The History Behind the Navy’s Merit Medal

<p>Hæderstegnsmiddagen afholdes i Christian VII's Palæ, Amalienborg.</p>
Taffelsalen i Christian VII's Palæ, Amalienborg
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This evening, HM The Queen holds the Merit Medal dinner for the Navy’s officers with participation by the Crown Prince Couple. The dinner takes place in the Banquet Hall in Christian VII’s Palace, Amalienborg.

Every year, HM The Queen holds the Merit Medal dinner for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, respectively. The Merit Medal dinner is held alternately among the three services, and this year those invited are officers of admiral and commander rank who have received the Merit Medal for good service in the Navy.

Holmen’s Medal, which the Navy’s medal is also called, is the oldest of the military service decorations. The merit medal’s history goes all the way back to 29 January 1801, when King Christian VII established it on his birthday upon recommendation from the Admiralty and Commissariat’s Department. 

Behind the establishment of the medal were challenges to “retain good workers” at shipyards, as it was stated. The Admiralty and Commissariat’s Department was concerned that Denmark could risk no longer having a well-functioning fleet in the time of revolutionary wars if it did not have able workers in its shipyards.  

In connection with the establishment of the medal, Christian VII wrote in an open letter that he "... most graciously has decided on a Merit Medal to reward and encourage the workers at our shipyards, who excellently work for the maintenance of our fleet." 

Throughout history, the Navy’s Merit Medal has been presented every year on 29 January, the birthday of its founder, Christian VII. From 1857 – 1926, it was a set tradition that the medal recipients were presented to the King the same day. 

Back in 1801, the recipients were limited to Holmen Naval Yard craftsmen who had been in service there for 25 years.  The circle has since been widened to include other groups of personnel. Today, those who have been employed by the Navy for 25 years can become eligible for the Merit Medal. It is the recipient’s chief who presides over the presentation of the medal.

Published January 29, 2013

In 1945, the Army got a merit medal, while the Air Force had a merit medal established when the service was created in 1953.

Read more about HM The Queen.

Read more about Christian VII’s Palace
Read more about the Navy

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