Order of Leopold (Belgium)

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Order of Leopold
Ordre de Léopold
Leopoldsorde
Leopold Order Commandeur Militaire post 1952.jpg
Order of Leopold (military commander's neck badge)
Awarded by Flag of Belgium.svg Kingdom of Belgium
Type Order of Merit with five degrees
Motto L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE -
EENDRACHT MAAKT MACHT
Day Awarded on 8 April (Birthday of King Albert I) and 15 November (King's Feast), and for obliging cases on 21 July (Belgian national holiday).
Eligibility Eligible for persons above the age of 42
Awarded for Belgian nationals or some distinguished foreign persons who made very important contributions to the Belgian state or society
Status Currently constituted
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Grand Cordon
Grand Officer
Commander
Officer
Knight
Statistics
Established 11 July 1832
First induction French Sapper Valentin Ausseil
Precedence
Next (higher) None (highest)
Next (lower) Order of the African Star

The Order of Leopold (Leopoldsorde in Dutch, Ordre de Léopold in French) is one of the three (current) Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood. It is the highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civilian division. The maritime division is only awarded to personnel of the merchant navy, and the military division to military personnel. The decoration was established on 11 July 1832 and is awarded for extreme bravery in combat or for meritorious service of immense benefit to the Belgian nation. The Order of Leopold is awarded by Royal Decree.

During the Second World War, the Order of Leopold was bestowed on the several officers of foreign militaries who had helped to liberate Belgium from the occupation of German forces. Famous recipients include Brand Whitlock, George S. Patton, Bernard Montgomery, Dwight Eisenhower, and Wesley Clark. The medal was also granted to Karel Bossart in 1962, and Josip Broz Tito in 1970.

Membership can only be granted by his majesty, King Philippe of Belgium and is reserved to the very most important Belgian nationals and to some distinguished foreign persons who contributed in one way to the Belgian military, the Belgian civil society or the Belgian State. Annually, there are two days when the King normally grants membership, on April 8 (King Albert I's birthday) and on November 15 (Day of the Belgian Dynasty).

No membership can be granted to a person before the age of 42, except in the military division.

Classes[edit]

The Order of Leopold is issued in five classes:

  • Grand Cordon ('Grand Cordon/Grootlint'), who wears the badge on a collar (chain) or on a sash on the right shoulder, plus the star on the left side of the chest;
  • Grand Officer ('Grand Officier/Grootofficier'), who wears a badge on a necklet, plus a star on the left side of the chest (created on 31 December 1838);
  • Commander ('Commandeur'), who wears the badge on a necklet;
  • Officer ('Officier'), who wears the badge on a ribbon with rosette on the left side of the chest;
  • Knight ('Chevalier/Ridder'), who wears the badge on a ribbon on the left side of the chest.

All five classes come in three divisions (civil, military, maritime).

Only the Belgian king is entitled to chair the order and to be named Grand Master ('Grand Maître/Grootmeester'). The Grand Cordon title is reserved in general for national and foreign royals, heads of state, Belgian senior cabinet ministers and former Prime Ministers, 3-star generals and a few senior civil servants.

Insignia[edit]

The collar of the Order is in gold, with nine crowns, nine face-to-face monograms "LR" (for "Leopoldus Rex" for King Leopold I), and eighteen lions.

The badge of the Order is a white-enamelled Maltese Cross, in silver for the Knight class and in gold for the higher classes, with a green-enamelled wreath of laurel and oak leaves between the arms of the cross. The obverse central disc features a lion on a black enamel background; the reverse central disc has the face-to-face monogram "LR" (for King Leopold I); both discs are surrounded by a red enamel ring with the motto "Unity Is Strength" in French (L'union fait la force) and in Dutch (Eendracht maakt macht). The cross is topped by a crown, which might have crossed swords (military division) or anchors (maritime division) underneath it. The civil division has neither swords nor anchors.

The plaque of the Order is an eight-pointed faceted silver star for the Grand Cordon class, and a silver faceted Maltese Cross with straight rays between the arms for the Grand Officer class. The central disc has a lion on a black enamel background, surrounded by a red enamel ring with the motto as on the badge. Golden crossed swords or anchors might be added behind the medallion, depending on division.

The ribbon of the Order is usually plain purple. However, if the Order is warded in special circumstances, the ribbon of the Officer and Knight classes show the following variations:

  • Crossed swords are added to the ribbon when awarded in wartime (if the Order was awarded during the Second World War or during the Korean War, a small bar is added to the ribbon mentioning the name of the war);
  • The ribbon has a vertical gold border on both sides when awarded for a special act of valour at war;
  • The ribbon has a central vertical gold stripe when awarded for an exceptionally meritorious act in war time;
  • A silver star is added to the ribbon when awarded for meritorious acts of charity;
  • A gold star is added to the ribbon when the recitpent has been mentioned in despatches at the national level;
  • Silver or gold palms are added to the ribbon when awarded in wartime to military personnel.

Stars and borders or stripes can be awarded together, but these deviations are currently only rarely awarded. The colour of the ribbon has varied during the nineteenth century from red to purple.

The ribbon bar of the order, which is worn on the semi-formal dress uniform is:

Ribbon bars
Grand Crest Ordre de Leopold.png
Grand Cordon
Grand Officer Ordre de Leopold.png
Grand Officer
Commander Ordre de Leopold.png
Commander
Officer Ordre de Leopold.png
Officer
Chevalier Ordre de Leopold.png
Knight

Since 1921, insignas of the Order not awarded in war time have to be purchased by the recipient.

Award Conditions[edit]

Current Award Conditions of Belgian National Orders[edit]

National Orders are awarded by Royal Decree at fixed dates: 8 April (Birthday of King Albert I), 15 November (King's Feast), and in some cases on 21 July (Belgian national holiday) to reward meritorious services to the Kingdom of Belgium based on the career path and age of the recipient. A number of different regulations rule the award of National Order for the various ministries. In addition, the National Orders may be awarded by the King for especially meritorious deeds. The Royal Decrees are published in the Belgian Official Journal (Moniteur Belge).

Top part: Grand Cordon Star - civil and military divisions (left), Grand Cordon sash (middle), Grand Officer plaques - civil and maritime divisions (right). Bottom part: Commander's Cross (civil division), officer's cross (military division), officer's cross (civil division), officer's cross (maritime division), knight's cross (military division) (courtesy Société de l'Ordre de Léopold)

The Minister responsible for Foreign Affaires, currently the Federal Public Service (SPF/FOD) Foreign Affairs, administers the national orders and has a role of advisor in cases not fitting within a regulation.

For the award of National Orders for persons to which no regulation apply or has been adopted, the number of awards is limited every year by decision of the Council of Ministers (contingent).

The classes of the National Orders are integrated in a combined hierarchy defined by law, whereby within one class the Order of Leopold is senior to the Order of the Crown, which is senior to the Order of Leopold II. Except in some specific cases, one cannot be awarded a National Order at a level below the highest that the recipient has already received (e.g. a commissioned officer who become a Commander of the Order of Leopold II because of meritorious personal service to the King before he became a Knight of the Order of Leopold may not be awarded the latter decoration or that of Officer of the Order of Leopold).

Persons who are the subject of criminal proceedings will usually not be awarded a National Order until they are declared not guilty.

Award of the Order of Leopold in the Military Division[edit]

The Order of Leopold in the Military Division (with crossed swords under the crown) is awarded to military personnel on the basis of their length of service, with the years of initial training counting for half:

For awards to military personnel, there is no minimum age requirement. The Order of Leopold is also sometimes awarded to military personnel not meeting the above requirements when they have performed especially meritorious services to the King.

Award of the Order of Leopold in the Maritime Division[edit]

The Order in the Maritime Division (with crossed anchors under the crown) is only awarded to members of the merchant navy, as members of the Belgian Navy are awarded the Order in the Military Division. The Order of Leopold is currently almost never awarded in the Maritime Division.

Award Conditions for Long Civilian Service[edit]

The Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold may be awarded to workers in the private sector or contractual employees of the public sector after fifty-five years of professional activity.

The Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold is also awarded to the members of the national and provincial committees for the promotion of labour who have reached the age of 42 after a tenure of 20 years (national committee) or 30 years (provincial committee).

The Association of the Order of Leopold[edit]

Originally founded in 1932 on the occasion of the centenary of the creation of the Order of Leopold as "Société d’entraide des membres de l’Ordre de Léopold" / "Vereniging tot onderlinge hulp aan de leden van de Leopoldsorde" (Mutual aid society for the members of the Order of Leopold), the Association of the Order of Leopold (Vereniging van de Leopoldsorde in Dutch, Société de l'Ordre de Léopold in French) is a non-profit association that has as main objectives the maintenance of the prestige emanating from the nation’s highest distinction and the material and moral assistance between the members, decorated with the Order, who voluntarily join the Association. The Association is headquartered in Brussels, and its members include many famous people such as federal ministers, members of parliament and senior general officers.

Equivalent Orders[edit]

Even though orders from different States are not always easy to compare, the Order of Leopold is roughty equivalent to the following orders from other States.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Law of 1 May 2006 on the Award of Honours in the National Orders (Moniteur Belge of 24 October 2006)
  • Law of 28 December 1838 Creating the Rank of Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold (Moniteur Belge of 31 December 1838)
  • Law of 11 July 1832 Creating a National Order called Order of Leopold (quoted in full in Trinaux, below)
  • Royal Decree of 13 October 2006 Defining the Rules and Procedure for the Award of Honours in the National Orders (Moniteur Belge of 24 October 2006)
  • Royal Decree of 24 January 1994 Creating the Insigna of Two Crossed Swords topped by a Bar Showing the Mention Korea
  • Royal Decree of 18 April 1983 Creating the Insigna of Two Crossed Swords topped by a Bar Showing the Millesimes 40-45
  • Royal Decree of 16 February 1934 Creating a Maritime Division to the Order of Leopold (Moniteur Belge of 17 March 1934)
  • Royal Decree of 24 June 1919 Creating gold borders, gold stripes and gold stars for the National Orders Awarded in War Time (Moniteur Belge of 11–12 August 1919)
  • Royal Decree of 15 November 1915 Creating Palms for the National Orders Awarded in War Time (Moniteur Belge of 28–30 November and 1–4 December 1915)
  • Royal Decree of 3 August 1832 Determining the Form of the Decoration of the Order of Leopold (quoted in full in Tripnaux, below)
  • Belgian military regulation A83 on Military Decorations
  • Belgian military regulation DGHR-REG-DISPSYS-001 of 20 February 2006
  • Belgian Ministry of Labour (SPF Emploi, Travail et Concertation Sociale), Clés pour les décorations du travail (Brussels: 2008)
  • Borné A.C., Distinctions honorifiques de la Belgique, 1830-1985 (Bruxelles: 1985)
  • Van Hoorebeke P., 175 Ans de l'Ordre de Léopold et les Ordres Nationaux Belges (MRA: 2007)
  • Tripnaux E., L'Origine de l'Ordre de Léopold (Association of the Order of Leopold: 2008)

External links[edit]