The Imperial Austrian Order of Leopold was founded by Franz I of Austria on 8 January 1808. The order's statutes stipulated only three grades: Grand Cross, Commander and Knight. During the war, in common with the other Austro-Hungarian decorations Crossed Swords were instituted to reward bravery in the face of the enemy. An Imperial Decree of the 1 February 1901 ordered that in future the senior grade would be split into two separate awards and from then onwards there were four ranks: Grand Cross, First Class, Commander, Knight.
Until the 18 July 1884 the award of the order had also entitled the recipient if he was not already of that standing, to be raised to the following appointments and or ranks of the nobility:
- Grand Cross: Privy Councillor
- Commander: Baron
- Knight: Ritter
Both the Grand Cross and the First Class Members of the Order wore on formal occasions their orders in the form a Sash with the Order attached to the Bow and respectively an eight pointed and a four pointed breast Star. The Grand Cross was somewhat larger than the First Class as was the width of the Sash. The Commanders' Cross was worn to the neck, suspended from a 52 mm wide ribbon; the Knight wore his Order on a triangular ribbon on the left breast. The actual Order consists of a red enameled gold cross, with white enamel edging. The obverse of the Order displays the initials FIA in gold on a red enamel background. The Mottoes of the Order were "INTEGRITATI ET MERITO" and "OPES REGUM CORDA SUBDITORUM". The ribbon of the Order is red with two narrow white side-stripes. The Cross is surmounted by a golden Emperors' Crown. The Grand Cross could also be awarded with diamonds; from 1808 to 1918 only four people received this honour. The last recipient, Ernst Graf von Silva-Tarouca, was awarded the decoration on 11 November 1918, just hours before Charles I of Austria withdrew from public affairs.
After 1918 the Order was no longer awarded.
- Gustav Adolph Ackermann, Ordensbuch, Sämtlicher in Europa blühender und erloschener Orden und Ehrenzeichen. Annaberg, 1855
- Václav Měřička, Orden und Ehrenzeichen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Wien 1974
- Ordre Impérial Autrichien de Léopold
- Císařský rakouský řád Leopolda (1808)
- The Imperial Austrian Order of Leopold 1914-1918
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