Bavarian Military Merit Order (Militär-Verdienstorden) Grand Cross with Swords
The Bavarian Military Merit Order (Militär-Verdienstorden) was established on July 19, 1866 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was the kingdom's main decoration for bravery and military merit for officers and higher-ranking officials. Civilians acting in support of the army were also made eligible for the decoration. The Military Merit Order ranked below the Military Order of Max Joseph (Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden), which was Bavaria's highest military honor for officers (and conferred a patent of non-hereditary nobility on officers who were not already nobles).
The design of the order was a Maltese cross of blue enamel with a center medallion. Between the arms of most classes (and all classes after 1905) were golden flames (silver flames for the 4th Class after the 1905 revisions of the order). The obverse of the center medallion had a gold crowned "L" cipher (for the founder King Ludwig II) on the black-enameled center and the word "MERENTI" on a ring of white enamel edged in gold (later silver-gilt). The reverse had a gold Bavarian lion on black enamel with the date of founding, "1866", on the white-enameled ring (the Officer's Cross, a class created in 1900, had a plain flat reverse). Most of the various classes of the order were of different sizes and worn differently, as sash badges over the shoulder, as neck badges, or as breast badges suspended from a ribbon. The Officer's Cross was a pinback cross worn on the lower left chest, as were the breast stars associated with various classes.
By World War I (after a wholesale revision of the order statutes in 1905 ), the order had evolved into the following classes:
Grand Cross (Großkreuz) - Cross worn from a sash with a breast star
1st Class (1. Klasse) - Smaller cross worn from a sash with a breast star
2nd Class (2. Klasse) - Smaller cross worn from a ribbon around the neck
Officer's Cross (Offizierskreuz) - Pinback cross worn on the lower left chest; the cross had an elongated lower arm.
3rd Class (3. Klasse) - Smaller cross worn from a ribbon on the upper left chest.
4th Class (4. Klasse) - Same cross as the 3rd Class, except with silver flames and, where applicable, crown and swords
The order could be awarded with or without swords (which generally indicated wartime or combat awards). The Grand Cross and 1st Class always came with a breast star, but the 2nd Class could be awarded with or without the breast star. The 3rd and 4th Classes could be awarded with or without a crown. Generally, these distinctions were based on rank, but in certain cases were used to permit a second award for further acts of bravery or military merit. During World War I, the order was typically awarded as follows:
Grand Cross with Swords (Großkreuz mit Schwertern) - Field marshals, colonel generals, generals
1st Class with Swords (1. Klasse mit Schwertern) - Generals, some lieutenant generals
2nd Class with Star and with Swords (2. Klasse mit dem Stern und mit Schwertern) - Lieutenant generals, major generals who already had the 2nd Class with Swords
2nd Class with Swords (2. Klasse mit Schwertern) - Major generals
Officer's Cross with Swords (Offizierskreuz mit Schwertern) - Colonels, some lieutenant colonels
3rd Class with Crown and Swords (3. Klasse mit der Krone unde mit Schwertern) - Colonels, lieutenant colonels
3rd Class with Swords (3. Klasse mit Schwertern) - Lieutenant colonels, majors
4th Class with Crown and Swords (4. Klasse mit der Krone unde mit Schwertern) - Majors, captains (and a few lieutenants) who already had the 4th Class with Swords
4th Class with Swords (4. Klasse mit Schwertern) - Captains, lieutenants
In addition, there was an associated Military Merit Cross, which was open to non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers.