MERIT AND REWARD MEDALS
The royal Medal of Merit is the oldest existing award medal in Denmark. It was established by Christian VII on 16 May 1792 and was, by ordinance, re-instituted by Christian VIII on 24 July 1845.
There are two versions of the Medal of Merit. One is gold (referred to as F.M. 1 in the Court and State’s Calendar) and is only used on extremely rare occasions. The other version is silver (referred to as F.M. in the Court and State’s Calendar). Today, it is given mainly for at least 40 years of uninterrupted civil or military service to public servants who do not qualify for a knight’s cross. On the front, the medal has a profile portrait of HM The Queen and the inscription, ¨Margareta II – Regina Daniæ¨, and on the back side is the word, ¨Fortient¨, surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves.
The recipient’s name is engraved on the medal’s edge indicating that, in contrast to the knight’s cross, it remains the property of the recipient. The medal is worn on a red ribbon with a white cross. By ordinance on 7 October 1981, HM The Queen directed that medal recipients, like those decorated in the knights’ orders, should be invited to submit their autobiographies to the Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry.
The royal Medal of Reward was established by Christian IX by ordinance on 4 September 1865. The provisions for the medal’s use are renewed with every accession of a new monarch. The current statutes were adopted 1 November 1972 with minor changes made on 28 November 1986 and 25 January 1988.
The medal can be either gilded or silver and either with or without crowns. The abbreviated references in the Court and State’s Calendar are B.M. 1* (gilded with crown), B.M. 1 (gilded), B.M.* (silver with crown) and B.M. (silver). On the front, it bears a portrait of HM The Queen in profile and the inscription, ¨Margareta II – Regina Daniæ¨, and on the back is a wreath of oak leaves. The recipient’s name is engraved on the edge to show that the medal is the recipient’s personal property. It is worn on a red ribbon with a white cross.
The medal is given without prior recommendation from some public authority. Today, it is mainly given in appreciation to persons who have served the same private employer for 50 years or, for those whose employment relationship has ended, at least 40 years of loyal service.
By ordinance on 7 October 1981, HM The Queen directed that medal recipients, like those decorated in the knights’ orders, should be invited to submit their autobiographies to the Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry.
The Chapter of the Orders
The Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry--commonly called the Chapter of the Orders--was set up in connection with the Order of Dannebrog’s expansion in 1808 to assist the monarch with the administration of the orders. The use of the ecclesiastical-sounding word ¨Chapter¨ in this context is a reminder of the orders’ historical roots in medieval monasticism and religious orders of knighthood.
Strictly speaking, the Chapter of the Orders consists of all the knights of the Order of the Elephant and the Grand Commanders of the Order of Dannebrog along with several officers. The most important of these is the Chancellor of the Orders, who has overall responsibility for the orders’ administrative system and reports directly to the Sovereign of the Orders. The Secretary of the Orders is the top daily leader, and the Treasurer of the Orders is responsible for the system’s finances. In addition, there is a secretariat led by a chief and staffed with subordinate officials who take care of daily operations. It is this secretariat that we regularly associate with the term, the Chapter of the Orders.
According to Frederik VI’s directives, the Chapter of the Orders was intended to fill two functions. The first was, in the larger sense of the word, to work as a reconciliation commission in connection with eventual disputes between members of the orders. This function has long since ceased.
The other main function was to manage the daily administration of the orders. In addition, it also originally had the task of organising and carrying out the annual ceremonial knighthood celebrations for the two orders, which were written into the statutes from 1693 but which had not been held for many years. Frederik VI, however, wanted to revive those celebrations, and that was the real basis for the originally-abundant staffing of the Chapter of the Orders. However, there was only a brief revival.
The first celebration took place on Frederik VI’s birthday on 28 January 1809 and the last took place in 1813. Thereafter, the woeful consequences of the Napoleonic Wars for Denmark put a permanent end to the display of such festivities. Since then, the Chapter of the Orders has confined itself to carrying out daily administrative duties, and staffing has been gradually reduced to the minimum necessary to perform this task.
During the transition from the absolute monarchy to democracy in 1848-49, the orders system remained as a royal prerogative, and the Chapter of the Orders thereby got the status of a separate institution detached from state authority and state funding. Thus, it still belonged directly under the reigning monarch as Sovereign of the Order. That continues to be the formal status of the Chapter of the Orders.
The secretariat of the Chapter of the Orders prepares knights’ diplomas and diplomas related to conferral of medals in accordance with the royal ordinances, and from there the badges of the orders and the medals are sent to recipients. It is also the secretariat’s responsibility to ensure that badges are returned the Chapter of the Orders when recipients die or when those decorated advance to a higher grade in the Order of Dannebrog. In contrast to medals, badges remain the property of the Sovereign of the Orders.
Since 1808, the post of Historiographer of the Royal Orders has been attached to the Chapter of the Orders. Originally, the Historiographer’s main function was to keep records of knights’ genealogies and lives as the basis for developing their obituaries, which according to the rules should be read aloud at the orders’ feasts in honour of those who died during the previous year. The demise of the feasts, however, made this practice obsolete.
But another practice gradually developed. In connection with their decoration, knights began submitting written autobiographies to the Chapter of the Orders. That has been the case for Order of Dannebrog recipients since 1904 and for medal recipients since 1981. Ensuring that this and the proper archiving of the autobiographies happen are still among the Historiographer’s main official duties. Today, the Chapter’s archive contains around 40,000 autobiographies. They all date after 1884, when the older collection perished in the fire at Christiansborg Palace that year.
But even in reduced form, the collection of autobiographies represents a unique and rich culture-historical treasure, which is used frequently by researchers from Denmark and from other countries. It is the responsibility of the Historiographer of the Royal Orders to make sure that the established rules for gaining access to the collection are complied with.