Blauer Max Logo

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Pour le Mérite - "Blue Max"

Pour le Mérite Blue Max military version
1740 - 1918

The Prussian medal Pour le mérite was not from the beginning the highest military bravery honor. Only 1810 it experienced this change of importance. Already in the year 1685 king Friedrich I., then still a cure prince, donated a medal, which he called "medal de la générosité". It was a golden cross with eight points and a golden ball on each point.

In the mittle of the medal was the word "Générosité". The cross hung on blue tape. Friedrich der Grosse converted it by day of his accession (31.05.1740) into the medal "Pour le mérite". The carriers formed a knighthood and obtained a monthly honouring payment.

Although it was led also under the name "military earnings/services medal", the king never seemed to have had the intention to give this medal for different earnings/services than the military services, because his friend Voltaire received it and also some civil servants, as it was said. By the transformation of the medal the medal character also changed into this today still well-known form; the tape received the Prussian colours: black - white.

King Friedrich William III. determined on January 18th, 1810 that the medal could be only acquired by extraordinary earnings/services on the battleground. Since the medal could only be acquired when fighting in an major battle or the takeover or successful defense of a fortress, it was reserved to officers. By the year 1816 1000 knights possessed the medal. In the charter of foundation of the iron cross an extension to the medal "Pour le mérite" has been ordered that in extraordinary cases three golden oak leafs at the ring were added. Later it was permitted that those, who possessed these high honors for more than 50 years were allowed to carry a golden crown over the medal cross.

It is remarkable that the medal "Pour le mérite" is the only Prussian medal, whose eagle does not carry a crown. After the campaign 1866 King William I. donated the "large cross of the medal Pour le mérite". It consists of a cross of double the original size and carries in the center a portrait of ist founder, Friedrich der Grosse. With this large cross comes a golden 4-point star, who also carries the portrait of the founder. It was donated only to the "crown prince", who entered as "Emperor Friedrich III." with his 99-day-reign history, and to the general field marshal "Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia". King William I. carried the large cross, as desired by his officer corps, during the march to Berlin after the victoriously terminated campaign. The tape of the medal is black with one silver edge strip on each side. With the award of the three golden oak pages a silver center strip is added to the medal tape.

Among the flighter pilots of the World War I the medal got the nickname "Blauer Max (blue max)" because of its bluish colour and in honour for "Max Immelmann". Among all the carriers the Air Force pilots were those who were mostly rewarded with this medal, among such famous names as "Boelcke", "Immelmann" or "von Richthofen". The last owner of the military type of this medal, Ernst Jünger, deceased in the year 1998. With his death also this knighthood ended and so the Federal Republic of Germany did not have to pay the honouring payment any more. Ernst Jünger was besides Erwin Rommel one of the few people who were given this medal although they originated from a normal civil life (no prince...). Field marshal "von Hindenburg" did even have substantial doubts, to lend this medal to the young insubordinate combat patrol leaders. The Kaiser did it however nevertheless.

Today this medal, in contrast to the "peace class" is no longer lent.

there is a pictureThe Orden "Pour le mérite" with the black and white tape - this picture can be in original size. (31 kb)

there is a pictureThe Orden "Pour le mérite" with three golden oak leafs  - produced 1914-18.

there is a pictureAn older version of the "Pour le mérite" of the middle the 18. century. This version have a lighter blue color and the name was made with gold stuff.

there is a pictureThe last owner of the "Pour le mérite", "Ernst Jünger".

Medal Pour le mérite for science and arts - peace class (Preuss.)
1842 - 1933, 1952 - heute

Medal Pour le mérite for science and arts - peace class (Preuss.) 1842 - 1933, 1952 - today

King Friedrich William IV. donated the medal "Pour le mérite" on suggestion of Alexander of Humboldt 1842 for science and arts and used thereby the name of the medal, which Friedrich der Grosse had donated in the year 1740, in order to be able to recompence visibly war and military earnings/services. Since this medal was raised to the highest medal for military bravery by his father, King Friedrich William III. In the year 1810, another medal had to be created for this purpose.

In addition to the name the medal should have a character with clear features, which should remind of the original founder. Around the Medaillon, in which center is the Prussian eagle, there is a blue, gold-rimmed ring with the golden inscription "Pour le mérite". Between Medaillon and ring there is four times the double F "FF" and also four times a Roman two "II", which is meant to be "Friedrich II". Above each double F outside of the blue ring is a golden crown. The medal was given very rarely and was reserved to men, who had acquired high and generally recognized earnings/services around the science or art. Theologians should not belong to them.

The number of the German members who should possess this medal was limited to thirty, while foreigners could be accepted, even if this number was already reached. If a member died the remaining members made suggestions for new denominations to the king, among which he made the selection then. A further hint to the original founder were the three days each year, which were determined as award days. January 24th, the birthday of Friedrichs der Grosse (1712), May 31st, day of his accession (1740) and August 17th, on which he died (1786).

The medal tape is a black tape with white edge which was later reserved to the military. Among the first members of the medal was the well-known composer "Franz Liszt". He received this honor, because during his stay on the Rhine island Nonnenwerth in the summer months of the years 1841 to 1843, he wrote among some men choirs the song "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland" which he dedicated to the king. It succeeded the members of the peace class of "Pour le Merite" to get the national acknowledgment in 1924, but already in 1933 they were not allowed to accept new members as it could have occurred after the old statutes; only in the year 1952 a union was formed of the medal "Pour le mérite for science and arts", which had the agreement of Federal President "Heuss" in it's revised version.

He took over that protectorate. On July 5th, 1958 he signed an appropriate law. This honor can be given for the first time also to women. The number of members is, just like before, limited to 30 Germans and equally split up among humanities, natural sciences and the arts. The number of the foreign members may not exceed 30, so that at the maximum case sixty members can be in the union. The medal character remained unchanged, it is the same as of the year 1842.

Pictorial material or figures of the different remarks of the medal you can find under

Some more informations can you find on:

Thanks to Jürgen Brunner for the translation

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