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The National Order of Merit

An institution of the French Republic born in the middle of the 20th century, the National Order of Merit is the second national Order after the Legion of Honor. Its purpose is to reward "distinguished merit" and encourage the lifeblood of the country.

 

In 50 years of existence, the National Order of Merit has won a full place of its own in French society.

Its mission

Like the Legion of Honor, the National Order of Merit is a universal order honoring individuals from all fields of activity.

It is the second national Order, designed to honor French citizens in complementarity with the Legion of Honor.

The length of service required to obtain the blue ribbon is shorter than for the Legion of Honor (10 years vs. 20 years). The Order’s purpose is threefold:

  • To reflect a dynamic society:

The National Order of Merit is intended to accommodate younger generations whose “valor does not await the passing of years.” It is responsible for stimulating individual energy, uniting all intentions, and rewarding innovation and contributions to the renown of France.

  • To set an example:

The Order is designed as a form of emulation so that all give their best and so that the community of recipients as a whole represents the civic spirit of France.

  • To recognize diversity:

Finally, the National Order of Merit embodies the diversity of French society, its different cultures and social origins, and its new economic sectors (technology, internet, telecom, etc.). It recognizes the commitment of the younger generation.

Like the Legion of Honor, the National Order of Merit ensures true equality of access, so that all deserving citizens, whatever their place in society, can be recognized by the nation.

Award criteria 

  • Distinguished military or civil achievements. In other words, acts of devotion, bravery, generosity, real merit or a measurable commitment to serving others or France, with qualifications not yet sufficient to warrant the Legion of Honor.
  • Demonstrating at least ten years of service
  • Accession to a higher rank when new merits are established
  • It takes a minimum of five more years to be promoted to Officer, three years to reach the rank of Commander, three years to be elevated to the title of Grand Officer and three more years for the Grand Cross.

The National Order of Merit in numbers

The Order now has 187,000 members

306,000 have been admitted or promoted since the creation of the Order in 1963

4,600 individuals receive the insignia every year

54 is the average age of admission

57% of members are decorated in a civilian capacity, 43% in a military capacity

50% women (gender parity applies to civilian awards)

80% of members are Knights of the Order

14% of dossiers are rejected by the Council of the Order

The Order has three ranks, Knight, Officer and Commander, and two titles, Grand Officer and Grand Cross.

The history of the National Order of Merit


General de Gaulle presenting the insignia of the National Order of Merit to the Innsbruck Olympic medalists at the Elysee Palace on June 25, 1964 © Archives nationales

 

The creation of the National Order of Merit results from a broad reform of the decoration system initiated in 1959 by the Grand Chancellor at the time, General Catroux, with the support of General de Gaulle, in a country in the midst of modernization.

General de Gaulle, who had already founded the Order of Liberation during World War II, was deeply involved in creating this new order and gave it four objectives:

  • To strengthen national unity, five years after the founding of the Vth Republic.
  • To reassert the value of the Legion of Honor, which suffered from inflated numbers of members following the major conflicts of the twentieth century.
  • To harmonize and simplify honors. It was urgent to stop the proliferation of decorations of all sorts created by the various ministries, which reached the record number of 70 decorations and 20 orders.
  • To organize the scale of merits in a hierarchy with a new, complementary distinction reserved for actual merits recognized earlier. Beginning with the first awards, highly eclectic merits and precocious careers were recognized, illustrating a selection philosophy that has been upheld to this day.

Organization of the Order and admission process

The National Order of Merit has its own organization; its discipline and hierarchy are modeled after the Legion of Honor.

It has its own council of 11 members, chaired by the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, Chancellor of the National Order of Merit, under the authority of the Grand Master, the President of the Republic. The Council of the Order has the power to review, deliberate and punish.

The process for awarding a rank in the National Order of Merit is similar to that of the Legion of Honor.

Annual admissions

  •  Two civilian cohorts: May 15 and November 15
  •  Two military cohorts: May 1st and November 1st

 

The latest cohorts

May 3 , 2017 - Civilian cohort
April 28, 2017 - Military reservists and active duty military personnel
April 25, 2017 - Persons hurt in the course of their duties
March 8, 2017 –  Person killed in the course of his duties
February 22, 2017 - Persons hurt in the course of their duties
January 1, 2017 - Civilian cohort
December 1st, 2016 - Olympic and paralympic Games
November 15, 2016 - Civilian cohort
November 6, 2016 - Active duty military personnel and military reservists
September 1, 2016 - Person killed in the course of his duties
May 15, 2016 - Civilian cohort
April 30, 2016 - Active duty military personnel and military reservists
November 22, 2015 - Civilian cohort
November 10, 2015 - Active duty military personnel
November 10, 2015 - Military reservists
November 10, 2015 - Active duty military personnel
September 30, 2015 - Person killed in the course of his duties
September 16, 2015 - Person killed in the course of his duties
September 13, 2015 - Person killed in the course of his duties
May 16, 2015 - Civilian cohort   
May 3, 2015 - Military reservists  
May 3, 2015 – Active duty military personnel
February 25, 2015 - Person killed in the performance of his duties     
November 15, 2014 - Civilians
November 15, 2014 - Persons killed in the performance of their duties
November 4, 2014 - Active duty military personnel
November 4, 2014 - Military reservists
September 23, 2014 – Veterans
July 20, 2014 – Persons killed in the performance of their duties
July 17, 2014 - Persons killed or wounded in the performance of their duties
May 15, 2014 - Civilians     
April 29, 2014 - Military reservists  
April 29, 2014 – Active duty military personnel     
April 20, 2014 - Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi           
March 30, 2014 – Soldier deceased while serving     

Insignia


Obverse © ECPAD  


Reverse © ECPAD

The insignia of Merit is a six-armed Maltese asterisk enameled blue, suspended from a wreath of intertwined oak leaves.

The central disc is surrounded by intertwined laurel leaves. The obverse depicts the effigy of the Republic (head of Marianne) with the legend "République Française". The reverse disc has two tricolor flags with the inscription “National Order of Merit” and its founding date, "December 3, 1963."