Order of the Red Eagle

Roter Adlerorden

Order of the Red Eagle

The Order of the Red Eagle (German: Roter Adlerorden) was an order of chivalry of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was awarded to both military personnel and civilians, to recognize valor in combat, excellence in military leadership, long and faithful service to the kingdom, or other achievements. As with most German (and most other European) orders, the Order of the Red Eagle could only be awarded to commissioned officers or civilians of approximately equivalent status. However, there was a medal of the order, which could be awarded to non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, lower ranking civil servants and other civilians.


The predecessor to Order of the Red Eagle was founded on November 17, 1705, by the Margrave Georg Wilhelm of Brandenburg-Bayreuth as the Ordre de la Sincerité. This soon fell into disuse but was revived in 1712 in Brandenburg-Bayreuth and again in 1734 in Brandenburg-Ansbach, where it first received the name "Order of the Brandenburg Red Eagle". The statutes were changed in 1777 and the Order named therein as the "Order of the Red Eagle". The Order was conferred in one class, limited to fifty knights.

The Kingdom of Prussia absorbed both Brandenburg-Bayreuth and Brandenburg-Ansbach in January, 1792, and on June 12, 1792, King Frederick William II again revived the order as a Prussian royal order. After the Order of the Black Eagle, the Red Eagle was the second highest order of the kingdom.

In 1810, King Frederick William III revised the statutes of the Order, expanding it into three classes. In 1830, a breast star was authorized for the Second Class and a Fourth Class was added. The statutes were further revised in 1861, and a Grand Cross was established as the highest class of the Order. By 1918, an affiliated soldier’s medal had been made available to commoners and enlisted men.


By the time of World War I, the Order had evolved into six classes:

  • Grand Cross - enameled Maltese cross badge worn on a collar (the Kette, or "chain") on ceremonial occasions or, on other formal occasions, dependent from the bow of a sash worn over the right shoulder; plus a gilt, eight-pointed breast star worn on the left chest; typically awarded to male members of the royal family, to members of the Order of the Black Eagle, to noblemen, and to foreign royalty
  • 1st Class - oversized, enameled cross pattée badge worn, suspended form ribbon about the neck, on a sash on the right shoulder, plus a silver, eight-pointed breast star on the left chest; available to general officers, high nobility, and heads of foreign state
  • 2nd Class - enameled cross pattée badge worn on a neck ribbon, plus a silver, four-pointed breast star on the left chest; available to general officers and nobility
  • 3rd Class - enameled cross pattée badge worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to (usually no lower than) field grade officers and minor nobility
  • 4th Class - non-enameled cross pattée badge worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to company grade officers
  • Medal - round gilt medal worn on a ribbon on the left chest; available to enlisted men

Within these six classes, however, were a bewildering array of variations. Among these were:

  • All classes but the Medal of the Red Eagle Order could be awarded with swords for distinction in wartime. The swords passed through the arms of the cross behind the center medallion.
  • All classes above the 4th Class could be awarded with "Swords on Ring", indicating that the recipient of that class without swords had earlier received a lower class of the order with swords. A pair of crossed swords were worn above the cross on the suspension ring or above the medallion on the upper arm of the breast star.
  • All classes could be awarded with or without crown as an added distinction.
  • The Grand Cross, 1st and 2nd Class could be awarded with oak leaves, indicating prior receipt of the next lower class of the order, and/or with diamonds, as a special distinction.
  • Royal family members (who were automatically awarded the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order, per statute of the Order of the Black Eagle) were awarded the Grand Cross "with crown." The Maltese cross badge was suspended from a miniature of the Prussian crown, which covered the usual suspension ring.
  • The Grand Cross was awarded at least once with crossed marshals' batons, as was awarded to Paul von Hindenburg. The crossed batons were worn above the Maltese cross badge of the Grand Cross, on its suspension ring.
  • The 3rd Class could be awarded with bow (Schleife), indicating prior receipt of the 4th Class.
  • Prussians who were Knights of the Order of St. John of Malta who received the Order of the Red Eagle and who had cared for sick and wounded soldiers in the German wars of unification received the order with a miniature of the badge of the Order of St. John of Malta.
  • For 50 years of service, a Red Eagle recipient received the "Jubilee Number" (Jubiläumszahl), a round medallion with the number "50" on it, affixed to the suspension ring or to the oak leaves or the ring of the bow, if applicable.

There were also a set of special versions, the Stars 1st through 4th Class, for non-Christians

CommanderDate  Command
Kptlt. Bothmer, Volkhard vonprewar  

Kptlt. Eckelmann, Erichprewar  

Kptlt. Forstmann, Walter1913  
Kptlt. Forstner, Georg-Günther vonprewar  

Kptlt. Gansser, Konradprewar  
Kptlt. Gercke, Hermann4 Jan 1917  

Kptlt. Jürst, Hellmuthprewar  

Kptlt. Kophamel, Waldemarprewar  

Kptlt. Nostitz und Jänckendorff, Heinrich vonprewar  

Kptlt. Plange, Wilhelmprewar  

Kptlt. Rosenberg-Gruszczynski, Erich vonprewar  

Kptlt. Saalwächter, Alfred7 Nov 1912  
Kptlt. Schmidt, Georgprewar  
Kptlt. Sittenfeld, Erichprewar  
Kptlt. Stoß, Alfredprewar  

Kptlt. Weddigen, Ottoprewar  
Kptlt. Wilcke, Erichprewar  

Kptlt. Zitzewitz, Gehrard vonprewar  

18 officers decorated with Order of the Red Eagle (Roter Adlerorden) located.

Note: This listing is still being compiled and some recipients might be missing.

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