Notes on the decorations and medals of the French colonies and protectorates

Gillingham, Harrold E. (Harrold Edgar), 1864-1954
Numismatic Notes and Monographs
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents




By Harrold E. Gillingham

To many persons the French Colonies include only those on the African Mediterranean coast and Indo-China. Few realize the extent of the colonial possessions and protectorates or the number of their varied inhabitants. In North Africa, Morocco, Algiers and Tunis comprise an enormous territory, while south and south-west of their Saharan land are the colonies of Equatorial Africa (or Congo)—Guinea, Sudan, Dahomey (or the kingdom of Porto Novo), Ivory Coast, West Africa, the Senegals, Nigeria, with Somaliland (or Obock) in the east of that great continent. South-east of Africa are Madagascar, St. Marie and the Comoro Islands, while in the far East, Cambodia, Cochin-China, Annam, Laos and Tongking comprise what is usually spoken of as French Indo-China. In addition to the above there are Pondicherry in India, the Reunion and other islands in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, such as New Caledonia, the Society and Marquesas Islands, with Guiana, Martinique, Guadaloupe, and St. Pierre and Miquelon in the Western Hemisphere.

These possessions, which are practically all in the Tropics, include many millions of inhabitants—Arabs, Negroes and Asiatics; all of whom are generally so successfully ruled that they are most loyal to the French. In point of area these colonies and protectorates are twenty times as large as France itself and forty per cent greater than the United States.

The nominal rulers of some of these countries have established their own Orders, Decorations and Medals of Award. Some of these have never been recognized by France, cannot be worn in France without permission, and are treated as foreign Orders. In other colonies the French authorities have established honours which are awarded only upon the approval of the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, and these are known as Colonial Decorations. In both cases permission must be granted by the same Grand Chancellor before citizens of France may wear the insignia.

It is the purpose of this article to treat all the Orders, Decorations and Medals of the several colonies and protectorates known, whether they have or have not been officially recognized. Before doing this it might be of interest to explain the order of precedence in the wearing of decora- tions by French citizens. The National Order of the Legion of Honour always has first rank— over and above all other Orders of the colonies or protectorates. The following is the order:


  • Légion d'Honneur
  • Médaille Militaire
  • Croix de Guerre
  • Recognized Orders of Colonies
  • Commemorative Medals
  • Palmes Universitaires
  • Order of Agricultural Merit
  • Medals of Honour
  • Orders of Colonies or Protectorates, not recognized.
  • Orders of Foreign countries

When a citizen of France has been awarded a foreign decoration, permission to wear it in France must be obtained from the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour. To obtain this, the brevet of the foreign decoration is submitted to the Chancellor, who stamps the Visé pour Autorisation thereon, together with the number of the brevet of permission to be issued. This is called the Brevet pour Ordres Étranger, and in it is recited the name, occupation and grade of the recipient, together with the name of the order and a reproduction thereof in colour. A small fee is charged for this registration (see the illustration of permission to wear the Royal Order of Cambodia—Pl. I). If a brevet is issued in a language other than French, a translation thereof is given by the Colonial authorities (see the brevet and translation of the Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien—Frontispiece and Pl. II).

Inasmuch as the official native records of some of the orders herein described have been lost or destroyed during the many changes of government in the several colonies and protectorates, it is possible that some decorations have been omitted. All known authorities have been consulted and the best endeavor has been made to confirm all statements made.

Thanks are due to M. André Salles of Paris,— M. André Silice of the Ecole des Beaux Arts Cambodgiens, Pnom-Penh, Cambodia,—M. L. Cadiere, Cua-Tung, Annam,—Mr. Maxwell Blake, American Consul General at Tangier, Morocco; and to Mrs. Albert Duprez of Algiers, for generous and valuable assistance. To all of them the writer is deeply grateful.




Translation of Brevet Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien


This region of North Africa, between Tunis and Morocco, was first occupied by the Berbers, and in the sixth century B.C. by the Carthaginians. After the Punic wars, Roman control gave it a period of remarkable prosperity. It was devastated by the Vandals, controlled successively by the Byzantines, Arabs and Turks, and in the 17th and 18th centuries became a great menace to Southern Europe because of the pirates who infested the coast. Early in the nineteenth century the country along the Mediterranean was subdued by the French and English and gradually came under the domination of France. It is now managed by a French Governor-General and has become one of the most prosperous regions in Northern Africa.

There are no official Algerian Decorations. Those which are usually awarded in France are also bestowed upon the native Algerians when circumstances warrant; but there was an interesting decoration instituted by Abd-el-Kader, a rebellious Arab chieftain, well worth recording.

ORDER OF THE SILVER HAND, or Décoration du Chéia. This was created in November 1839 by Abd-el-Kader (1808–1883), an insurgent who for twenty years gave the French authorities much trouble in the West. It was instituted two and a half years after the treaty of Tafna, the terms of which recognized his authority in Western Algeria. Abd-el-Kader, son of Mahi-ed-Din and Zohara, his wife, was born in Mascara, Algeria, in the year 1223 of the Hégira (1808) and was proclaimed "Amir of the Arabs" in the vicinity of Oran, November 22, 1832. For many years he was a thorn in the flesh to the French, but was finally captured and imprisoned at Toulon, France.* He later became a patriotic Frenchman, and as such he died in France, May 26, 1883.

The decoration was founded to inspire rivalry in the regular army, and was only granted for brilliant action or for great services rendered, either to the Faith or to the country. The Chéia varies in form according to the grade, and consists of a gold or silver plaque in the centre of which are the Arabic characters, NASIR ED DIN , "The upholder of the Faith." Attached to this are the so-called fingers; the number of which indicates the importance of the award. To the Aghas in chief of the cavalry or infantry, the award took the form of a plaque and eight fingers in gold; to ordinary Aghas, seven fingers in gold; to Khadjas of a thousand men, six fingers in gold; to Siafs (superior officers), five fingers, of which two are silver and three are gold, with a silver plaque; to Khadjas of one hundred men, plaque in silver with five fingers, two of which are gold and three silver; to Kebir-er-roff (chief of rank), plaque of silver and four fingers, two in gold and two in silver; to Kahia (lieutenant), plaque in silver with three fingers, one gold and two of silver. The receipt of the Chéia carries with it certain privileges. "He who has it is treated by his superiors with the greatest consideration, and until the grade of Kebir-er-roff inclusive, he may enter freely the house of his superiors, even in my house."*


Facsimilé d'une décoration (grandeur réduite de moitié)

The Chéia was also awarded to officials not belonging to the Army, who were in the administrative or financial service of the Amir. The decoration was not worn on the breast, but carried on the head, where it was held in place by the aid of the hooks, which attached it to the haik, or white cloth head covering.

End Notes

Petit Larousse Illustre, 1925, says (page 1169): "Abd-el-Kader was imprisoned in the Chateau d'Amboise in 1848–1852."
" L'Émir Abd-el-Kader, 1808–1883" by Col. Paul Azan, 1925.
From The Emir Abd-el-Kader, Military Regulations. Translated by F. Patouri, Military Interpreter, Fontana Press, Algiers, 1890.


Morocco, the country of the Moors, consists of the Western and North-western section of Africa, extending westward from Algeria to the Atlantic Ocean and South to the Spanish protectorate of Rio de Oro. This was called Mauretania by the Romans. From the earliest times the inhabitants of this country have been troublesome to Europeans. Since 1907 France has had an influence in Morocco, which has steadily increased until in 1916 a territory larger than the State of Texas became a French Protectorate, save for a very small section extending from the Strait of Gibraltar to a short distance beyond Melilla (known as the Spanish zone), and the internationalized zone of Tangiers. During the French occupation there has been a steady advance; now French Morocco has become safe for foreigners and the inhabitants are more prosperous than ever before. Too much cannot be said in praise of the French system of Colonial government. Fez, the seat of the Moslem learning for more than one thousand years, is the Holy City of Morocco. The Sultan of the country is assisted and advised by a Resident-General, who is appointed by the French government.

THE ORDER OF NICHAN-HAFIDIEN (or Ouissam Hafidien) was founded August 7, 1910, by the Sultan Moulay-Hafid,* who had been proclaimed Sultan in 1908 and who abdicated in 1912. There are the usual five classes. The decoration is of the same form for all grades, but the wreath of palm leaves surmounting the star is of silver for the Chevaliers. The insignia, which varies in size according to the grade, consists of a gold star of six points superimposed on silver-faceted rays, surmounted by a wreath of two gold palm branches, tied at the bottom. In the centre is a deep red-enamelled field, bearing Arabic characters in gold, signifying "His Majesty Hafid"; this is surrounded by a white and gold circle. On the points of the star, in Arabic, is the motto, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet." The reverse is plain and the ribbon is red, with a white stripe on each side. Plate III.

THE OUISSAM ALAOUIT CHERIFIEN was created by the Sultan Moulay-Youssef in a dahir (decree) issued from the Southern Capital of Morocco under date of Safar 2, 1331 (January 11, 1913), to replace the Order of the Ouissam Hafidien. There are five grades, Grand Gordon, for members of the Cherifien royal family only, Grand Officers, Commanders, Officers and Chevaliers. The decoration is a five-pointed, ball-tipped star of gold, white-enamelled and with red edges. There are palm leaves between the points except for the fifth grade, and all are surmounted by two palm branches tied at the bottom. On the white star, in Arabic, is the motto, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet." In the centre medallion of red enamel, in gold Arabic letters, is "His Majesty Youssef." On the reverse in a field of gold is a red enamelled Cherifien umbrella. The plaque is an enlargement of the obverse of the Cross superimposed on five faceted rays. The ribbon is light orange in colour. Plate III.




Order of Nichan-Hafidien

Order of Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien

THE CHERIFIEN ORDER OF MILITARY MERIT was created by the Sultan Moulay-Hafid, August 7, 1910, and confirmed by a decree of Moulay-Youssef of December 30, 1912, regulating its award to soldiers of the Moroccan army and to members of the French army and navy, for distinguished conduct under fire. The decoration is a silver medal 30 mm. in diameter, edged with a laurel wreath. In a field of green enamel is a gold star of six points, bearing on a red-enamelled centre the Arabic inscription "His Majesty Hafid." On the reverse centre of gold is the Arabic motto "Cherifien Military Merit." The medal is surmounted by two crossed flags of silver with gold crescents at the tips of the staffs. These provide the means of attachment to the ribbon, which is white with a red band on each side, and with a rosette for the highest grade Plate IV.




Order of Military Merit

End Notes

Moulay is an Arab word signifying Master or Ruler, and is a title carried by many of the sultans of Morocco. Spelt also Moulai, Mouley or Muley.
Moulay-Youssef was a brother of Moulay-Hafid whom he succeeded in 1912. He died Nov. 17, 1927.


To speak of Tunis is to think of the Barbary States, an important part of the Mohammedan Empire. During the age of the Crusaders, this section was called the Empire of the Almoravids. The Arabs of the present day call the country Afrikiyah, which is probably derived from the Greek word A-phriké, meaning without cold. In the second and third centuries B.C. the country was frequently invaded by the Romans. Latin historians tell us that the Roman General, Scipio Aemelianus (the Younger Scipio), decorated his soldiers of the Legion, for heroic action, with garlands of roses. This is the first known military decoration pertaining to Tunis. The men of that legion were the first to enter the ramparts of Carthage in 146 B.C. The territory had many rulers before it came under the domination of the Turks, and since 1881 it has been a French Protectorate. During this period the inhabitants of Tunis have greatly prospered under the admirable system of French Government. The country is managed by a French Resident-General, though ostensibly ruled by the Bey, whose powers are limited. The title of "Bey" is hereditary; the present ruler Mohammed-en-Nasir is descended from Hussein-ben-Ali who was supposed to have been a Greek converted to Islamism in the seventeenth century.

The French Government does not class all of the Tunisian decorations and medals among the Colonials, but treats them the same as those of a foreign nation; special permission must first be obtained, before a citizen may wear them in France. The Order of Nichan Iftikhar is the only one recognized.

THE NICHAN IFTIKHAR, or Order of Glory or Distinction, is the best known of the Tunisian Decorations, probably because it is the only one now awarded to foreigners. In its earlier days it was bestowed upon the officers and high dignitaries of the Husseinite realm only. Authorities differ both as to who first founded the order and the date of its creation. According to M. Henri Hugon in Les Emblems des Beys de Tunis (Paris, 1913) it was adopted in 1832 or 1834 and probably inspired by the Turkish order of the same name. He also mentions and illustrates a portrait of Comte Raffo, wearing the insignia of the Order, bearing the name of Mustapha Bey in jewels, also one of Ahmed Bey. Mustapha Bey died in 1837 and was succeeded by Ahmed Bey, who is incorrectly given as the founder by several authorities. M. Hugon also quotes the writer, El Beji el Messaoudi, who said, "It is this Bey (Mustapha) who created the Nichan Iftikhar, on which he had made in precious stones his name, and awarded it to his minister of Foreign Affairs." Certain French and Italian authorities give credit to Ahmed Bey and fix the date as 1837 or 1844, but if M. Henri Hugon is correct the credit should be given to Mustapha Bey. In 1846 when visiting Paris, the Bey of Tunis bestowed several decorations of this order on officials in France. The design varied according to the rank of the one honoured; thus the idea of different grades or classes. All the insignia bore in the centre the monogram or name of the reigning Bey, usually set with diamonds or other precious stones. The number and quality of the stones vary with the rank of the one decorated. Many modifications were made in the decoration and the methods of its award between 1850 and 1882. At this later date the regulations allowed the bestowal upon foreigners and women. The Order as we know it today consists of six; grades : Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Chevalier of the first and second classes. The plaque of the first class is a ten-pointed silver star of alternate green and red points, resting on faceted rays. In the centre of green enamel, in Arabic characters, is the name of the reigning Bey. This is surrounded by a jeweled circle. The whole is richly studded with precious stones. The badge is a star, similar to the plaque though smaller, resting on faceted rays. The arms or points are enamelled alternately red and green, and surmounted by a jeweled knot of three loops, to which is attached the suspension ring for the ribbon—light green with two narrow red stripes on each side. The reverse is plain. The officer's badge has a rosette on the ribbon and the badge of the sixth class is entirely of silver, unenamelled. Plates V and VI.




Order of Nichan Iftikhar (old style)

The NICHAN-ED-DEM, or Ordre du Sang (Order of the Royal Family), was reserved for members of the royal house of Hussein—the founders of the reigning dynasty of Tunis. This family originally came from Crete and ruled in Tunis from 1691. Although reserved for Husseinite princes, it has occasionally been bestowed upon the President of France and other high French officials. It was founded by Ahmed Bey in 1837, modified in 1855, and Mohammed-es-Sadok reorganized the Order in February, 1861 (Chaban 1277).

The decoration of gold and diamonds is circular in form, having rows of diamonds terminating in twelve points, with fleurons intervening. Above this jeweled piece is a knot of gold ribbon with five loops and two ends, likewise jeweled. The reverse is plain, and the suspension ribbon is green with a double line of red on either side.




Order of Nichan Iftikhar (new style)

THE NICHAN-EL-AHED-EL-AMAN was instituted the 22 Djoumadi II 1276 (January 16, 1860), by the Bey, Mohammed-es-Sadok, in commemoration of his confirmation (in September 1859) of the Pact of Confidence or Security, which was promulgated by his predecessor, Mohammed Bey, September 10, 1857.* The Order is conferred only upon those ministers and generals of the army, and civilians who have rendered loyal and conspicuous services to the sovereign or the government. The insignia is a gold star of ten points, enamelled green, with trophies of arms and flags of gold and red enamel superimposed. On this is an oval medallion, surrounded by emeralds, and below is a knot of ribbon likewise jeweled. On the medallion of red enamel, in Arabic characters of gold, is the motto, "The Favour of Mohammed-es-Sadok and his Confidence 1276 (1860)." The name of Mohammed and the date of the foundation are in the extreme centre of the medallion, in emeralds, on a gold field. Each successive Bey placed his name and date similarly on the medal he issued. Surmounting the star is a green-enamelled flag on a gold staff, back of which is the suspension ring for the ribbon, which is green with two red stripes each side.

MEDAL FOR CRIMEA—1853. Arthur Daguin, a French writer, in Les Decorations Français et des Protectorates (Paris, 1900) states that the Sultan, Mohammed-es-Sadok, created a silver medal in 1855 for the Tunisian troops taking part in the Crimean war but gives no description. No other writer mentions it. As the Tunisian troops in the Crimean war served under the Turkish commanders, it is likely that the Turkish medal for this war was given to Tunisian troops and thus confused.

MEDAL FOR ARAB UPRISING 1864. Mohammed-es-Sadok Bey created on the 4th Hidje 1281 (April 29, 1865) a medal for those who took part in suppressing the insurrection of the Arabs, led by Ali ben Gdahoum, in 1864. The medal was of gold for officers and of silver for the privates. It was 30 mm. in diameter, and holed for the suspension ring, while the officers' medal had a gold knot of three loops surmounting the medal. On the obverse within a wreath of laurel branches is a trophy of arms and flags. At the centre of this is a round medallion inscribed in Arabic, "Iftikhar 1281." On the reverse, within two laurel branches, is "Mohammed-es-Sadok Bey." The ribbon is green with two red stripes each side.

The MEDAL for the expedition against Adel Bey was created in 1867 by Mohammed-es-Sadok, of gold and silver, oval in form, 35 × 28 mm. in size. On the obverse, between a laurel and palm branch, is a representation of the insignia of Nichan-ed-Dem, below which, in Arabic, is "Iftikhar" and the date 1284 (1867). On the reverse, in Arabic, is the name of the Bey. The method of suspension and ribbon are similar to those for the previous medal.

THE MEDAL OF 1881 was authorized by Ali Bey in 1882, to reward the troops who took part in the expedition of 1881 against the troublesome Arabs of the West. This was oval in form and similar to the medal of 1867, except that the reverse is inscribed in Arabic, "Ali Bey 1299" (1882). The ribbon is similar.

Since the beginning of the French Protectorate and the treaties of 1881 and 1883, the Tunisian troops fighting under the tri-colour are awarded the Medaille Coloniale of the French Republic.

The following Orders issued by certain of the European authorities are sometimes classed as Tunisian by writers on the subject, and are included here merely because their purposes were more or less related to Tunis and North Africa.

ORDER OF SAINT MARY OF MERCY. During the thirteenth century, the frequent invasions of the Italian, French and Spanish coasts, by the Barbarians and Moors of Northern Africa, caused a number of Military and Religious Orders to be established in these countries. The earliest of which we have any record was created in August 1218 by James I, king of Aragon, and called the Order of Our Lady of Mercy or the Order of Saint Mary of Merced. The object of the formation of this order was to free the Christian captives in the hands of the Moors.

Elias Ashmole states that so well did they carry out the intentions of the order that 400 Christian captives were set at liberty during the first six years. The insignia was a shield, the upper half of which bore a silver or white cross on a red field and the lower half had four vertical red lines on a white field, like the arms of Aragon.

ORDER OF THE SHIP. This was created by St. Louis of France in 1269 when he set sail from Aigues-Mortes for Africa, with forty thousand men, the object being to encourage the nobility of that country to accompany him on his crusade to suppress the Mohammedans. The insignia was a collar of alternate gold scallop shells and silver interlaced double crescents connected by a gold chain. From this was suspended an oval of gold bearing the figure of a ship; the shells representing the shores from which he sailed, the chained double crescents signifying the emblem of the infidels he expected to conquer. Owing to the design of the collar this is often called the Order of the Sea-shell or the Order of the Double Crescent.

ORDER OF SAINT PETER. Founded in 1520 by Pope Leo X, to suppress the barbarians of Africa who infested the coasts and raided the shipping of the Mediterranean Sea. No account of the insignia is given.

ORDER OF SAINT PAUL OF ROME was instituted in 1540 by the Pope, Paul III, for the same purpose. These two orders were at that time united, and had for their insignia an oval of gold bearing on one side the image of Saint Peter and on the other that of Saint Paul. This was suspended from a collar composed of three gold chains.

ORDER OF THE BURGUNDIAN CROSS was founded July 22, 1535 (St. Mary Magdalene's day), by Charles V, King of Spain and Emperor of Germany, as Favine says, "at the Kingdome of Thunis in Affrica." It was to commemorate his entrance into Tunis after he had defeated the pirate Khair-ed-Din, surnamed Barbarossa, and restored the native prince to the throne of Tunis. The badge was a Burgundian cross to which was attached a steel, striking sparks. Around this device was the word BARBARIA. This was suspended by a gold neck-chain.

End Notes

Canon Paschal in Les Ordres Chevaleresques, Marseille, 1895, says this was the First Order of Tunis and founded November 11, 1874, by Mohammed-Essadiq.


Since 1863 the French have been interested in developing the southern coast of the West African country. In that year Porto-Novo became a French colony—it is sometimes called the Kingdom of Porto-Novo. Like many other regions on the coast of Guinea, there was trouble with the natives. It was not until the end of the last century that, with the assistance of the French, Toffa, the King of Porto-Novo, was able to rest in undisturbed possession of the land, and free from the troublesome neighboring tribes.

THE ORDER OF THE BLACK STAR OF BENIN was instituted at Porto-Novo, December 1, 1889 (some writers say August 30, 1892), by King Toffa (Houenou Baba Dassi), a Royal Prince of Dahomey, to reward those who had assisted in making his kingdom secure. The order was recognized by the French in 1892. During the World War many foreigners received this decoration—over 280 were awarded to Americans. Why, of all the French Colonial orders, this was selected to be given them, is unknown, and inquiries on that point have been unanswered. There are five grades, Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Chevalier. The in- signia is a Maltese cross enamelled white with blue edges; between the arms are rays of gold and the whole is surmounted by a green-enamelled oak and laurel wreath, to which the suspension ring is attached. On the centre of the cross is a five-pointed star of black enamel. The obverse and reverse are the same and the ribbon is light blue moiré. Plate VII.

MEDAL FOR ATCHUPA. This was created in 1890 in connection with the brilliant action on the 20th of April of that year, when the troops of Toffa, under Colonel Terrillon, were victorious at Atchupa, against the native pretenders to the throne. The medal is of silver, 30 mm. in diameter, having on the obverse, within a wreath of oak and laurel, the Arms of the Kingdom (a silver star in upper field with a rampant leopard beneath a palm tree in the lower field; the whole surmounted by a royal crown); above is TOFFA ROI. On the plain reverse field is COMBAT D'ATCHUPA1890. The ribbon is light blue with three black bands: a large one in the centre and a narrow one each side.




Order of the Black Star of Benin



Medal for Dahomey

THE MEDAL FOR DAHOMEY, 1892. Following the troubles of 1892, with Behanzin the pretender to the throne of Dahomey, Toffa created a medal to reward those taking part in the campaign under General Dodds. It is of silver or bronze, 30 mm. in diameter, having at the obverse centre the crowned arms of the Kingdom, above which in relief is TOFFA ROI. Below are two laurel wreaths. The reverse, which is plain, has in relief CAMPAGNE / DU / DAHOMEY 1892. A variant of this medal has only the words TOFFA / ROI on the obverse, between two branches of oak and laurel. The ribbon is green with three vertical white stripes.

Another medal for Service, in the writer's collection, has on the obverse, within a wreath of oak and laurel branches, TOFFA ROI, and on the reverse the crowned arms of the Kingdom encircled by the inscription ROYAUME DE PORTO NOVO. No record has been found for this medal, or for the ribbon. Plate VIII.


This small section of Eastern Africa in French Somaliland, hardly two hundred miles square, is located on the Gulf of Tajurah, at the Southern extremity of the Red Sea, near the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. In 1856 the French secured their first foothold in this region at Obock, and within the next forty years had extended their influence over several of the small Sultanates of the vicinity. One of these was the Sultanate of Tajurah, which came under the protection of the tri-colour by treaty of October 13, 1884.

THE ORDER OF NICHAN-EL-ANOUAR of Tajurah was created by the Sultan and Sovereign of Tajurah, Homed Ben Mohammed in 1887 (some say in 1884). This was acknowledged and approved by the French Government, July 17, 1888. It was formed as a memorial of the taking of the Sultan and his people under the protection of France. There are the usual five classes and the decoration is a ten-pointed silver star with faceted arms, between which are ten five-pointed gold stars, surmounted by a royal crown, above which is a crescent. On a blue-enamelled central medallion is a five-pointed silver star, which is encircled by a red-enamelled band inscribed in Arabic characters, and three stars. The plaque is similar to the badge, but larger and without a crown. The ribbon is of three equal stripes, two of blue with one of white in the centre. Plate IX.




Order of Nichan—El—Anouar

MEDAL OF DJIBOUTI. When M. Legarde was the Governor of the French colony on the Gulf of Aden, in French Somaliland, about the end of the past century, he secured from Paris a number of medals of white metal for distribution among worthy natives. There seems to have been no authorization by the French Republic for these, and no writers on the subject mention them. The medal, 28 mm. in diameter, bears on the obverse the head of the Republic, facing to the left, encircled by REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE. On the obverse, within a wreath of oak and laurel, is DEVOUEMENT A LA FRANCE . The suspension ring for the ribbon—the tri-colour, red, white and blue—is an oblong of laurel.


This small archipelago in the Indian Ocean, North-west of Madagascar, was first discovered by Europeans in 1598. In 1840 France first assumed control over the island of Mayotte, and by 1886 the entire group of islands was placed under the protection of the tri-colour. There are four main islands, Anjouan (sometimes called Johanna or N'Souani, the island of the Hand), Great Comoro, Moheli and Mayotte. In addition there are numerous small islands. Each of the larger islands had its own separate Sultan or ruler, but are all now subject to the French authorities. A local tradition is that the Arabs visited these islands in the first century A.D., and that a colony of Arabs, under a chief of the family of Anjouan, settled on the island of that name, sent their subjects to the islands of Mayotte, Moheli and Comoro, and for that reason Anjouan has been recognized as supreme. Three of the Sultans had Orders of their own, though only that of Anjouan is recognized by France.

THE ROYAL ORDER OF THE STAR OF ANJOUAN was founded by the Sultan Said-Abdallah in 1860, though some writers consider it earlier. It was reorganized June 18, 1892, by the Sultan Mohammed-Said-Omar and recog- nized by the French authorities September 12, 1896. There are four grades, Chevalier, Officer, Commander and Grand Cross. The order is awarded to women as well as men for services to the Protectorate. The Chevalier's cross is silver, the officer's of gold and the other grades are silver-gilt.




Royal Order of the Star of Anjouan

The insignia is an eight-pointed star, each arm being composed of eight rays; in the oval central medallion of white enamel is a gold crescent surmounted by a gold hand—the emblem of Anjouan—and in the upper field, in Arabic characters, "The Royal Order of the Star of Anjouan." Around this on a gold band is the title in French, ORDRE ROYAL DE L'ETOILE D'ANJOUAN * COMORES *. The ribbon is now light blue with two narrow orange bands each side, though formerly it was red with white stripes each side. The plaque is similar to the cross, but 80 mm. in diameter. Plate X.

THE ORDER OF THE STAR OF COMORO, which is not recognized by France, was established by the Sultan of Great Comoro. No authority has been found which gives his name or the date of creation. There seem to be three grades, Grand Cross or triple star, Commander or double star, and Chevalier or one star. The present decoration is a green-enamelled gold star, ball-tipped with gold rays in the angles. This is surmounted by a faceted gold crescent, with two green stars in the field. In the green central medallion, in Arabic, is the Sultan's monogram and, on the reverse, Arabic characters. The ribbon is light green with two narrow white stripes each side. The earlier decoration is said to have been a gilt star of five ball-tipped points with faceted rays in the angles and surmounted by a ball-tipped crescent and looped to the suspension ring by gilt cords. The crescent bore the name of the order in Arabic. The ribbon was red with a white star in the centre. Plate XI.

THE ORDER OF THE STAR OF MOHELI was reorganized in 1888 by the Sultan of the island. No date has been found for its creation nor do we know the name of its founder. This is not recognized by the French Colonial authorities, and very little information is obtainable. There were five classes, similar to the Legion of Honour. The decoration is a six-pointed gold star, in the centre of which are two stars and a crescent. The ribbon of red bears a crescent and two stars.

THE ORDER OF THE SULTAN. No confirming authority has been found for this decoration, which is attributed to Comoro. It is said to have been founded by Said-Abdallah before 1860, though none of the French writers give any information on the subject. The decoration is a three-armed Moline cross, the upper arm of white enamel, the lower right in red and the left in blue. In the upper angles are silver bulls and in the lower angle is an eagle with spread wings standing on a native sword—both in silver. In the centre is a twelve-pointed star with a head of the Sultan. On the reverse, each arm of the cross and the centre of the medallion bear Arabic characters. No description of the ribbon is obtainable. Above the star and below the suspension ring is a sunburst. Plate XII.




Order of the Star of Comoro




Order of the Sultan


This, the third largest island of the world, is about 1,000 miles long and 300 miles at the widest part. It is located in the Indian Ocean, and separated by the Mozambique channel from Africa. Madagascar has been known to the Arabs for more than a thousand years and was first visited by the Portuguese in 1506. In 1643, Hamond, an English writer, having visited the country, published his book entitled Madagascar, the Richest and Most Fruitful Island in the World. From this title one may see why the various countries desired to control it. During the latter part of the seventeenth century and early in the eighteenth the French had settlements along the coast, but wars with the natives interfered and it was not until 1861 that the island was opened to European trade and missions. Since that time the French have taken the lead in the settlement of the island. Madagascar became a French protectorate in 1885 and from 1896* has been a colony. The inhabitants, called Madecassas or Malagache, were formerly divided into several tribes, the better known of which are the Sakaleves and the Hovas. The former had control from the middle of the seventeenth to the end of the eighteenth centuries. Since then, the Hovas, the most advanced and intelligent of these tribes, have ruled. The kings and queens have been as follows :

  • Radama I, born 1792, became king in 1810 and died in 1828 aged 36; he was succeeded by one of his wives,
  • Ranavalona I, who reigned from 1828 to 1861, to be followed by her son,
  • Radama II, who reigned but two years (1861–1862). He was killed during a native uprising, and was succeeded by his wife,
  • Rasoherina, who reigned as queen from 1863 to 1868 when she died, and was followed by her cousin,
  • Ranavalona II, who mounted the throne in 1868 and reigned until her death on July 13, 1883. She, like her predecessor and her successor, married the Prime Minister, Rainilaiarivony. He was very powerful and was believed to be responsible for the trouble which brought about the French protectorate in 1885. At the death of Ranavalona II, she was succeeded by her niece, Razafindrahety, who took the title of
  • Ranavalona III. She was crowned July 14, 1883, and continued on the throne until the French confined her on Reunion Island in 1897. Two years later she was sent to Algiers, and there she died in 1917.

THE ORDER OF MERIT, or Order of Radama II, as it is sometimes called, was instituted September 25, 1862, by King Radama II, with but one class. The decoration is a seven-pointed, white-enamelled star with gold rays in the angles, surmounted by a royal crown. In the central medallion is the head of the king in gold, facing to the left and surrounded by a blue-enamelled band inscribed RADAMA II MPANJAKA. On the reverse centre of gold is a palm tree with mountains in the distance, encircled by a band inscribed MADAGASCAR. The ribbon is white with a blue band each side. Plate XIII.

THE MEDAL OF MERIT was instituted by the same king at the same time, for the purpose of rewarding soldiers and others in the royal service. It was issued in silver and gold, of 32 mm. diameter, with the head of Radama II facing to the left, surrounded by a wreath of palm leaves. The inscription reads RADAMA II MPANJAKA. The reverse bears the inscription, MADAGASCAR / ANTANANARIVO / 23 / SEPTEMBRE / 1862—also within a wreath of palms. The moiré silk ribbon is red and white with the white diagonally encroaching upon the red above the suspension ring. Plate XIII.

The gold medal here illustrated has every appearance of having been made in France. Radama was partial to the French influence in his country, and may have instituted these decorations at the instigation of French officials.



Radama II

Order of Merit


Medal of Merit




Order of Ranavalo

THE ORDER OF RANAVALO. This was probably founded by the queen, Ranavalona II, who reigned from 1868 to 1883, though no authority has been found for its creation. The decoration is a seven-pointed star,* each point being formed of three spear heads, resting on faceted rays, and surmounted by a native crown with seven feathers superimposed, and a bird above in the suspension ring. In the oval medallion are the initials R. M. (Ranavalona Mpanjaka) on a white field which takes up three-quarters of the oval; the other quarter, the lower right side, is red. The reverse is plain and the ribbon is white save for the lower right hand section, which is red. Plate XIV.

THE MEDAL OF MERIT MALAGACHE. This was instituted by the French Colonial Department May 14, 1901, as a reward to natives who were prominent in the commerce, industry or agriculture of the colony. There are three grades—gold, silver and bronze, 35 mm. in diam- eter. The medal is surmounted by six spears, and branches of palm and laurel. On the obverse is a head of the Republic, by Roty, with flowing hair, a liberty cap and crown of laurel, encircled by the motto REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE. On the reverse, within an oak and laurel wreath, is COLONIE / DE / MADAGASCAR / HONNEUR / MERITE / TRAVAIL. The moiré silk ribbon is half blue and half white. Plate XV.

THE MEDAL OF HONOUR was created by the same authorities at the same time and intended for a lesser reward. It is 25 mm. in diameter, having a similar obverse, while the reverse bears a tablet inscribed HONNEUR / ET / TRAVAIL encircled by palm and laurel branches and MADAGASCAR ET DEPENDANCES. The ribbon is maroon, edged with gold. Plate XV.




Medal of Merit

Medal of Honour

End Notes

French medals were issued for troops taking part in these expeditions of 1885 and 1894–6.
Jules Martin—1912—states the star has five branches.
Malagache, a name given the inhabitants of Madagascar.


The territory of French Indo-China lies to the extreme South-east of China, and east of Siam. The earliest knowledge we have of the region is derived from the Chinese historians who mention the Annamese of 2257 B.C. The country is now divided into the colony of Cochin-China and the protectorates of Annam, Cambodia, Laos and Tong-king. Cochin-China is under the direct administration of France through its Lieutenant Governor, who resides at Saigon. In Annam the Emperor Bao-Dai is nominal sovereign, assisted by the French Résident-Supérieur. In Cambodia the king directs the native administration, assisted by a Résident-Supérieur. Laos has several departments, but that of Luang-Prabang only has a king, who is aided by a Résident-Supérieur. In Tong-king the Résident-Supérieur in the absence of any sectional native ruler is the sole governor.

French missionaries were established in this section in the seventeenth century* and the first treaty was made in 1787 with Gia-Long, the king of Annam, during the reign of Louis XVI. In 1857 an expedition was sent out by France, since which time the gradual extension of control has been brought about, and from 1883 the country has been entirely under French domination. The satisfactory government of these colonies is evidenced by the loyal support of the natives during the war with Germany, when several hundred thousand troops and workers were sent to France to assist the mother-country. Many millions of francs were subscribed by them for the war loans and relief societies.

The only regional decoration which applies throughout all of Indo-China is the

ORDER OF MERIT. Founded by the Governor-General at Saigon, April 30, 1900, as a reward for exceptional services rendered in agriculture, commerce, industry and the arts. It is awarded to natives and to Asiatics only, and there are three classes, gold, silver and bronze. The decoration is a ball-tipped star of six points, 55 mm. in diameter, surmounted by a suspension ring composed of two branches of laurel. In the round medallion are the words INDOCHINE : FRANÇAISE, encircling two native characters, signifying To make known that which is beautiful. The ribbon is bright yellow. Plate XVI.




Order of Merit

End Notes

Guillaume Mahot, of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris, went to Cochin-China in 1666 and died at Fai-fo in 1684. From Bulletin des Amis de Vieux Hué, page 408, 1915, No. 4.


This section of French Indo-China is a narrow strip north of Cambodia, south of Tong-king and between the mountains of Laos and the China Sea. It has a coast line of approximately nine hundred miles. The Annamese (Giao-chi) are of southern Chinese origin. Their country has frequently been overrun by the Burmese and Chinese. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, by the treaty between Gia-Long and Louis XVI, the country came under the influence of the French, and the "Kingdom of the South" has been generally prosperous as a French protectorate. The native capital and principal city, Hué, is famed for its old walls, temples and gardens, as well as for its monuments and other antiquities. Hué is also the residence of the King, whose official native title is Koang-de, or Son of Heaven. The several decorations for Annamite citizens are the Bài, or plaque, the Khánh, or gong from its shape,* the Bôi, or oval for suspension, the Tien, or Sapèque (a native coin). The Bài was made in gold or silver and was called the Kim-Bài or Ngân-Bài, according to the metal. The Khánh and the Bôi were both issued in jade, gold and silver, hence the prefix, Ngoc, for jade. The Tien, or Sapèque, was issued in gold and silver; hence it becomes the Kim-Tiên or Ngân-Tiên. All of these decorations are worn on the breast, suspended by a silk cord from the neck, and bear a tassel suspended from a hole at the bottom of the piece. With the very high awards the tassel is replaced by a string of coral beads or pearls. When two or more decorations are worn at the same time they are suspended one above the other, with the tassel or coral at the bottom.

BAI or PLAQUE. This insignia has been in use in China and Annam for centuries. The earliest known were of ivory and apparently were worn as a badge of office. During the reign of Gia-Long about 1802, the Ngân-Bài, or silver plaque, is said to have been worn by members of the Co-Mat, or Secret Council, as indicative of their position. In 1824/1825 the Emperor Minh-Mang seems to have issued regulations for the wearing of the Bài rather than, as some writers have supposed, rules for its creation.

At the present time the Sovereign wears a rectangular plaque, made of jade, enriched by precious stones and bearing in engraved Annamite characters, "Peace and prosperity to the Son of Heaven." Gold plaques or Kim-Bài are worn by the members of the Royal family, the high court dignitaries, members of the Co-Mat, and are awarded to the higher French officials. The plaques are made in various shapes and sizes for all the different classes, generally oblong rectangles, though those of other wearers, like the women of the household, are oval. The material is silver, ivory, horn, ebony and lead according to the grade. On the face they bear the title of the individual wearing it, be he an official of the Palace, an officer of the army or a servant of the Royal household. There are at least twenty different shapes and sizes. Sixty different classes of persons are entitled to wear the plaque or Bài.* Plate XVII.




Bai or Plaque

Kim Bôi

KIM-KHÁNH or Gold Gong. This is the most important decoration of Annam, and for a very long time has been worn by Mandarins and others of high civil or military rank. It is made of jade, gold or plated gold. The exact date of its origin is not known, as the records for such things at Hué cannot be found. It was first known to Europeans in 1873, when the Emperor, Tu-Duc—in the twenty-sixth year of his reign—caused large gold models weighing from five to six ounces to be made for presentation to the French admiral, then at Hanoi, and to other high officials. These bore on one side the native characters meaning Fidelity and Confidence. Two years later, another large Kim-Khánh was made and presented to the President of the French Republic. In 1887, the second year of Dòng-Khánh, four classes with multi-coloured silk fringe were authorized for Europeans. The inscription on one side denoted the grade—on the reverse was the name of the reigning monarch. In 1892 the Emperor, Thánh-Thái (dethroned in 1907 for his excessive cruelties to the women of his household), awarded the Kim-Khánh to Mme. Elisa Block for her great work in art,* and in 1900 he decreed that there should be only three classes and limited the decoration to men only. Plates XVIII and XIX.




Kim Khánh




Brevet of Kim Khánh

The decoration, whether in gold or jade, is of a distinctive form with scrolled edges and is decorated with dragons or flowers. Both sides are alike, save for the inscription. The illustration, Plate XVIII, has on the obverse DAI-NAM-HOÀNG-DÊ-SAC-TÚ, signifying "Given by his Majesty Hoang-De the Emperor of Great Annam," and on the reverse NHUT HANG KIM-KHÁNH, signifying "Kim-Khánh of the First Class." The hole at the top is for the silk neck cord; that at the bottom for the silk fringe or tassel, which is of violet, old gold and red, all held together by native knots.

The writer has three specimens of this decoration, varying in size, ornamentation and lettering, which changed with the respective reigns.

KIM-BÔI (or Bô), meaning a suspended oval of gold, as Ngoc-bôi means a jade oval, was instituted in 1889 by the Emperor Thành-Thái. Prior to that time the Khánh in jade, the Bôi and Plaque in jade, had been utilized as awards of honour. Thành-Thái in the first year of his reign (1888–1907) caused the Bôi to be made in gold, silver or jade, and reserved it for women. Formerly the jade bôi had been given to men as well as women. The decoration is an oval with scrolls and dragons on the edges, and in the medallion, THÀN-THÁI-NIEN-TAO , or "Made in the reign of Thánh-Thái." On the reverse is QUYNH-DIĚ-VINH-HAO —" The beauty of Quynh and God is eternal."* The Kim-Bôi was awarded in three grades and like the Khánh was suspended by a silken cord from the neck. It has, as well, a tassel hanging from the decoration. Plate XVII.

When made in Annam the decorations of Kim-Bôi and of Kim-Khánh are of two sheets of pure gold soldered together. When made in France they are usually of silver, gold plated.

SAPÈQUE D'ONNEUR or KIM-TIÊN. Little is known of the origin of this decoration, although, like the Khánh, it has long existed. Whenever it was to be awarded it was made in gold by order of the monarch. In the thirteenth year of Minh-Mang (1832) one thousand Kim-Tiên were ordered to be made. It was awarded to Mandarins, to the military, and to foreigners for exceptional services, and to Princes and to Princesses on their becoming of age. There are four classes; all bear on one side the name of the reigning Emperor. The other side varies. The highest class has a rampant dragon with two native characters, Long-Văn ("ornament of dragons"), in the centre. The first class has only the figure of the dragon; the second class is the same, but smaller; while the lowest class is still smaller and bears no dragon, but the two characters, Nhi-Nghi (sun and moon). On February 8, 1894, the Sapèque in gold with a fringe and silk cord was conferred upon Madame Bert, the widow of Paul Bert, the former Resident-General of Annam and Tonkin.*




Types of sapèqurs




Types of Sapèques

SAPÈQUE IN SILVER or NGǍN-TIĚN. Like the Sapèque in gold, little is known as to its origin. In 1832, during the reign of Minh-Mang, twenty thousand were ordered to be made as a reward to the soldiers and others in inferior positions in the government. There are three classes, varying in size and decoration. All bear the name of the reigning emperor on one side. The reverse has a dragon for the first class; a smaller dragon for the second class, and native characters on that of the third class, which is pierced by a square hole at the centre. A larger and special model is sometimes given, bearing native char- acters on each side. Owing to the fact that a decoration of the period of 1832 was awarded in 1916 (and is in the writer's collection with the brevet), it would appear that all of the twenty thousand ordered in 1832 have not yet been awarded. Plate XX. The native characters in the first class medal shown in Plate XXI are MINH-MANG-THÔNG-BUU or "That which is recognized as precious in the reign of Minh-Mang."

Like the Sapèque in gold, this is suspended from the neck by a silk cord, with a fringe or tassel from the bottom of the decoration.

The Sapèque is sometimes awarded in bronze. Plates XXI and XXII.

THE MILITARY MEDAL OF ANNAM. This was established in 1886 by the regent, Nguyēn-hurn-Dò, and is conferred solely on the native troops of Annam and Tongking, for bravery or for wounds in service. The decoration is a round silver-gilt medal, with a dragon's head and claws at the top, surmounted by two crossed swords of native type. On the obverse, between branches of oak and laurel, are native characters, denoting "Protectorate of Annam and Tongking. Valour and Discipline." The reverse is similar, with the inscription in French. The ribbon is yellow, edged with blue, and has two Annamite characters in the yellow centre.




Brevet of the Sapèque D'Argent




Plaque of Honour 1863

PLAQUE OF HONOUR. This was instituted in 1863 by the Emperor, Tu-Duc, in the sixteenth year of his reign and awarded to those who assisted in the great famine of that period. The decoration is a thin silver oval plate 79 × 62 mm. and 13.5 grains in weight, bearing in the centre native characters LAC GUYÊN NGAI DÂN, "For lavish generosity in the help of the people." The pin-point impressions on the edge indicate the weight of the piece.* Plate XXIII.

MEDAL OF MERIT. This was issued during the epoch of Minh-Mang (1820–1840), and, as its name indicates, was probably awarded to the troops and civilians for exceptional services, though the writers on the subject say little about it. It is a thin oblong silver plaque, 64 × 50 mm., bearing in the centre Thuong Cong—signifying Reward of Merit. The pin-point impressions on the edge indicate the weight of the piece.

THE IMPERIAL ORDER OF THE DRAGON was adopted at Hué, the capital, March 14, 1886 ("the ninth day of the second month of the first year of his reign "), by the Emperor Dòng-Khánh, as a reward for civil and military service to the Emperor* or the Protectorate, and is sometimes conferred on women. It is the only Annamite Order which is recognized by France and was approved by the decrees of May 31, 1896, and of July 12, 1897. Like the other recognized Colonial Orders, it is under the control of the Minister of Colonies and the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour. There are five classes, Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Chevalier, and the decorations are 70 mm., 60 mm., and 40 mm. in size, according to the grade. The decoration is a star of eight points formed of forty faceted rays and surmounted by an imperial crown, above which is a green-enamelled dragon. In the oval medallion of light-blue enamel are native characters in gold, DONG-KHANH-HOANG-DÉ, and Annamite heraldic rays, representing the sun, surround these characters. The reverse is plain and the decoration, the same for civilians and military, is of gold for all grades except that of Chevalier, which is of silver. The ribbon is green bordered with orange for civilians and white edged with orange for military members. The plaque is 90 mm. in size, with a superimposed enamelled dragon holding the centre of the medallion. Plates XXIV and XXV.




Imperial Order of the Dragon




Brevet of the Imperial Order of the Dragon

    The Emperors of Annam Since 1802
  • GIA-LONG (or Nguyen-Anh), who took the name of Gia-Long and title of Emperor on June 1, 1802, and died February 3, 1820.
  • MINH-MANG, born May 25, 1791, at Tan-Loc (son of Gia-Long and his second wife, Princess Thuan-Thien-Cao-Hoang-Hau), was enthroned February 14, 1820. He died January 11, 1841, and was buried at Hien-Lang, August 25, 1841. He created the Ngân-Bài, or silver plaque, in 1825 as a reward for Military services and in 1832 ordered the Tien as an award for exceptional services.
  • THIÊU-TRI, the eldest son of Minh-Mang, was born June 16, 1807, and proclaimed Emperor February 11, 1841. He died November 27, 1847, and was buried June 24, 1848, at Xurong-Lang.
  • TU-DUC, a son of Thiêu-Tri, mounted the throne October 29, 1848, and died July 19, 1883. It was during his reign that the Kim-Khánh first became known to foreigners.
  • KIĚN-PHÚC was born February 12, 1869, elected Emperor November 29, 1883, and died July 31, 1884.
  • HAM-NGHI, a brother of Tu-Duc, ascended the throne August 2, 1884, and died July 5, 1885.
  • DÒNG-KHÁNH, born February 19, 1864. He was the oldest son of Prince Kien-Thau-Vurong (the 26th son of Thiêu-Tri), and was adopted son of Tu-Duc and the brother of Ham-Nghi. Elected Emperor September 20, 1885, he died January 28, 1889. He instituted the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam in 1886.
  • THÀNH-THÁI was declared Emperor February 1, 1889, and dethroned September 9, 1907, by the French authorities for excessive cruelties to the women of his household and for opposing the French officials. He was sent to Reunion Island, November, 1916, with his son, Duy-Tan. During his reign the Kim-Bôi was instituted.
  • DUY-TAN, the son of Thàn-Thái, was declared Emperor September 9, 1907, when eight years of age. He was dethroned May 3, 1916, by the French authorities, when he left the Palace to join a rebellion against the French. They arrested him, and in November, 1916, he was sent to Reunion Island with his father, Thàn-Thái.
  • KHÅI-DINH (or Son of Heaven), the eldest son of Dòng-Kánh, was born October 8, 1885, with the title of Prince Buru-Dao. He was selected by the Annamite and French Colonial authorities to succeed Duy-Tan, and ascended the throne as Emperor May 17, 1916, assuming the title of Khåi-Dinh. He died November 6, 1925.
  • BAO-DAI (meaning Greatness Sustained), his son, who was being educated in Paris, was elected Emperor at the age of thirteen years in January, 1926. He was named Vinh-thuy , and assumed the name of Bao-Dai when enthroned. He returned to Paris to complete his education, and a Conseil de Régence governs.

End Notes

The Khánh was originally an instrument of music, or gong of stone or bronze. The Annamite decorations having this form are called a gong. Hence Kim-Khánh, a gong of gold.
No. 3, 1926. Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hué.
Also called Khin-Kham, Kim-Kam, or Kink-Cam, by various European writers.
Translation of brevet to Mme. Block. "The second day of the eighth month of the fourth year of Thanh-Thái (September 22, 1892) the members of the Co-Mat (Privy Council) of the Great Empire of Annam have the honour to publish the present ordinance by which in the name of her Majesty, the Imperial Grandmother, Tu-Duc-Bac-Hué-Khoung-Tho-Da : Wishing to recognise the great talent and precious qualities of Mme. Elisa Block, Sculptress, of Paris, we have awarded her a Kim-Khánh of the first class, provided with fringe and silk."
Note that it is awarded in the name of the Imperial Grandmother!
Quynh is the name of a precious stone.
Translation of Brevet—" Hué, the third day of the first month of the sixth year of Thanh-Thái [February 8, 1894]. The dynasty of Ean having a great person called Duong-Kum, who died after having rendered conspicuous services to the kingdom, had, in memory of the good works, given a decoration to his wife. Agreeably to the ordinance of her majesty the Imperial Grandmother, we the members of the Co-Mât (Privy Council) confer on Madame Bert, a decoration of one Sapèque in gold, supplied with a fringe and a silk cord, for the services which the Governor General M. Paul Bert has rendered to the Annamite Government."
Etudes Numismatique Annam , 1905, Schroeder, pp. 506, No. 614.
Etudes Numismatique Annam , 1905, Schroeder. Plate LXXX, No. 353.
Dong-Khanh was installed July, 1885, by the French Resident General, de Courcy.


The Southern section of French Indo-China is called Cambodge by the French and Sroc-Khmer by the natives. During the fifth century A.D., the Khmers, of Hindu origin, occupied the country and built many cities and monuments, notably those of Angkor-Thom and Angkor-Vat. The European name for Cambodia is probably derived from the Hindu, Kambu, the traditional founder of the Khmer clan. From the fourteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, the country was continuously at war with the Chinese from the North. The Annamese predominated in the population and controlled the country until the nineteenth century. After the French occupation of Annam, the King of Cambodia, Norodom I, fearing the encroachment of Siam, concluded a treaty with France on August 11, 1863. Since that time the country has been a protectorate of France, under a Résident-Supérieur. The present native ruler is King Monivong, whose capital is Pnomh-Penh, on the Mekong River.

THE ROYAL ORDER OF CAMBODIA was founded February 8, 1864, by the king, Norodom I (1835–1904), to reward civil and military services. There are the usual five classes, Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Chevalier. Foreigners are also given the decoration. The star of the chevalier is of silver; all others are of gold. The insignia is an eight-pointed faceted star of forty-eight rays surmounted by a royal crown. On the centre, within a red-enamelled band, is a light blue medallion on which in relief are the arms of the kingdom in gold; at the bottom are two vases, one above the other, surmounted by a Cambodian royal crown of seven tiers. On these are superimposed the sacred swords of Phra-Khan, believed to have been given originally by Indra, the god of the air, to an early king of Cambodia. Flames are in the field.




Royal Order of Cambodia

The reverse of the star is plain. The ribbon is red, edged with green, when the order is conferred by the Cambodian government, and with this ribbon a French citizen can wear the decoration in Cambodia only. When the order is conferred by the French authorities the ribbon is white, edged with orange; this change was effected by a decree of December 5, 1899. Plate XXVI.

MEDAL OF THE ROYAL ORDER OF CAMBODIA. This is issued in gold, silver and bronze and awarded for services not warranting the Royal Order. It is 32 mm. in diameter, having on the obverse, within an oak and laurel wreath, NORODOM IER . ROI DU CAMBODGE, with sun rays above and below. On the reverse centre is the mantled Arms of the kingdom, around which is * SOMDACH PREA NORODOM PREA CHAU CRUNG * CAMPUCHEA *. The medal is surmounted by a crown. The ribbon has three equal stripes of red, yellow and light blue. This medal is often called the Military Medal of Norodom I.

MEDAL OF SISOWATH was founded in 1904 when Sisowath became King of Cambodia, upon the death of his brother, Norodom I. It is 32 mm. in diameter, and surmounted by a Cambodian royal crown. On the obverse, within an oak and laurel wreath, is SISOWATH IER. ROI DU CAMBODGE, with rays above and below. On the reverse is the arms of the kingdom and the title of the king in native characters. The ribbon is of three equal stripes, red, yellow and purple. It is awarded to the military, as well as to civilians, for services to the kingdom. Plate XXVII.

The MONI-SERPAHON, or Palmes of Cambodia, was founded by King Sisowath in July, 1906, as a reward to teachers, artists and authors. It is modelled after the French Palmes Universitaires. The decoration consists of silver-gilt palm and laurel branches—in the centre is an urn with flowers and a knot of ribbon. Obverse and reverse are the same. The ribbon is bright yellow. Plate XXVII.




Medal of Sisowath

Moni Serpahon




The Sowathara

The SOWATHARA, or ORDER OF AGRICULTURAL MERIT, was created June 18, 1923, by royal ordinance, and approved by a decree of the Résident-Supérieur of France, of July 3, 1923. It is to reward and honour agriculturalists of Cambodia and had three classes, Commander, Officer and Chevalier. The decoration is a four-armed cross, each arm composed of five rays, in the angles of which are bunches of wheat, cotton, palm and rice paddy. In the green-enamelled medallion is a gold representation of the three-towered temple of Angkor—the ancient capital of the country—surrounded by a gold circle. The cross is surmounted by a figure of the native earth-goddess, and is suspended by a green ribbon. Plate XXVIII.

The temple of Angkor-Vat was built in the city of Angkor-Thom (Angkorthe Great) by the Khmers, who came to this region from Burma and the Northeast, early in the Christian era. Apparently they were in the fullness of their power from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, and were surplanted in the fifteenth century.


Part of Laos is in Siam and part in French Indo-China. The latter was largely ceded by Siam to France in 1893. The region west of Annam and North and Northeast of Siam has been a protectorate since that date. The country is inhabited by semi-civilized tribes and a mixed population from the surrounding regions. Viengchan (Vientaine) became the French capital of Laos, while the principal native city is Luang-Prabang (Kingdom of the Divine Buddha), in the province of the same name. Here resides Somdet Phra Chao Sisavang Vong, not only the King of Luang-Prabang, but in the native phrase—Master of Heaven and Life.

THE ORDER OF A MILLION ELEPHANTS or THE WHITE PARASOL. For eight years or more this order has been awarded to natives and foreigners by the King of Luang-Prabang, though no information is available as to who created it, the date, or the reason for its award. The decoration is composed of three white-enamelled heads of elephants, below which is a peacock's spread tail, and above are four oval shields and a royal native crown. Surmounting this on a scroll inscribed with native characters is the name of the order. The ribbon is bright red with two narrow gold stripes and an angular scroll design on each side. Plate XXIX.




Order of a Million Elephants



When honoured with the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol, the brevet only is given; the recipient is required to purchase the insignia. Plate XXX.


This northernmost section of French Indo-China, North and Northeast of Laos and Annam, became a French protectorate by treaty of June, 1885. The French have been established in certain coastal sections of the region since 1862. There are no local rulers of Tong-king, hence there are no native decorations or medals issued, except the Military Medal described under Annam.



  • Annuaire Generale de la France . 1920—21.
  • Elias Ashmole . The History of the most noble Order of the Garter. London, 1715.
  • L. Brasier & L. Brunet . Les Ordres Tunisiens. Paris, 1898.
  • L. Brasier & L. Brunet . Les Ordres Coloniaux Français. Paris, 1899.
  • Henry G. Bryant . The Land of the Golden Dragon, Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, April 1919.
  • Arthur Daguin . Manuscript Notes, 1894 to 1918.
  • Dăng-Ngoc-Oánh, Secrétaire Géneral du Conseil de Régence. Les Distinctions Honorifiques Annamites—No. 4 Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hué, December 1915.
  • Andrew Favine . The Theatre of Honour and Knighthood. London, 1623. Translated from a French edition, 1620.
  • Henri Hugon . Les Emblèmes des Beys de Tunis . Paris, 1913.
  • Jules Martin de Montalbo . Armoiries et Decorations. Paris, 1896. Supplement, 1910.
  • Jules Martin de Montalbo . Les Decorations Françaises. Paris, 1912.
  • Paschal le Chanoine . Les Ordres Chevaleresque. Marseille, 1895.
  • L. Soigny. Chef de la Sureté de l'Annam . Les Plaquettes des Dignitaires et des Mandarins a la Cour' d'Annam . Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hué, No. 3, 1926.


  • Frontispiece. Morocco. Brevet of Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien.
  • Plate I. Brevet Aut'horizing the Royal Order of Cambodia .
  • Plate II. Morocco. Translation of Brevet Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien.
  • Plate III. Morocco. Order of Nichan-Hafidien. Order of Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien.
  • Plate IV. Morocco. Order of Military Merit.
  • Plate V. Tunis. Order of Nichan Iftikhar. Old Style.
  • Plate VI. Tunis. Order of Nichan Iftikhr . New Style
  • Plate VII. Dahomey. Order of the Black Star of Benin.
  • Plate VIII. Medal for Dahomey .
  • Plate IX. Tajurah. Order of Nichan-el-Anouar .
  • Plate X. Comoro. Royal Order of the Star of Anjouan .
  • Plate XI. Comoro. Order of the Star of Comoro .
  • Plate XII. Comoro. Order of the Sultan .
  • Plate XIII. Madagascar. Order of Merit, Radama II. Medal of Merit.
  • Plate XIV. Madagascar. Order of Ranavalo .
  • Plate XV. Madagascar. Medal of Merit. Medal of Honour.
  • Plate XVI. French Indo-China. Order of Merit.
  • Plate XVII. Annam. Bai or Plaque. Kim-Bôi .
  • Plate XVIII. Annam. Kim-Khánh .
  • Plate XIX. Annam. Brevet of Kim-Khánh .
  • Plate XX. Annam. Types of Sapèques.
  • Plate XXI. Annam. Types of Sapèques.
  • Plate XXII. Annam. Brevet of the Sapèque D'Argent.
  • Plate XXIII. Annam. Plaque of Honour, 1863.
  • Plate XXIV. Annam. Imperial Order of Dragon.
  • Plate XXV. Annam. Brevet of the Imperial Order of the Dragon.
  • Plate XXVI. Cambodia. Royal Order of Cambodia .
  • Plate XXVII. Cambodia. Medal of Sisowath. Moni Serpahon.
  • Plate XXVIII. Cambodia. The Sowathara.
  • Plate XXIX. Laos. Order of a Million Elephants.
  • Plate XXX. Laos. Brevet of the Order of a Million Elephants.


Decoration du Chéia, or Order of the Silver Hand 5
Annam .
Kim-Bài 40
Kim-Khánh 41
Kim-Bôi 43
Kim-Tiên, or Sapèque in gold 44
Ngân-Tiên, or Sapèque in silver 45
Military Medal 46
Plaque of Honour for Famine 47
Medal of Merit 47
Imperial Order of the Dragon 47
Order of Merit 38
Cambodia .
Royal Order of Cambodia 52
Military Medal of Norodom I 54
Medal of Sisowath 54
Moni-Serpahon 54
Sowathara, or Order of Agricultural Merit 55
Comoro .
Royal Order of the Star of Anjouan 28
Order of the Star of Comoro 29
Order of the Star of Moheli 30
Order of the Sultan 30
Dahomey .
Order of the Black Star of Benin 23
Medal of Atchupa 24
Medal for Dahomey, 1892 25
Laos .
Order of a Million Elephants 56
Madagascar .
Order of Merit of Radama II 34
Medal of Merit of Radama II 34
Order of Ranavaio 35
Medal of Merit Malagache 35
Medal of Honour 36
Morocco .
Order of Nichan-Hafidien or Ouissam-Hafidien 10
Order of Ouissam Alaouit Cherifien 10
Cherifien Order of Military Merit 11
Tajurah or Obock.
Order of Nichan-el-Anouar 26
Medal of Djibouti 27
Tunis .
Nichan Iftikhar, or Order of Distinction 14
Nichan-ed-Dem 16
Nichan-el-Ahmed-el-Aaman 17
Medal for Crimea, 1853 18
Medal for Arab Uprising, 1864 18
Medal of Adel Bey, 1867 19
Medal of 1881 19
Order of St. Mary of Mercy 20
Order of the Ship 20
Order of St. Peter 21
Order of St. Paul of Rome 21
Order of the Burgundian Cross 21