (17 Sep 1909); & 4th Class (11 SEP 1907)
Gen-Lt Constantin Wilhelm Albert Müller, awarded the breast star of the Order, 2nd Class, with Oak leaves and Swords, by Kaiser Wilhelm II, 10/23/1918; Previously awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords
Franz von Hipper (?), German hero of the Battle of the Jutland; awarded the Order, 2nd Class; previously awarded the 3rd Class with Bow and 4th Class with Crown
Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) and Admiral à la suite (honorary [full] Admiral) Bernhard Otto Curt von Prittwitz und Gaffron (1849–1922); veteran of the Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War, closely linked with Großadmiral (Grand Admiral)
Prince Heinrich of Prussia, his frequent predecessor in various naval command stations.
Baron Guenther Heinrich von Berg (1765–1843) Statesman, Doctor of Law, Judge, Legislator. Invested 28 June 1820.
Bernard Hebeler (1794-1862) Prussian Consul-General awarded the Order 2nd Class, by Frederick William IV of Prussia, 1842
Mustafa-ed-din Bey, Turkish First Dragoman, awarded the 2nd Class (for non-Christians), September 14, 1855
Mohammed Essad Safvet-Effendi, Turkish Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, awarded the 2nd Class (for non-Christians), September 14, 1855
Admiral of the Fleet Sir
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe of Great Britain (1859–1935), awarded the Order, 2nd Class, with swords, for actions in China during the Boxer Rebellion, where he served as a captain.
Charles Thomas Jackson, American physician and scientist who was active in medicine, chemistry, mineralogy, and geology.
Frederick J.V. Skiff, Field Museum of Chicago, Paris Exhibition (1900) organizer, and Director of Exhibits, St. Louis Exhibition (1906), awarded 2nd Class, Jan 12, 1906, for work with the St. Louis World's Fair
Oberst Friedrich von Scholl, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords, 1895
Oberst Pavel, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords for actions in Cameroon, 1902
Hauptmann (army Captain) Franke, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords, for actions in South West Africa (Namibia), 1904
Käptain zur Sea (naval Captain) Pohl, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords for actions in East Asia, 1905
Oberst (future Generalleutnant) Constantin Wilhelm Albert von Müller, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords for actions in Cameroon, 1905
John Schroers, Chairman of Education and the Educational Congresses, and later Director of the St. Louis World's Fair, 1904–1906; awarded the 3rd Class, Feb 23, 1905, for work with the
St. Louis World's Fair
Oberstleutnant von Estorff, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords for actions in South West Africa, 1905
Howard J. Rogers, Chief of the Department of Education & Social Economics, involved with
St. Louis Exhibition (1906); awarded the 3rd Class, Jan. 12, 1906, for work with the St. Louis World's Fair
Oberst Constantin von Falkenhayn, commander of 5. Badisches Infantry-Regiment Nr 113, awarded the 3rd Class, with Bow, June 1913
Oberst (Colonel) Richard Franz Joseph Haegele, awarded the 3rd Class, with Bow and Swords (two times black, three white striped ribbon), 12/14/1916
Oberst Scmidt, awarded the 3rd Class, with Bow and Swords (2 x black, 3 x white), 12/22/1917
Rittmeister (cavalry Captain)
Manfred Albrecht Frhr von Richthofen (1892–1918) also known as "The Red Baron", awarded the 3rd Class, with Crown & Swords, for earning an unprecedented 70th aerial victory as Germany's top fighter ace of the Great War, April 6, 1918. This was one of only two such awards during the Great War for someone of company grade rank.
Oberst Klehmet, awarded the 3rd Class, with Bow and Swords (2 x black, 3 x white), 5/25/1918
Oberstleutnant Maercker, awarded the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords for actions during the Great War, November 16, 1918
Mathew Kiely, Chief of Police St. Louis, Missouri (1901–1906), received the Order 3rd Class for his department's commendable performance during the 1902 visit of Prince Henry
Hauptmann Curt von Brandenstein, 1879-1964, Pour le Me'rite 26.9.1918, HOH w/ Swords, Hessian Bravery medal, Leibregiment Grossherzogin (3. Grossherzoglich Hessisches) Nr.117
Captain von Dresky (later Rear Admiral) – awarded the 4th Class, with swords, for actions at Miang while in command of the cruiser SMS Habicht
Hauptmann (Captain) Constantin von Falkenhayn, awarded the 4th Class, for service in the Füsilier-Regiment Fürst Karl-Anton von Hohenzollern (Hohenzollernsches) Nr 40, January 1900
Rittmeister Richard Franz Joseph Haegele, awarded the 4th Class, 10/21/1901, for service as commander of the East Asian Field Bakery in the Prussian Army; Later awarded the 4th Class with Swords, for actions in South West Africa (modern day Namibia)
Heinrich Johannes Halke, awarded the 4th Class, 1/18/1886
Rittmeister (later Generalmajor) Arthur Hay, prior-enlisted cavalry officer, May 12, 1901
General Wilhelm Heye, awarded the 4th Class with swords
Paul von Hindenburg (later GFM & Reichspräsident) – awarded the 4th Class, with swords, after actions against the Austrians at Königrätz, July 3, 1866
Charles John Hexamer (1862-1921), co-founded and first president of the National German-American Alliance, awarded in 1904
Tarleton Hoffman Bean (1846–1916), first Curator of Fishes at the Smithsonian Institution; Director of the Forestry and Fisheries exhibit at the Paris Exhibition, 1900; Chief of the Departments of Fish, Game and Forestry, St. Louis World's Fair, 1902–05; awarded the 4th Class, Jan 12, 1906, for work with the St. Louis World's Fair
Joseph Austin Holmes (1859–1915), geologist, and first director of the Bureau of Mines, credited with advances in mine safety, and for the slogan "Safety First"; Chief of Mines and Metallurgy at the St. Louis World's Fair, 1904–1906; awarded the 4th Class, Jan 12, 1906, for work with the St. Louis World's Fair
F.D. Hirschberg, Chairman of Reception and Entertainment, St Louis World's Fair, 1904–1906; awarded the 4th Class, Jan 12, 1906, for work with the St. Louis World's Fair
Otto Jaekel (1863-1929), geologist and paleontologist, awarded April 3, 1913
Carl Friedrich Rohte, awarded the 4th Class, 8/22/1907, for service to the Crown
Hermann Aleksander Eduard von Salza, Russian Navy, 1910
Ernst Friederich Ludwig Scheyder, Amtsrat, presented with Red Eagle August 10, 1911, for dedicated service to the crown
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), mechanical engineer; President of the American Society of mechanical Engineers, who is credited for innovations in management principles; awarded the 4th Class, Jan. 12, 1906, for work with St. Louis World's Fair
Adolf Werner (Artillery Officer), awarded the 4th Class, 1904