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The Legion of Honor in 10 questions

The Legion of Honor is...

 

1. What is it?

The Legion of Honor is the highest French decoration and one of the most famous in the world. For two centuries, it has been presented on behalf of the Head of State to reward the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity.

 

2. What is its purpose?

As an honor, the Legion of Honor does not include any actual material or financial benefit. However, it is an invaluable source of pride for the recipients and their families and an example of civic service made public.

 

3. Who is eligible?

Any French citizen with no criminal record, who has demonstrated outstanding merits in the service of the nation, in a military or a civilian capacity. Twenty years of activity at least are required to qualify for the Legion of Honor.

 

H4.  How many have received it?

The Legion of Honor has 93,000 members. Every year some 3,000 people are inducted, one-third in a military capacity, two-thirds as civilians.

Some 400 foreigners are awarded this honor every year but, unlike French nationals, they are not members of the Legion of Honor.

 

5. Can one apply for it?

The Legion of Honor cannot be applied for.

French ministers are responsible for identifying potential honorees, relying on the societal network (parliamentarians, mayors, employers, leaders of trade unions or non-profit organizations, presidents of professional or sports federations...).

 

6. Can it be turned down?

Some people express their objection in principle to the Legion of Honor though they have not received it. In their case, we cannot speak of refusal.

Turning down the Legion of Honor implies prior admittance to the Order, by decree published in the Official Journal. In this very rare case of refusal, the relevant individuals choose not to receive the decoration.

 

7. Can it be taken away?

The honor can be revoked in the event of criminal conviction, or any action that is dishonorable or that may harm the interests of France. The exclusion measure is announced by decree.

 

8. What does it look like?

The color of the ribbon is red. The badge is a five-armed Maltese asterisk hung on an oak and laurel wreath. On the obverse is the effigy of the Republic and on the reverse two tricolor flags surrounded by the motto "Honneur et Patrie" (Honor and Fatherland).

 

9. When and how is it worn?

The Legion of Honor is worn before any other French or foreign insignia, on the left-hand side. On informal attire, one wears lapel insignia (ribbon or rosette). Pendants and small-size decorations are preferred for official ceremonies. The military has its own rules for wearing insignia.

 

10. How is it evolving?

The Legion of Honor belongs to its time and adapts to changes in society. 

It recognizes more and more the role of non-profit organizations end employees, the life achievements of persons of modest origins, and the place of women through strict gender parity in each civilian awardees class.