Médaille Militaire (Republique Française), awarded between 1870 and 1915
Obverse, a bust of Marianne facing left with the inscription around on blue enamel, a laurel wreath surrounding; suspended from separate piece comprised of crossed war trophies behind shield
Reverse, the inscription inside a blue enamel circle with a laurel wreath around
Médaille Militaire, 1870-1915
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.
With the proclamation of the Third Republic in 1870 the monarchical image of Napoléon III which had previously adorned the Médaille Militaire was replaced with a bust of Marianne, the heraldic figure of France, and an appropriate legend.
This example is unnamed, and it cannot now 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.