Order of Leopold
The Order of Leopold 1 is the highest Belgian award and also the first. It was instituted by Royal Decree of July 11th and August 3rd, 1832. Bestowal usually depended on duration of service or extraordinary merits for Belgium. Depending on the kind of profession, bestowal applies to duration of service, for civilian professions usually 10 years, for military professions 20 years. A higher class of the Order can therefore be bestowed again after another 10 years.
All classes of the medal are equal in design but there may be differences in construction. The basic design shows an obverse consisting of a white cross with a red circle in the center containing the text: "L’UNION FAIT LA FORCE", up to 1951 or "EENDRACHT MAAKT MACHT - L’UNION FAIT LA FORCE", from 1951 onwards. Inside is a blue area with an effigy of the Belgian lion. The text and the lion, as well as the bordering are in gold, silver or bronze, depending on the class. The reverse depicts the seal with the characters LR (Leopold Rex). Around the cross on the obverse, behind the arms is a wreath, consisting of oakleaves on the left and laurelleaves on the right. A crown sits on top of the medal. The ribbon varies in colour from purple to wine red.
For distinguished services rendered during World War Two, Swords 40 - 45 can be added to the versions of the medal in Gold plated, Silver or Bronze.
The Order of Leopold is divided into three branches: a Civil branch, a Military branch and a Maritine branch. The medal is the same for all three branches except for the Military branch which is adorned by crossed swords between the cross and the crown above. On the medal for the Maritine branch the swords have been replaced by two crossed anchors (see pop-up picture).
Each of the three branches has the same classes: Grand Cordon (Grand Ribbon), Grootofficier (Grandofficer), Officier (Officer) and Ridder (Knight).