M966.22 | Medal

 
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Medal
1693-1719, 18th century
3.4 x 13 cm
M966.22
© McCord Museum
Description
Keywords:  Medal (34)
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Keys to History

This gold and enamel Maltese cross from the early 18th century is the symbol of the Order of Saint-Louis. Founded by King Louis XIV in 1693, the Order was created to recognize the merit of French Catholic military officers with at least 10 years of military service. Many Canadian seigneurs and captains of the French Colonial Regular Troops were awarded crosses like this one in acknowledgement of their actions during colonial wars. Upon receiving the order they were given an annual pension of 800 French livres, and at their deaths the cross was supposed to be returned to the colonial administrators. After 1760, however, many families kept the cross.

French officials, unlike Aboriginal diplomats, saw themselves as supreme rulers. They equated leadership with political power, and power with coercion. Symbols of dedicated military service, like the Order of Saint-Louis, were an integral part of this system. Aboriginal leaders also enjoyed great prestige; however, their power was non-coercive. Their skill was in persuading people to reach a consensus on an issue in order to "speak with one voice."

  • What

    The Order of Saint-Louis badge was a Maltese cross, gold and enamel, with fleurs-de-lis between the arms, a medallion with the effigy of Saint-Louis on the obverse, a sword upright through a laurel wreath on the reverse. The motto of the Order was bellicae virtutis praemium, which translates to "the reward of warring valor".

  • Where

    The Cross of Saint-Louis was awarded to French Catholic officers in recognition of distinguished service in colonial conflicts that took place across North America.

  • When

    The Order of Saint-Louis was founded by King Louis XIV in 1693 and continued to operate into the 1800s. The order was abolished in 1830 by King Louis-Philippe (1773-1850).

  • Who

    Founded by King Louis XIV in 1693, the Order of Saint-Louis was created to recognize the merit of French Catholic military officers with at least 10 years of military service. We do not know to whom the medal in the McCord collection was awarded.