The History of the French

Médaille d'Honneur pour Actes de Courage et de Dévouement


Edward Emering
Hendrik Meersschaert

Today, this innocuous little medal with its tri-color ribbon does not draw much attention.
In fact, its very appearance can easily lead the viewer to conclude it to be of no significance.

Refusing to “judge the medal by its cover” and lifting the pages reveals a long and varied history dating back to the pre-French Revolutionary Days of Louis XIV.
Originally conceived as fitting recompense for heroic deeds in situations where the coin of the realm had little or no meaning, these forerunners of today’s modern awards were works of art, created by the official engravers to the throne. In many cases though, mere monetary awards were proffered to the hero in question. This “system” of one off awards lead to both extensive variances as well as strong personalization in actual awards.

In the early years, the award seemed to be primarily a maritime recognition for sea rescues. In time though, the system was expanded to recognize all acts of bravery on a systematic basis. All of the iterations in this complex award as it developed from an art medal to a modern systematic recognition of heroic deeds, served as the basis for the preparation of this work.

Frustrated by the lack of any central reference source, my partner, Hendrik Meersschaert, and I sought out various experts on the different eras of the award. We are both extremely grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge and their images with the readers of this work. Personally, we were amazed at the depth and breadth of some of the private collections, especially those in Europe. In reflection, it made us feel humble when considering our own collecting activities.

With this in mind, we, the authors, hope those who peruse this work will benefit from the knowledge that we have assembled. It is our further hope that some viewer of this material will someday expand and elevate our initial work to a new and higher level.

Edward Emering - Hendrik Meersschaert

Part I - Ministry of the Interior

Initial Awards

The Revolution
The First Empire 1804-1814
The Bourbon Restoration 1814-1830
The Orleans (July) Monarchy 1830-1848
The Second Republic 1848-1852
The Second Empire 1852-1870
The Third Republic 1870-1940 and 1944-1947
The State of France (Vichy France) 1940-1944
The Fourth Republic 1947-1959 and the Fifth Republic 1959-Present

Part II - Ministry of the Marine (Navy) & the Merchant Navy

Bourbon Dynasty
The First Republic 1792-1804 and the First Empire 1804-1814
Bourbon Restauration (1814-1830)
The Orleans (July) Monarchy 1830-1848
The Second Republic 1848-1852
The Second Empire 1852-1870
The Third Republic 1870-1940 and 1944-1947
Purported First Award of the Marey Version

Current Awards

Part III - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Part IV - Special Colonial Lifesaving Awards
New Caledonia


75 Pages

Price 25 Euro