Königgrätz Commemorative Cross was instituted on September 20, 1866 by the King of Prussia Wilhelm I and was awarded to Prussian officers, NCOs and other ranks as well as to military officials following the Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War (June 17 – July 26, 1866). Award was named after the Battle of Königgrätz (Schalcht bei Königgrätz) sometimes referred to as the Battle of Sadowa, that took place on July 03, 1866 and was not only the decisive battle of that war but also involved the largest number of troops in Europe until that time. The battle of Königgrätz ended with one of the highest casualties for a major battle: Austrians and their Saxon allies lost 44,000 men killed in action, wounded and missing in action including 22,000 being held prisoners while Prussians had 360 officers and 8,812 men killed.
Königgrätz Commemorative Cross has a shape of a cross pattée with a round medallion superimposed on its centre and a round wreath between its arms. Four different crosses were instituted to commemorate “1866 victorious campaign”
1. Cross for the military personnel who participated directly in the Battle of Königgrätz (“Königgrätz Cross”). A central medallion on its obverse has an image of a crowned Prussian eagle leaning against a captured Austrian cannon. Round wreath is made of laurel leaves. Upper arm of a cross bears an inscription running in two rows: “König-Grätz”, left arm – “Den
2. Cross for the military personnel of a Main army who fought under command of General Eduard Vogel von Falckenstein against troops from Hannover, Hessen, Bavaria, Baden and Wurttemberg (“Main Army” Cross). A central medallion on its obverse has an image of a crowned Prussian eagle leaning against a captured Austrian cannon. Round wreath is made of laurel leaves. Upper arm of a cross bears an inscription “Der”, left arm – “Main”, right arm – “Armee”, lower arm – “
3. Cross for military personnel who hadn’t participated in the Battle of Königgrätz and were not attached to the Main army (“Loyal Fighters” Cross). A central medallion on its obverse has an image of a crowned Prussian eagle leaning against a captured Austrian cannon. Round wreath is made of laurel leaves. Upper arm of a cross bears an inscription “Treuen”, left arm – “Krie-”, right arm – “Gern”, lower arm – “
4. Cross for non-combatants (“Loyal to its duty in times of war” Cross). A central medallion on its obverse has an image of a crowned Prussian eagle leaning against a captured Austrian cannon and a date “
All the four crosses share the same reverse design. A central medallion on its reverse has a crowned cipher of the Prussian king Wilhelm I (“WR”, standing for “Wilhelm Rex”) circumscribed “Victorious Army of Prussia” (“Preussens siegreichem Heere”) in capital letters. Upper arm of a cross bears an image of a Prussian crown while left, right and lower ones have a legend “God was with us, to Him be the Glory” (“Gott war mit uns Ihm sei die Ehre”).
Photographic evidence shows that Königgrätz Commemorative Cross like some other Imperial awards was worn either obverse or reverse outwards. Moreover some veterans even attached to a ribbon of a cross battle clasps from Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns.
Königgrätz Commemorative Cross was made of bronze from captured Austrian cannons, their total weight is said to be 25 tons approximately. Award was designed by a Prussian court medalist Friedrich Wilhelm Kullrich (18.12.1821-01.09.1887) and a Prussian royal mint engraver Emil Weigand (20.11.1837-25.03.1906). A Berlin-based company of Johann Georg Hossauer (05.10.1794-14.01.1874) was an official manufacturer of Königgrätz Commemorative Cross. Numerous private issues of those crosses with minor variations of design are known to exist as well.
Dimensions of bronze crosses are 34,5x34,5 mm approximately.
Silk ribbon of the first three versions of a Königgrätz Commemorative Cross was black with two yellow-orange and white vertical stripes closer to its edges. Cross for non-combatants has a white ribbon with two black and yellow-orange vertical stripes closer to its edges.
Königgrätz Commemorative Cross was awarded from November 17, 1866 until January 31, 1867.
144,000 “combat” crosses and 1,200 non-combatant versions were issued.