Five-pointed white enamel, silver and silver-gilt Maltese cross with ball-tipped finials and green enamel oak and laurel wreath between the arms, on jewelled swivel Imperial crown suspension; the face with a circular central rayed silver-gilt medallion bearing the laurel-crowned head of Napoleon I facing right, encircled by a deep blue enamel ring bearing the gilt inscription ‘NAPOLÉON EMPEREUR DES FRANÇAIS’, silver hallmark on the ribbon at the base; the reverse with a circular central silver-gilt 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); small chips to the tips of some of the arms and jewels of the crown and green enamel from the wreaths (see illustrations); on possibly original 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 Second Empire, Napoleon III, 16 March 1852 to 28 October 1870.