The National Order of Merit (French: Ordre national du Mérite) is a Frenchorder of merit with membership awarded by the President of the French Republic, founded on 3 December 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. The reason for the order’s establishment was twofold: to replace the large number of ministerial orders previously awarded by the ministries; and to create an award that can be awarded at a lower level than the Legion of Honour, which is generally reserved for French citizens. It comprises about 187,000 members worldwide.
Chevalier (Knight): to be of a minimum age of 35, have a minimum of 10 years of public service (although, in practice, 15 years is the minimum commonly needed to be conferred the rank of Chevalier), and "distinguished merits" (for active duty commissioned officers, this is achieved after fifteen years of meritorious service)
Officier (Officer): minimum of 5 years in the rank of Chevalier (for active duty commissioned officers, this is achieved after seven years in the rank of Chevalier)
Commandeur (Commander): minimum of 5 years in the rank of Officier (for active duty commissioned officers, this is achieved after five years the rank of Officier)
Grand Officier (Grand Officer): minimum 3 years in the rank of Commandeur
Grand-Croix (Grand Cross): minimum 3 years in the rank of Grand Officier
Grand-Croix - wears the badge on a sash on the right shoulder, plus the star on the left chest;
Grand Officier - wears the badge on a ribbon with rosette on the left chest, plus the star on the right chest;
Commandeur - wears the badge on a ribbon around the neck;
Officier - wears the badge on a ribbon with rosette on the left chest;
Chevalier - wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest.
Reverse of the Knight's insignia of the Order
The medal and the plaque of the Order were designed by the French sculptor Max Leognany.
The medal of the order is a six-armed Maltese asterisk in gilt (silver for chevalier) enamelled blue, with laurel leaves between the arms. The obverse central disc features the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend République française (French Republic). The reverse central disc has a set of crossed tricolores, surrounded by the name of the order and its foundation date. The badge is suspended by a laurel wreath.
The star (plaque) is worn by Grand-Croix (in gilt on the left breast) and Grand Officier (in silver on the right breast) respectively; it is a twelve-armed sunburst, with rays (formerly plain, now in blue enamel) between the arms. The central disc features the head of Marianne, surrounded by the legend République française and the name of the Order, and in turn surrounded by a wreath of laurel.
The ribbon for the medal is a solid blue field. For the grade of Officier and above, a rosette is centered in the field. For the grades of Commandeur, Grand Officier, and Grand-Croix, the rosette is centered bar of silver; silver and gold, and a solid gold respectively.