Five-pointed white enamel and silver Maltese cross with ball-tipped finials and green enamel oak and laurel wreath between the arms, on swivel royal crown suspension; the face with a circular central rayed gold medallion bearing the laurel-crowned head of Napoleon I facing left, encircled by a deep blue enamel ring bearing the gilt inscription ‘NAPOLÉON EMP. DES FRANÇAIS’; the reverse with a circular central gold medallion hatched horizontally and bearing the imperial eagle with lightning bolts in its claws encircled by a deep blue enamel ring inscribed ‘HONNEUR ET PATRIE’ (Honour and Country), silver hallmark on the ribbon at the base; chips, loss of blue enamel from the reverse and old repairs (see illustrations); diameter 37.28mm (1.47 inches); on replaced correct ribbon.
The Ordre Royal, Imperial et National de la Legion d’Honneur was established by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 May 1802 to be awarded for outstanding civil or military service to France. It has survived Empire, restoration of the Monarchy and five Republics. There have been at least a dozen major changes to the insignia and, indeed, the political history of the past 200 years of France may be traced on them. Since the suppression of the Ordre Militaire de Saint-Louis in 1830, the Ordre de la Legion d’Honnneur has been France’s premier order.
This example is from the Presidency of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later Emperor Napoleon III, 20 December 1848 to 2 December 1852.