Merit Medal was instituted on June 25, 1888 by the sovereign of the Principality of Lippe Prince Woldemar (Günther Friedrich Woldemar, 18.04.1824-20.03.1895). Decoration that came in two classes and referred to as “Golden Merit Medal” (Goldene Verdienst-Medaille) and “Silver Merit Medal” (Silberne Verdienst-Medaille), was awarded to Lippe subjects and foreigners, both servicemen and state servants, for impeccable long service and merits for the state and its ruler. Most often it were state servicemen and court servants who were made holders of the decoration in question. However, Silver Merit Medal had once been bestowed upon Lippe subject who endangered his own life while rescuing other people in distress.
It’s worth mentioning here that Verdienst-Medaille became a required substitute for the medal of the same name instituted on October 25, 1869 by the joint Order of two monarchs – Prince of Lippe Leopold III (Paul Friedrich Emil Leopold zur Lippe, 01.09.1821-08.12.1875) and Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe Adolf I Georg (01.08.1817-08.05.1893), hence common to both tiny states. It was awarded for exceptional service to the Princes and to the principalities and was awarded in Gold and Silver classes. The latter was also presented as a lifesaving medal. Decorations with the Verdienst-Medaille discontinued since 1877, and the award instituted seven years later in Lippe could be regarded as its successor.
As for the Verdienst-Medaille of the Principality of Lippe instituted in 1888, it was presented to distinguished servicemen or state employees together with award certificate (Verleihungs-Dekret) hand signed by the Prince and copy of printed Statute.
Those found guilty of dishonourable deeds were deprived of the decoration and bestowal was declared void. Paragraph 5 of the statute stipulated that medal was to be returned to the Principality authorities after demise of its holder. Decoration was subsequently presented to another distinguished subject.
As mentioned above, on April 08, 1918 Silver Merit Medal suspended from a blue ribbon of the Lifesaving Medal (Silberne Verdienstmedaille am Band der Rettungsmedaille) was awarded to the Lippe worker Hans Sachs who repeatedly displayed courage and fearlessness while saving fellow citizen. Before that heroic act Sachs was already decorated with the Lifesaving Medal (Rettungsmedaille) on June 09, 1905.
Amendments to the Statute were introduced on September 24, 1906 by the last Prince of Lippe Leopold IV (Leopold Julius Bernhard Adalbert Otto Karl Fritz Georg Gustav zur Lippe, 30.05.1871-30.12.1949) who reigned from September 26, 1904 until November 12, 1918. Having succeeded to the throne on October 25, 1905 he had been initially governing the Principality since 1904 as regent. Thus, Paragraph 4 regulating awarding procedure of Golden and Silver medals as well as pattern of the award certificate was changed. Since then, Verdienst-Medaille was presented by the State Ministry according to the Order of the Lippe ruler.
Secondly, Leopold IV introduced additional distinction for frontline military personnel eligible for decoration with the Merit Medal who displayed exceptional courage in battles with enemy troops or excelled in individual achievements in the ranks of the mobilized State army. That combat clasp had a shape of two crossed swords, gilt or silver in colour, that were to be fixed to the ribbon of the Verdienst-Medaille.
Golden Merit Medal with gilt swords was awarded only twice: to Herr Hainkelmann on April 06, 1908 and Herr Grüttemeyer on April 24, 1908.
Six servicemen were made holders of the Silver Merit Medal with silver swords: Gefreiter Everding (27.07.1906); Reiter Biesemeyer (20.04.1907); Reiter Busse (18.05.1907); Sanitäts-Feldwebel Kenneke (25.08.190); Reiter Tölle (04.12.1907) and Sergeant Holzhausen (28.11.1906).
Medal dies were elaborated by the Prussian Royal Mint engraver Emil Weigand (20.11.1837-25.03.1906), well-known for his work on the Prussian Königgrätz Commemorative Cross and the Commemorative Medal for the 1866 Military Campaign of the Principality of Lippe.
An obverse with raised border showed bust of the Prince Woldemar facing right (or left, from the heraldic perspective) circumscribed “Woldemar Fürst zur Lippe” in capital letters. The year the award was instituted – “1888” – was placed at the bottom. Name of the medallist in small capital letters – “Weigand F.”, i.e. “Weigand fecit” (“Executed by Weigand”) – was situated just below the portrait of the monarch.
A reverse with raised border showed inscription “For Loyalty and Merits” (“Für Treue und Verdienst”) in capital letters running in four lines. It was surrounded with a wide oak wreath tied with a ribbon tie at the bottom. Initials of Emil Weigand (“E.W.”) were situated at the bottom, just below the tie.
Elegant princely crown was attached to the top of the Verdienst-Medaille with suspension ring being passed through the hole in the miniature orb just below the cross.
Medals and crowns, both “silver” and “gold”, were manufactured of silver. Surface of Golden Merit Medals was gilt.
Court jeweler Carl Büsch from Hannover was an official manufacturer of Verdienst-Medaillen from 1888 until 1913. Berlin-based company “Sy&Wagner” that took over its business from the Prussian court jeweler Johann Georg Hossauer (05.10.1794-14.01.1874) was another manufacturer that made sixteen silver medals by order of the Marshal of the Lippe Court. Later on that company produced Golden and Silver Merit Medals for private purchase. Court jeweler company Carl Friedrich Zimmermann from Pforzheim was made official manufacturer of Merit Medal since 1916. According to the price list, production cost of each medal, including silk ribbon and presentation case, was worth 4,65 Marks for Golden Medal and 4,15 Marks for Silver one.
Please note that dimensions of medals depended on manufacturers.
1. Golden Merit Medal
Manufacturers: Carl Büsch (1888-1917); Carl Friedrich Zimmermann (1917-1918); “Sy&Wagner” (private issue medals for mounted bars since 1898).
- Carl Büsch, Hannover. Medal measured 32,3-32,4 mm in diameter without crown; height with crown – 48,2-48,9 mm; thickness – 3,1-4 mm; weight – 20,5-28,2 g. Crown measured 19-21 mm in width, 13-16 mm in height and was 5-6 mm thick. Slight variations in design of the crown are known to exist. External diameter of the 1,6 mm thick ring was 12-14 mm. Early pattern medals were thicker and heavier than late production pieces. Carl Büsch company was also a supplier of ribbons.
- Carl Friedrich Zimmermann, Pforzheim. Those medals were thinner and weighed less than pieces manufactured by Carl Büsch. Medal measured 32,2 mm in diameter without crown; height with crown – 48,7 mm; thickness – 2,8 mm; weight – 18,0 g. Crown measured 22 mm in width, 10,5 mm in height and was 4,2 mm thick. External diameter of the 1,4 mm thick ring was 12 mm. Absence of Emil Weigand’s name on obverse (“Weigand F.”) and his initials on reverse (“E.W.”) was the main distinctive feature of medals made by C.F.Zimmermann. Mintmark “Silber” in capital letters was also placed on the suspension ring.
2. Silver Merit Medal
Manufacturers: Carl Büsch (1888-1917); Carl Friedrich Zimmermann (1917-1918); “Sy&Wagner” (official order in 1898 and medals for private purchase since then).
- Carl Büsch, Hannover. Medal measured 32,3-32,4 mm in diameter without crown; height with crown – 48,4-48,9 mm; thickness – 3,4-4,0 mm; weight – 25,9-28,2 g. Crown measured 19-21 mm in width, 13-16 mm in height and was 5-6 mm thick. Slight variations in design of the crown are known to exist. External diameter of the 1,6 mm thick ring measured 12-14 mm. Early pattern medals were thicker and heavier than late production pieces. Carl Büsch company was also a supplier of ribbons.
- “Sy&Wagner” company, Berlin. Marshal of the Lippe Court ordered sixteen Silver Merit Medals in 1898. Later on that company produced Verdienst-Medaillen for private purchase. Mintmark “S-W” on suspension ring was the main distinctive feature of those medals.
- Carl Friedrich Zimmermann, Pforzheim. Those medals were thinner and weighed less than pieces manufactured by Carl Büsch. Medal measured 32,3 mm in diameter without crown; height with crown – 48,2 mm; thickness – 2,9 mm; weight – 18,7 g. Crown measured 22 mm in width, 10,5 mm in height and was 4,2 mm thick. External diameter of the 1,4 mm thick ring was 12 mm approximately. Absence of Emil Weigand’s name on obverse (“Weigand F.”) and his initials on reverse (“E.W.”) was the main distinctive feature of medals made by C.F.Zimmermann. Mintmark “Silber” in capital letters was also placed on the suspension ring. Ribbons supplied with Zimmermann’s medals slightly differed from Büsch pieces in colour shades and width.
Merit Medals were initially presented in plain black cases, but design of the latter was changed later on. Thus, decorations were awarded in rectangular vertical cases covered with brown artificial leather and measuring 88,5х57,6 mm. The gold foil stamping of princely crown, traditional pentapetalous rose of Lippe as well as the name of the decoration was found on the cover of the case. Interesting to know that the name of the medal differed depending on its class and manufacturer. Thus, cases for Silver Merit Medal were stamped “Silb.Verd.Med.” in one line, while those for Gold Merit Medals bore inscription “Gold. Verdienst Medaille” in two lines. However, cases for private issue medals made by “Sy & Wagner” sported just gold princely crown.
Verdienst-Medaille was worn on the left side of the breast suspended from a 32 mm wide red silk ribbon with two vertical 8 mm light cornflower-blue stripes at edges. Paragraph 3 of the decoration Statute specifically prohibited wearing of just a ribbon (without medal itself) fixed to the tunic buttonhole in the Prussian style.
The decoration in question was presented within thirty years. The very first award ceremony was held on October 25, 1888 when Prussian gendarmes who escorted Wilhelm II on his visit to Detmold were made holders of the medal. The last fourteen Golden medals were awarded on November 11, 1918 – the date Principality of Lippe came to an end being turned into a Free State.
Thus, five types of the Verdienst-Medaille could be singled out, namely:
1. Golden Merit Medal. Presented from October 25, 1888 until November 11, 1918. Altogether 173 medals were presented, 64 pieces amongst them before 1907.
2. Silver Merit Medal. Awarded from October 25, 1888 until May 30, 1918. Totally 593 decorations were made.
3. Golden Merit Medal with gilt swords on a ribbon. Two medals were awarded in 1908.
4. Silver Merit Medal with silver swords on a ribbon. Awarded in 1906-1907, six pieces were presented.
5. Silver Merit Medal on a ribbon of the Lifesaving Medal. Unique decoration on April 08, 1918.