Medals instituted during the Reign of King Leopold II (1865-1909)
The Civil Decoration for Bravery, Devotion and Philanthropy.
This cross was instituted on 20 April 1878 and was awarded to those who did not receive the "Croix de Fer" (Iron Cross - which was awarded to those wounded or those that performed an act of courage) and could prove that they had voluntarily taken up arms in the battle for Belgium's independence between 25 August 1830 and 4 February 1831. The gilded, white enamelled cross has a central, black enamel, medaillon which bears, on the obverse, the Belgian Lion, on the reverse the year "1830".
The Commemorative Cross of the 1830 Volunteers
The Civil Decoration
Instituted on the same day as the previous decoration, it only differs from it by its ribbon. It is awarded to civil servants for a minimum of 25 years service and issued, depending on the recipient's rank, in the same five classes.
The Civil Decoration for Long Service in the Administration.
Members of the Civil Guard and the Fire Brigade received their award with a different ribbon from 1902 onwards.
The Military Decoration was instituted on 22 December 1873 and early in the 20th century, a division into two classes was decreed. The 2nd Class decoration is awarded after 10 years of service, a further 5 years entitles the recipient to wear a gilt chevron on the ribbon, indicating a 1st Class award.
The Military Decoration (long service)
The Military Decoration
Awarded to Belgians or foreigners for an act of courage etc. towards a Belgian. Instituted on 21 July 1867, this decoration has five classes : Civic Cross 1st and 2nd class, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The crosses are awarded for spectacular acts of courage etc., the medals in case of lesser deeds. Obverse and reverse are identical. A specific bar could be placed on the ribbon in case of a second award.
If awarded for bravery or distinguished service (Article 4 of the decoration's statutes), the long service ribbon is changed to a red one bordered by the national Belgian colours. In case of an award for war-time related acts, a silver palm with the royal monogram is affixed on the ribbon.
The Military Decoration (Article 4)
A white enameled cross was instituted on 30 April 1884 for award to functionaries of the Department of Public Works and the Ministery of the Interior with a minimum of 25 years of good and loyal service in the construction or exploitation of the state's railroads. Shortly after, on 11 July of the same year, the award was extended to employees of the Belgian Railroads and functionaries of the Railroad Department and even other departments under the same conditions. On the same day a "medal", actually a bronze cross quite similar to the existing decoration, was created for award to workmen of the railroads with 25 years of good and loyal service. The obverse of both crosses shows the cypher of Leopold II surrounded by " 1 MAI 1834 * 1884 ", the reverse shows the then emblem of the railroads.
The Commemorative Decoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Belgian Railroads
Once again, members of the Civil Guard and the Fire Brigade would receive their award on a different ribbon :
This cross was instituted on 11 February 1885 and awarded, in two classes, to officers of the Belgian armed forces for 25 years of loyal and uninterupted service. Reserve officers can also obtain this decoration provided they underwent a yearly training period every year.
The Military Cross
The Service Stars
Instituted on 16 January 1889 for award to those that fulfilled their tour of duty in Congo loyally and with honour. Per tour of duty (3 years) a silver bar was attached on the ribbon. The Silver Service Star (30 mm) was awarded between 1889 and 1910 when it was replaced by the Gold Service Star and the 2nd type Silver Service Star.
The Silver Service Star
The 1910 Silver and Gold Service Stars
Instituted on 28 November 1910, this decoration (40mm) was awarded, as was its predecessor (see previous), for 3 years of service in Congo. Each additional period of entitled the recipient to a silver bar on the ribbon. In 1956, the reverse text was changed to a bilingual one. At the same time a Gold Service Star was created for 10 years of service in Congo, each additional 2 years of service giving the right to wear a gilt bar on the ribbon. This Gold Star has enamelled centres, the obverse with the royal cypher instead of the five-pointed star.
Under King Leopold III, with Royal Decrees of 1936 and 1937, the service periods for the stars and their bars were increased to finally 15 years for the Gold Star and a first bar after 20 years, 3 years of service for the Silver Star, its first bar after two more years and a second bar after a total of 10 years of service.
It is never allowed to wear both a Silver and a Gold Star together.
As a reward for their loyal and dedicated services, native chiefs were awarded merit medals instituted on 30 April 1889. Over the years the design of these medals would change, especially the obverse which was altered for each reigning monarch. All but the last type, awarded in the reign of Baudouin I and which hung from a ribbon, were worn from neck chains.
Other native chief medals exist but those are not decorations but badges of office which, although also officially bestowed, do not fall within the scope of this website.
Merit Medal for Native Chiefs
Royal Houshold Decorations
Instituted, on 21 July 1889, in three classes (bronze, silver and silver gilt) for resp. 15, 25 and 35 years of loyal services.
The Special Decorations
Instituted on 2 August 1889 and similar to the previous decoration, this medal was awarded, either in Gold or Silver to managers, promoters and persons having performed distinguished service to a number of organisations such as Health Security, Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions, Social Security and Agricultural Societies.
Various types of this medal exist according to the sovereign at the time of award. Originally instituted on 4 November 1892 by King Leopold II, in his capacity as Sovereign of the Independent State of Congo, this medal was awarded for good and loyal services by native Congolese to the Congo state. Recipients could be military, members of the "Force Publique" or civilians.
Military awards are suspended from a corn blue ribbon. A clasp with three stars indicates a total of 9 years of service (3 years per star). The reverse inscription reads "Loyauté et Devouement" (Loyalty and Dedication).
Medals were also awarded to civilians, from 1912 onwards. These are identical to the military except for their mainly yellow ribbon.
Service Medal for Natives
The Medal for Members of the Royal Household and Members of the Households of the Royal Family
Equally instituted, on 21 July 1889, in three classes (bronze, silver and silver gilt) for services rendered during official visits.
The Medal for servants of Foreign Courts or Foreign Heads of State
Also instituted, on 21 July 1889, in two classes (silver gilt and silver) for special meritorious acts.
The Special Medal for Members of the Royal Household and Members of the Households of the Royal Family
Doubtlessly the most attractive and important colonial campaign medal created in Belgium, this dark bronze medal was awarded to members of the "Force Publique", Belgium's colonial armed force in the Congo, in commemoration of the operations to expel Arab slave traders from the territory in a hard-fought campaign that lasted between 1892 and 1894.
The Medal of the Arab Campaign
Two crosses, one in gilt silver and white enamel, the other in silver only, were created on 27 February 1896 for resp. employees and workmen of the Ostend-Dover Line with a minimum of 25 years of good and loyal service.
The Commemorative Decoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Ostend-Dover Line
The Commemorative Decoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Telegraphic Services
As with the previous decoration, 25 years of good and loyal service by employees and workmen of the Belgian telegraphic services were rewarded by two crosses, resp. a silver gilt, white enamelled one and a silver only one. The crosses were instituted on 1 September 1896.
The Commemorative Medal of the Reign of Leopold II
Instituted on 21 July 1905, this gilt bronze medal was awarded to those that had, between 1865 and 1905, performed at least 20 years of loyal service and met the conditions for award of the Civil Decoration for Long Service in the Administration (see above). Much later, in the early 1950's, medals with different reverse dates (1865-1909 and 1885-1909) were struck for award to respectively former military and ex-members of the colonial "Force Publique".
© Hendrik Meersschaert, 2017
Although affiliated to the awards of Belgium, these decorations are bestowed privately and exclusively by the reigning Sovereign. The first Belgian king to do so was Leopold II.