The New International Encyclopædia/Legion of Honor

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LEGION OF HONOR. A French order of merit founded by Napoleon in 1802 and organized two years later. The distinction was conferred for meritorious conduct in military or civil life. The order comprised in the beginning 3605 chevaliers, 450 officers, 300 commanders, 105 grand officers, and a grand master, the last office being vested in Napoleon himself. All members at their initiation were required to pledge their support to the defense of the State and of the liberties achieved by the Revolution. The order experienced many alterations with the successive changes of dynasties in France. Its present constitution dates from the year 1872, when it was reorganized into five classes—chevaliers, officers, commanders, grand officers, and grand crosses. Stipends ranging from 250 francs for a chevalier to 3000 francs in the case of a grand cross are attached to these dignities. In 1892 the order numbered 43,851 members of all classes, and by law of 1897 the maximum number of additional crosses to be distributed was fixed at 14,320. The emblem of the order is a five-rayed star of white enamel edged with gold, bearing on its obverse the image of the Republic with the inscription Republique Française, and on the reverse two flags with the motto Honneur et Patrie. It is surmounted by a wreath of oak and laurel and is suspended from a red ribbon. Originally the cross bore, instead of the emblem of the Republic, the portrait of Napoleon, and was surmounted by an Imperial crown. The order is also conferred on foreigners, and in some cases upon women.