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Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze

Wedding Anniversary Commemorative Medal

Wedding Anniversary Commemorative Medal that turned out to be the last award of the Kingdom of Bavaria, was instituted by its last King  Ludwig III (07.01.1845-18.10.1921) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his wedding to Marie Therese Henriette Dorothea von Österreich-Este (02.07.1849-03.02.1919). The wedding ceremony itself was held on February 20, 1868 in the imperial palace of Hofburg in Vienna.

Design of an obverse was based on a work of art of the famous sculptor and medalist Theodor Georgii (30.04.1883-21.08.1963) – bas relief of the royal couple he created from June until December 1917 before the Golden wedding ceremony. Apropos, during the celebration of the King’s birthday on January 07, 1918 Theodor Georgii was given the rank of the “royal professor” (königlicher Professor).

An obverse with slightly raised border showed portraits of the royal couple facing right with an inscription in capital letters “Christmas 1918” (“Weihnachten 1918”) running in semi-circle below. Twenty-five fir sprigs sided with the border.

Design of the reverse was elaborated by the engraver and medalist Alois Börsch (Boersch) (01.03.1855-10.04.1923), who previously engraved König Ludwig-Kreuz. A reverse without border bore an inscription “In Commemoration of the Golden Wedding” (“Zur Erinnerung an die Goldene Hochzeit”) in capital letters running in four horizontal lines. The date “February 20, 1918” separated with dots (“20·Febr·1918”) was placed below. Two heraldic shields of the royal couple, both topped with the Bavarian crown, were placed at the bottom of a reverse – lesser coat of arms of Bavaria and that of Austria-Este (Österreich-Este). Two branches of the blooming myrtle flanked the whole composition. Initials of engraver, “A.B.” were situated at the very bottom of a reverse.

Circular medal measuring 38 mm in diameter and weighing 20,8 g was manufactured of blackened iron. Silvered pieces are known to exist as well.

Initially Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze was intended to be issued to military personnel of the four Bavarian units King Ludwig III was regimental chief (Inhaber) of, namely Königlich Bayerisches 1.Infanterie-Regiment “König”, Königlich Bayerisches 2.Ulanen-Regiment “König”, Königlich Bayerisches 4.Chevaulegers-Regiment “König” and Königlich Bayerisches 4.Feldartillerie-Regiment “König”.

Totally 14,000 medals approximately were struck at the Hauptmünze in Munich, but the Royal Court had no time to make the payment. The November Revolution resulted in the replacement of Germany’s imperial and local governments with republics. Bavarian monarchy, the eldest in Europe, ceased its existence, the 738 years-rule of Wittelsbachs came to an end and Bavaria was the first member state of the former German Empire to be declared a Council Republic. In Munich a “Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council” forced Ludwig III to abdicate. Under those unfavorable conditions medals were found unclaimed. Moreover, manufacturer had even no time to solder eyelets to medals. As such they were stored in boxes in the attic of the Hauptmünze in Munich for three years after coinage.

The second birth of the Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze fell on the post-revolutionary period of Bavarian history. Come September 1919, Crown Prince Rupprecht (Rupprecht Maria Luitpold Ferdinand von Wittelsbach, 18.05.1869-02.08.1955) who had lost his chance to rule Bavaria when it became republic but was still referred to as the heir to the throne and even the King by some hardcore royalists, returned home after short-termed forced expatriation in Tyrol in fear of reprisals from communists. Upon his father death in Hungary while on a visit to his castle Nádasdy in Sárvár on October 18, 1921, Rupprecht declared his claim to the throne of Bavaria as Ludwig III had never formally renounced his crown and became the head of the House of Wittelsbach. It was presumably during the burial of Ludwig III in Munich on November 05, 1921 that the first batch of medals in their primary shape, i.e. without eyelets and ribbons, was issued to participants of the mourning ceremony. There’s another feasible lead being advanced by some researchers that Rupprecht von Bayern bought back from the Hauptmünze of Munich batch of Golden Wedding Anniversary Commemorative Medals  in Spring 1922 that remained unclaimed by that time being not paid by his late father. Which version of these two is true still remains unknown, but it is clear enough that Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze became the unofficial decoration of the former ruling House of Wittelsbach.   

Holders of that award were subsequently allowed to solder eyelets to medals at their own expenses and wear them on mounted bars suspended from silk ribbon of another Bavarian medal – Jubiläumsmedaille für die Armee, instituted in 1905 – 35 mm-wide red with thin 3 mm-wide green stripes at edges. That’s why two different types of craftsmanship are known to exist: eyelets being soldered in plane of the medal and those being fixed perpendicularly. Out of economy some awardees just drilled a hole in the upper part of the medal and passed an ring for ribbon suspension through it. Privately silvered and even gilt medals were worn on medal bars by some holders as well.

During the Weimar-era Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze was presented together with a printed award certificate (Besitz-Zeugnis) executed in a modest manner. The latter was dated Easter 1923 and bore an oval stamp as well as facsimile of Franz Freiherr von Redwitz (07.10.1888-1963), Hofmarschall of Rupprecht von Bayern and Court and assets caretaker of the House of Wittelsbach (Chef der Hof- und Vermögensverwaltung des Hauses Wittelsbach). Title, place of residence, name and surname of the awardee were entered by hand in ink. Decorations were generally issued to patriotically-minded Bavarians as well as stern royalists.

Although decoration with the Goldene Hochzeits-Erinnerungsmünze was prohibited since 1935, its wear on uniform was allowed by the Third Reich authorities.

Thus, Golden Wedding Anniversary Commemorative Medal, the last decoration of the Kingdom of Bavaria, and probably, the last ever decoration of the member state of the German Empire was awarded from 1921 or 1922 until 1935, at least hypothetically.

Golden Wedding Anniversary Commemorative Medal 1