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Médaille Militaire (Louis Napoleon), awarded between 1852 and 1855

Médaille Militaire (1st type), 1852-1855

Obverse, a bust of Emperor Napoleon III facing left with the inscription around on blue enamel, a laurel wreath around, the whole surmounted by an eagle to whose head is attached the suspension, surrounded by a laurel wreath

Médaille Militaire (1st type), 1852-1855

Reverse, the inscription with a laurel wreath around, the whole surmounted by an eagle's back

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Médaille Militaire, 1852-1855

Many of the medals currently on issue in France date back to the reign of Emperor Napoléon III, in whose time France renewed its international rôle in politics without the ignominy of defeat that it had endured under Napoleon I. One such decoration is the Médaille Militaire, which was instituted in 1852 (within days of the then-President Louis Napoléon arrogating supreme power to himself), to be awarded to any junior officer or enlisted man who distinguished himself by an act of bravery. Commissioned officers cannot be awarded the medal in these circumstances, but a variant of it is awarded to generals for leadership. In this class Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt are among the medal's very few foreign recipients.
This example of the medal bears the bust and name of Louis Napoléon; after his death a new version was struck in the name of the new Republic. Minor changes to the design that were made after the Crimean War are absent, so that the award of this medal must have been between 1852 and 1855. It is unnamed, so it cannot be known to whom it was awarded. Although this medal is part of the Watson Collection, Lester Watson's own lists give no provenance for it.