The term Grand Cross today denotes the highest level of an order in the generally accepted order hierarchy .
As a model for the division of the Order of Merit into five levels ( knight - officer - commander - grand officer - grand cross ), the system that was first introduced in France in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte at the foundation of the Legion of Honor ( Légion d'honneur ) is used as a model. With the establishment of numerous other orders of merit in the 19th and 20th centuries, this pattern was often adopted and thus achieved worldwide distribution. Orders of merit with three levels ( knight - commander - grand cross ) have existed since the middle of the 18th century. B. the Hungarian Order of St. Stephen .
Position within the order hierarchy
- Grand Cross (Fig. 5)
- Grand Commander (also "Grand Officer Cross ", "Grand Officer", " Knight Commander ", "Commander 1st Class") (Fig. 4)
- Komtur (also "Komturkreuz", "Kommandeur", "Commander", "Komtur 2nd class") (Fig. 3)
- Officer (also " Officer's Cross ") (Fig. 2)
- Knight (also " Knight's Cross ") (Fig. 1)
Traditionally, the Grand Cross of an Order of Merit is worn on a shoulder band, with the insignia being worn on the right or left hip. This usually includes a breast star (this order star is sometimes referred to as the "Grand Cross", but only represents part of the decoration), which in many orders is similar to the breast star of the Grand Commander (see fifth illustration in the picture on the right).
A rare but very well-known deviation from this system, which is widespread worldwide, was the Great Cross of the Iron Cross , which was worn on a ribbon around the neck.
Knights of the Black Eagle Order in the Kingdom of Prussia also wore the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order as a neck order. If the person in question was not a Knight of the Black Eagle Order, the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order was worn on the shoulder ribbon (orange sash with white stripes, from the left shoulder to the right hip).
About the level of a "Grand Cross", which is so designated in the national language according to the respective statute of the order, have among others:
- Order of the British Empire
- Order of the Bath
- Order of St. Michael and St. George
- Royal Victorian Order
- Maria Theresa Order
- St. Stephen's Order
- Order of the Leopold
- Order of the Iron Crown
- Franz Joseph Order
- Maximilian Gritzner : Handbook of the knight and merit orders of all civilized states of the world within the XIX. Century . Reprint of the original edition Leipzig, Weber, 1893. Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-8262-0705-X .