Order of the Red Eagle – a princely award with imperial status
The Order of the Red Eagle (Roter Adlerorden) for a long time remained the second most senior in the German Empire. The regalia retained its high status even when it was formally superseded by other awards. The Order of the Red Eagle has a somewhat unusual history, woven into the family conflict of the Hohenzollerns who ruled the Margraviate of Bayreuth.
Date of establishment: June 12, 1792.
Number of classes: 6.
Grand Cross Size: 88mm x 88mm.
1st class order size: 58 mm x 58 mm.
Size of the 2nd class order: 47 mm x 47 mm.
Size of the 3rd class order: 38 mm x 38 mm.
Size of the 4th class order: 37 mm x 37 mm.
Medal diameter: 24 mm.
Star size: 91mm x 91mm.
Materials of order badges: gold, silver, gilding, enamel.
The Order of the Red Eagle appeared in one of the large vassal formations of the Kingdom of Prussia – the Principality of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. The foundation of the award put an end to a series of conflicts that complicated the life of the family of the Bayreuth branch of the Hohenzollerns. In 1655, the throne was inherited by Margrave Christian Ernst von Brandenburg-Bayreuth, who was only ten years old at the time. At a young age, he was already distinguished by his independent character and traveled extensively throughout Europe, but he did not even think about establishing awards.
The Order of the Red Eagle is the result of the heir to the margraviate’s passion for French traditions. In 1660, fifteen-year-old Christian Ernst attended a magnificent ceremony in Bordeaux, where Louis XIV discussed the terms of his son’s marriage to the Spanish infanta with his future father-in-law, the ruler of Spain, Philip IV. The young man was enchanted by the splendor of the court of the “Sun King”, so he decided to found a knightly union modeled on the French Order of the Garter. The occasion soon presented itself – in the same year a peace treaty was signed between Brandenburg, Sweden and Poland. In honor of this event, the Margrave established the Order of Concord (Ordre de la Concorde), which, according to his idea, had to be worn on the wrist.
Ceremonial vestments, insignia and degrees of the Order of the Red Eagle
The red eagle has always been considered a symbol of Brandenburg, so the bird with outstretched wings occupied most of the medallion, which was located in the central part of the golden Maltese cross. The continuity of the dynasty was reminiscent of a wide shield with the Hohenzollern coat of arms. The insignia set included a star with silver rays, a chain and a beige ribbon. The ceremonial attire consisted of an amaranth-colored cloak embroidered with pearls, a vest of silver fabric, white stockings and a hat with a black cockade and a white feather.
By the beginning of the First World War, the Order of the Red Eagle provided for six degrees: Grand Cross; Knights 1-4 classes; medal for lower ranks.
Knights of the Order of the Red Eagle
One of the first cavaliers was the heir to the Principality of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Friedrich Christian Alexander von Brandenburg-Bayreuth, who transferred his possessions to the protectorate of Prussia. The highest degrees of the order were awarded to German princes and princesses, as well as to the consorts of emperors. The owners of the regalia were Otto von Bismarck, the inventor of airships Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, and the Minister of the Interior Arthur von Posadowsky-Wehner. The Prussian award was highly valued by the Russian military: Pyotr Bagration, Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, Sergei Volkonsky.