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Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War
Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1870–1871 France AVERS.jpg
Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War (obverse)
Awarded by  France
Type Campaign Medal
Eligibility Military service in 1870-1871
Campaign Franco-Prussian War
Status No longer awarded
Established 9 November 1911
Total awarded ~150,000
Medaille commemorative de la guerre 1870-1871 ribbon.svg
Ribbon of the medal

Reverse of the Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War

General Émile Zimmer, a recipient of the Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War

General Charles-Marie de Braconnier, a recipient of the Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War

General Édouard Laffon de Ladebat, a recipient of the Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War

General Noël Édouard, vicomte de Curières de Castelnau, a recipient of the Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War

The Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War (French language: Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1870–1871) was a French military campaign medal awarded to those who served during the Franco-Prussian War.[1]

The Prussian victory in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War destabilized the European balance of power. German unification, although not yet quite complete, posed a serious threat to French power. The candidacy of Prussian Prince Leopold to the vacant throne of Spain further endangered the status quo created by the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Demands by Emperor Napoleon III of France to King William I of Prussia, although reasonable at first, were soon seen as the perfect pretext to escalate tensions between the two empires. Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck ensured such tensions did escalate with the release of the Ems Dispatch.[2] The French Emperor, confident of the strength of his armies declared war on Prussia on 19 July 1870. Unfortunately for him, the stipulations of the 1866 peace agreement between Prussia and Austria greatly enlarged the forces he would face, adding the armies of Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover, Baden, Hesse, Schaumburg-Lippe, Saxe-Meiningen, Nassau and Reus to the already formidable Prussian Army. Fast deployment of troops by Prussia and swift engagements in the East soon saw the French armies defeated or encircled within the walls of their cities, including the capture of the French emperor and his Army of Châlons on 2 September during the Battle of Sedan.[2]

Their emperor having surrendered, France dismissed him and on 4 September, proclaimed the Third Republic. They refused to surrender and mobilized new armies. Over a five-month campaign, the German forces defeated the newly recruited French armies in a series of battles fought across northern France. Following a prolonged siege, Paris fell on 28 January 1871 and the war ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871.[2]

Although the bravest were rewarded with the Legion of Honour and the Military Medal, the authorities firmly refused to create a commemorative medal for award to the participants of the conflict. Possibly in an effort to forget the humiliation and national shame caused by these sad events. Forty years would have to elapse before the government would agree to a tangible form of recognition for the surviving veterans of the conflict.[3] The Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War was finally established by a law of 9 November 1911.[1]

Award statute

The Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War was awarded to veterans of the Franco-Prussian War who could prove with an official document, their service under French colours in France or Algeria, or on board armed naval vessels, between the months of July 1870 and February 1871, in:[1]

The law of 27 March 1912 will enlarge this list of potential recipients to include doctors, medics, nurses and chaplains able to prove their presence on the battlefield, in ambulances and hospitals, as well as to balloon pilots who escaped from besieged Paris to carry out a public service.[4]

A decree of 17 September 1921 added all veterans of the war of 1870-1871 that were wounded or maimed in combat, or that particularly distinguished themselves in the face of the enemy, as potential recipients of the Military Medal.[5]

Finally, a new law of 13 July 1923 (published on 17 July 1923) added as recipients:[6]

  • children under fourteen years of age at the 1870 declaration of war, who volunteered and were enlisted in the battalions of the National Guard will receive the medal with the clasp "ENGAGÉ VOLONTAIRE" (English: "VOLUNTEER ENLISTEE"). The accompanying scroll will bear the title "ENFANT VOLONTAIRE" (English: "VOLUNTEER CHILD") as well as the company and battalion numbers.[6]
  • children under the age of eighteen who, although not enlisted during the war, accomplished acts of civic courage that can be proven as authentic.[6]

Award description

The Commemorative medal of the 1870–1871 War was a 30mm in diameter circular medal struck from bronze. Its obverse bore the relief image of the effigy of the "warrior republic" in the form of the left profile of a helmeted woman's bust wearing armour. On either side, the relief inscription along the outer medal circumference "RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE" (English: "FRENCH REPUBLIC"). The reverse bore at its lower center, a rectangle bearing the relief inscription "AUX DÉFENSEURS DE LA PATRIE" (English: "TO THE NATION'S DEFENDERS"), superimposed over the relief images of military weapons (sabres, lances, cannons), a naval anchor and a flowing banner, at its top, the relief years "1870 1871" bisected by the banner's mast.[3] The medal hung from a ribbon passing through a ring itself passing through a ball shaped suspension loop at the top. The 36mm wide green silk moiré ribbon bore four 4mm wide equidistant vertical black stripes, the whole forming nine alternating 4mm stripes.[3] The clasp "ENGAGÉ VOLONTAIRE" (English: "VOLUNTEER ENLISTEE") could be worn on the ribbon.[6]

The medal was engraved by artist Georges Lemaire, his model to represent the effigy of the republic was Miss Fernande Dubois, an artist at the Opéra-Comique.[3]

Notable recipients

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Law of 9 November 1911" (in French). Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 1911-09-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wawro, Geoffrey (2003). The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521617437. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "France Phaléristique web site" (in French). Marc Champenois. 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  4. "Law of 27 March 1912" (in French). Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 1911-09-21.,%20infirmiers,%20infirmi%C3%A8res,%20aum%C3%B4niers%20et%20a%C3%A9rostiers.langEN. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  5. "Decree of 17 September 1921" (in French). Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 1932-08-01. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Law of 13 July 1923" (in French). Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 1923-07-17.,%20pendant%20la%20guerre%20de%201870-1871,%20accompli%20un%20acte%20de%20courage%20civique,%20le%20droit%20au%20port%20de%20la%20m%C3%A9daille%20comm%C3%A9morative.langEN. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 

External links

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