History of this uncommon decoration is closely associated with one of the famous German military warlords of the Anti-Napoleonic Wars of Liberation, Herzog Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Oels (09.10.1771-16.06.1815), nicknamed “The Black Duke”. Shortly before he was mortally wounded by a musket ball at the Battle of Quatre Bras, while he tried to stop deserting personnel of the guards battalion, the Duke handed eight gold Dutch ducats as a token of appreciation to his sons, princes Karl and Wilhelm. Soon after the Battle of Waterloo those coins were given to the high command of the Brunswicker Ducal Corps, aka Schwarze Schar, to be awarded to NCOs and lower ranks who distinguished themselves during battles of June 16-18.
Order of battle of the 5,376-strong Brunswick Corps is listed below.
- Advance guard battalion under command of Major von Rauschenplatt (672 men) consisting of two Gelernte Jäger companies, two light infantry companies and lancers detachment.
- 1st Light Infantry Brigade under command of Obrist-Lieutenant Wilhelm Treusch von Buttlar consisting of Guards battalion (Leibbataillon) and three light infantry battalions, 672-strong each. Major von Pröstler, Major von Holstein, Major von Brandenstein and Major Ebeling were battalion commanders.
- 2nd Line Infantry Brigade under command of Obrist-Lieutenant von Specht consisting of three light infantry battalions, 672-strong each. Major Metzner, Major von Strombeck and Major von Normann were battalion commanders.
Artillery under command of Major Mahn:
- Horse artillery battery commanded by Capitain von Heinemann (167 men and eight 6 lb cannons);
- Foot artillery battery commanded by Major von Moll (205 men and eight 6 lb cannons).
Cavalry under command of Major von Cramm:
- 2nd Hussar regiment (690 men);
- Lancer squadron (232 men);
- Mounted field gendarmes (17 men).
It’s worth mentioning here that with the lapse of time insignia of the Schwarze Schar representing death’s head, i.e. skull with jawbone and crossed long-bones found its honorary place on Prussian headgear as a “Braunschweiger Totenkopf Traditionsabzeichen”. That traditional symbol of fearlessness in front of death was authorized to be worn by the ranks of the Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regiment Nr.17 on September 17, 1883 as a token of remembrance of heroic deeds of the “Black Corps”.
Five NCOs and three lower ranks of the Schwarze Schar were decorated with the Waterloo-Ehrenducat. Brief description of their heroic deeds was found in the “Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo XXV Jubilee Brunswicker Memorial Book” (“Braunschweigisches Gedenkbuch zur fünfundzwanzigjährigen Feier der Schlachten von Quatrebras und Waterloo”) published in 1840.
- Bombardier Büchner from the Foot artillery battery “not only performed his duties operating a howitzer, but distinguished himself on June 18 when he wounded with his saber one of two French cuirassiers who attacked Capitain Orges”.
- Feldwebel Kinkel from the 1st line infantry battalion “remained in the ranks of his company even after he was wounded in the face on June 16 and got a bullet in the left leg on June 18”.
- Lancer Lindemann from the Lancer squadron “stroke down commander of the French cuirassiers in front of his unit on June 18, being hit by a bullet while doing so”.
- Sergeant Müller from the 3rd line infantry battalion “asked for permission to step out of the square during a hostile cavalry attack and killed two French officers with dead shots”.
- Sergeant Fischer from the 1st light (Jäger) battalion “distinguished himself in numerous encounters on June 16 and 18”.
- Sergeant Fuhr from the 2nd line infantry battalion “was heavily wounded being a standard-bearer of his unit, and appealed to his comrades to carry the colours not to let it fall into the hands of the enemy”.
- Soldat Heilemann from the Guards battalion (Leibbataillon) “was always in the first ranks of advancing soldiers and participated in all the battles unless suffering a wound to his head”.
- Sergeant Eggeling from the Hussar regiment “was the first to attack mounted enemy on June 18 despite fire and showed an example of heroism for every cavalryman”.
The solemn decoration ceremony in front of the Brunswicker Ducal Corps took place on August 13, 1815 in Clichy, in the northwestern suburb of Paris. Besides Waterloo-Ehrenducat, all the eight heroes were presented with silver sword belts.
Two decades later, on June 16, 1834 the Duke of Brunswick Wilhelm August Ludwig Maximilian Friedrich (25.04.1806-18.10.1884) issued a special Order stipulating that surviving holders of the Waterloo-Ehrenducat were to be decorated with the Cross of Merit 2nd Class of Henry the Lion Order introduced on April 25, 1834, and surrender golden medallions to the state. By that time two awardees – Büchner and Kinkel – passed away already.
An obverse of the coin-cum-medal showed unmounted armored knight facing right and holding a sword in his right hand and seven arrows in his left hand. Date of mintage was situated below, “18” on the left and “14” on the right. The Latin legend in capital letters running in circle read “Small States Flourish by Concord. Utrecht” (“PAR.[væ] CRES.[cunt] TRA.[iectum]” on the left and “CONCORDIA RES.” on the right).
Centre of a reverse had another Latin legend in capital letters in five lines “Coin of the United Provinces of the Netherlands Conforming to the Imperial Law” (“MO.[neta] ORD.[inum] / PROVIN.[ciarum] / FOEDER.[atorum] / BELG.[icarum] AD. / LEG.[em] IMP.[erii]”) within double square frame with raised borders and decorated with symmetrical pattern.
Those ducats measuring 20,7 mm in diameter approximately were minted of 986 gold in the Utrecht Mint within 1814-1816.
The Battle of Waterloo Honorary Ducat was worn on the left breast suspended from a blue silk ribbon. The coin was framed in a thin circular rim that was attached via special pendant to a wide golden frame holding ribbon.