Order of Franz Joseph

The General Order of Merit was founded by Franz Joseph I shortly after his accession to the throne in 1849. Originally, the Order of Franz Joseph I (kaiserlich österreichischer Franz Joseph-Orden) had three classes, which were later expanded to five. The lowest grade was knight, followed by officer (from 1901), commander, commander with star and the highest award was achieved by the holder of the Grand Cross. This one differed from the previous imperial orders, among other things, in that there were no additional privileges attached to it. The order’s insignia consisted of a golden equilateral cross with convexly terminated arms (the Cross of Rupert). The centre of the cross was occupied by a circular medallion with the sovereign’s initials ‘FJ’. In the arms of the cross there was a golden, black enamelled imperial double-headed eagle, which carried in its beaks a golden chain with the imperial motto ‘VIRIBUS UNITIS’. The cross was surmounted by an attached imperial crown, complete with red enamel, placed on an eight-pointed silver star of the order with brilliant rays. In 1872, Georg Johann Mendel was awarded the highest class of the Order by the Emperor for his activities and contribution to the monarchy.