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Question on the Prussian Black Eagle Order


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Ludendorff too...

My understanding is that the award of the Black Eagle was effectively automatic upon promotion to General der Infantry, etc or the Naval equivalent.

This award promoted a commoner to the demi-aristocracy, entitling the winner to a ?von? appended to his name.

If I am incorrect in the above statements, comments to that effect are welcome.

That said, note that Erich Ludendorff was not a ?von? and I am not sure that he was awarded the SAO either. Any explanations for this? Given his rank and as a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross and his incredible power by war?s end, this seems strange. Was there a moritorium of awards during the Great War or perhaps a restriction to nobles only? ORRRRR did ol? Eric simply make powerful enemies?

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Hi -

While a quick review of the Black Eagle rolls seems to indicate that the

?von? is an automatic, I am not finding so spelled out in the statutes as

of 1881; and am inclined to think that by the time that one was considered

for membership, the ?von? was already in place.

A look at the 1914 Rank List shows a number of Generals of the Infantry/Cavalry

(v. Lyncker, Gr. Dohna-Schlobitten, v. Jacobi...) who had not received the order.

I am sure that more knowledgeable forum members can clarify this further.

Wild Card

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Wild Card!

I'm impressed with your references!

May I ask - your source for the roll of the order - is it Nimmergut of (hopefully) somewhere on-line?

I found another source that suggested that the order came with promotion to generalleutnant - seems unlikely to me.

Am I correct that Ludendorff was not a member?

I have read that the initial statutes required proof of nobility as a prerequisite for the award. Initially the order was restricted to 30 nobles.

If this is all about nobility - my interest wanes somewhat. If it is about recognition for high achievement - especially military - I remain VERY interested in learning more from more reliable sources than those to which I presently have access - present company excluded of course!

Thank you very much for your contributions!

wem

Hi -

While a quick review of the Black Eagle rolls seems to indicate that the

?von? is an automatic, I? am not finding so spelled out in the statutes as

of 1881; and am inclined to think that by the time that one was considered

for membership, the ?von? was already in place.

A look at the 1914 Rank List shows a number of Generals of the Infantry/Cavalry

(v. Lyncker, Gr. Dohna-Schlobitten, v. Jacobi...) who had not received the order.

I am sure that more knowledgeable forum members can clarify this further.

Wild Card

Edited by W McSwiggan
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Hi WEM -

Please allow me to begin by saying ?Thanks for the wakeup call?. When I was working

on your inquiry, I was going on the assumption that we were talking about the collar

of the order. While most of what I said above still holds true, let?s confirm.

With regard to the ?von?, what I said does not hold; but the information on the Generals

of the Infantry & Cavalry does.

I must say that under Wilhelm II the order really does become something of a

?gentlemen?s club?. While most of the military luminaries were members, as time

goes on the bulk of the remainder appear to be there out of position as opposed

to accomplishment. ?The Last Kaiser? by Giles MacDonogh in it?s several references

to the order does a fine job of tracking it?s demise. Remember that this order was

given to royal princes at ridiculously early age; and, from MacDonogh (referring to

Wilhelm?s father) ?Fritz?s first act as emperor was to pin the Black Eagle on his wife

and...?; and the last of several items being ?His Majesty was very pleased (and gave)

the now debased Black Eagle to the Commander...? Certainly, from this book, not

all were ?von? going in; coming out I cannot tell.

As for the ? the roll of the order?, what I have and what I was referring to is the roll

for the collar of the order - Die Ketten des Preussischen Hohen Ordens vom Schwarzen

Adler by Sauerwald and Schubersky. So what I should have said is that Ludendorff

did not receive the collar of the order. Whether he got the badge and star or not is

still, for you and me anyway, open to question.

Finally, while the badge, star and collar of this order are among the most spectacular

Imperial German awards (the Kleindekoration is one of my absolute favorites), if you

are looking strictly for high end military awards, aside from the obvious (PLM) you

might consider military Red Eagles and Crown Orders. Also, there are well over a

dozen Imperial German states besides Prussia that had orders with military sections

which might be worth consideration.

Sorry about the confusion; I hope that I have clarified the situation -

Wild Card

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Wild Card,

Interesting things I?m learning here.

I thought that the Black Eagle insignia were common to all members of the order much like the Garter. Per your statement, the collar was an additional distinction!

Per the rest of this conversation, I need to clarify. I do know that the Black Eagle is the premier Prussian House Order. As such, it was awarded to royalty and high ranked nobles based on genetic merit only. Beyond that, these awards are often made as special marks of distinction for those outside the high nobility/royalty circles and this is what I?m trying to determine. One can argue that the attainment of high military rank (outside the royal circle) is distinct. I certainly aspired to high rank during my misguided youth & saw that as a worthy goal if achieved honestly. Luminaries such as von Moltke and von Hindenburg wore this order and were not (again per my limited understanding) highly placed in the nobility pecking order. To restate, the major purposes of my question were to determine if the order and appended ?von? were solely the function of attainment of a particular rank. If by exception a very deserving junior general or even colonel might be admitted to the order especially if not carrying a noble pedigree. Additionally, what is the explanation behind the exclusion of Ludendorff?

The answer could be as simple as this was a result of Ludendorff?s loss of favor or lack of popularity. Another could be the simple desire to keep the order exclusive which would have been threatened by the expansion of the military and resultant multiplication of the numbers of generals. A very good friend suggested the latter and that the resultant change was, during the Great War; no pedigree meant no Black Eagle and no ?von?.

I do understand the importance of other sources of recognition such as the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, Pour le Merite, Red Eagle, Crown Order and higher grades of the Hohenzollern. Certainly, other states added to the array of markers of distinction as well.

Again, my motive was to learn what if any significance should be attached to a military man wearing the Black Eagle and then ? why not Ludendorff.

Wayne

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Guest Brian von Etzel

I found another source that suggested that the order came with promotion to generalleutnant - seems unlikely to me.

Definitely not for generalleutnant!

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Aside from pre-pubescent Princelings, my understanding of this is that it was for routine command at the level where everything ELSE has already been given out-- and that was General der Whatever and up, when all Grand Crosses of the other Orders had been racked up.

Here is General der Infanterie Adolf von Wittich (1836-1906) in 1900 as Commander of the XIth Army Corps:

[attachmentid=5663]

Because he got the Red Eagle Order 4th Class with Xs in 1866, as on his medal bar, he carried that up to such over-the-top Prussian weirdness as the SASH badge of the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order with Swords on Ring, Oakleaves, and Crown:

[attachmentid=5664]

And what's that tucked under his 1870 EK1?

[attachmentid=5665]

Why, it's the Star of the Black Eagle Order!

I think the correlation between nobility and command level/rank is "accidental," in that nobody before the war GOT to that level without being ennobled if they were not, already. Von Wittich, for instance, made it up another bump to Generaloberst-with-the-rank-of-a-General-Field-Marshal-- but there was literally nothing LEFT to GIVE him except the Black Eagle Chain.

Rather the way British generals used to get a Knighthood and the "expected" Order at each appropriate rank, these are simply the Extra Pretty Routine Gongs with which the Top Crust was festooned for routine long service.

A mere Major got a Red Eagle 4 for 25 years of slogging. A General der Whatever got a Black Eagle for that vastly more "elevated" ...

slogging.

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Here's the rub - my source was in English which I translated to German. It is likely that the English Lt. Gen. was derived from Gen. der Inf, etc rather than GenLt. In this case 3 stars = 3 stars... I likely blew the translation!

Hence your illustious forebear as GenLt did not qualify. Of course, there is still a strong possibility that there was a moritoriun during the Great War.

Gads - I'm enjoying this!!!

Definitely not for generalleutnant!

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No, that is from the former Evil Ricky Collection, and has been at my house several years, in the archives anytime you come to visit. Cat Scratch.gif

Think of that extremely expensive enamel slapping crunch crunch chinkle chipple against the EK2 arm points! ohmy.gif

YEOUCH!!!!

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Guest Brian von Etzel

And what's really nice about Rick's example, von Wittich, he earned it, it wasn't all bestowed genetically. Look at that medal bar, pure warrior class awards.

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Hi WEM -

See what you?ve started?!

Your latest post had sent me back to dusty books and memory. With regard to awards

of the order during the Great War, I noticed during my previous research, but failed to

mention, that there were not any awards of the collar - curious. So that raises the question

of awards of the badge and star. Other material in my collection reliably confirms an

award of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle to General of the Infantry Otto von Below

on 15 November 1917.

This information clarifies two points. First that there were awards of the badge and star

during the time of the Great War; and second, that the award was not automatic with

attainment of the rank of General of the Infantry as he had held this rank for at least

two years prior to the award. Interestingly, he was awarded the grand cross to the

Bavarian Military Max Joseph Order (in my opinion a much more prestigious and strictly

military Imperial German order) exactly one week before. Were the Prussians embarrassed

into the Black Eagle award?

I would like to take this opportunity to reemphasize the demise of the non-military awards.

Back to ?The Last Kaiser? - ?On the 22nd, there was a shower of Black Eagles. Giving one

to Botticher had been calculated to annoy the former chancellor, and it had the desired

effect... The Prince of Wales received his at the ceremony in the Weisse Sall. It provided

an occasion for William to ask his advisors about the treaty?. Finally, from the same source,

in 1900 Baronin von Spitzemberg is quoted from her Tagebuch - ?The Black Eagle was also becoming ?quite a common little beast?...?.

Still nothing new on Ludendorff, except that I could swear that I recall a picture of him wearing

a Black Eagle star. Hopefully we will find something.

Best wishes,

Wild Card

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Wild Card,

This just keeps getting more interesting to me with each post!

Thank you for participating in this discussion.

Rick's input suggested that the trigger may have been - not promotion to GdI,K,A rather the assumption of high command while holding that rank.

In direct discussion with Rick, he posited that the moritorium for awards during the Great War was for those who were not noble already - the motive here perhaps to preserve the exclusive nature of the "club" as it were.

Do you know if von Below was already a member of the aristocracy before his award?

Regards,

wem

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Do you know if von Below was already a member of the aristocracy before his award?

Hi Wem,

the von Belows are an old Prussian noble family with antecedents back as far as the Thirteenth Century. Gen.d.Inf. Otto von Below was born a noble.

Regards

Glenn

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Thanks Glen!

Thought so but have no access to proof!

wem

Glen - thanks - that post & scan were great!

I didn't say that quite right and hope I didn't offend.

I meant to say that I suspected that to be the case but until your statement I couldn't be sure as I have no access to to rank lists.

Regards,

Wayne

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Hi WEM -

Me again. In reviewing your thread, a minor point came to mind with regard to your

original assumption that the order came in one class.

I think that I should point out that there were also awards ?with brilliants?, Nimmergut

cites a total of 91 such awards between 1742 and 1914 (20 between 1900 and 1914)

plus 1 in 1932, I think to the, by then in exile, Empress. Nimmergut also mentions 5

non Christian awards at various dates between 1857 and 1898.

With regard to Ludendorff, your information from Rick certainly makes sense and is

most helpful - I was not aware of this, thanks Rick!

Best wishes,

Wild Card

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  • 7 years later...

Sorry to pile on to an essentially 'dead' thread, but no one seems to have shared my own view.

My recall of The Last Kaiser and The German High Command at War would answer the question of why Ludendorff didn't get the Black Eagle: It's because, as these books make clear, that the Kaiser didn't really like him very much. While the valor awards of the PLM and the IK Grand Cross were probably obligatory, in the mind of the All Highest at least, it seems likely he would snub this imperious servant, with Ludendorff's brusque and very un-courtly manners, by withholding the highest Knighthood order in his gift, simple as that. The Kaiser was certainly sensitive to class distinctions as Hindenburg's initial recall from retirement was as much to be Ludendorff's superior, as any other real function.

I am aware that the highest Red Eagle award (Grand Cross-a lovely order), was an 'automatic' with the award of the Black Eagle but it does not appear that the award of the Black Eagle was ever a given for attaining any particular rank or deed.

The breast star that Ludendorff is often photographed wearing looks like a Black Eagle but on close examination, appears to be a Red Eagle order with swords.

Edited by filfoster
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm not sure the Black Eagle Order statutes prescribed a military rank to accompany the knightly investment. There does seem to be a statute, however, that ensures investment of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle and the Prussian Crown Order, First Class. I'm a novice at translating German, and may be missing something. So it is possible that this all-at-once, fistfull of top-grade knighthoods was reserved for Prussian princes.

The photo settles none of this for me, but leaves an excellent question. Wittich advanced through the ranks and collected his own medals and orders along the way. Are we seeing the Red Eagle Grand Cross with Crown, Oakleaves and Swords on the ring because the Black Eagle Order statute automatically bumped him up to it within the Red Eagle Order?

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  • 8 months later...

The breast star that Ludendorff is often photographed wearing looks like a Black Eagle but on close examination, appears to be a Red Eagle order with swords.

Dear friends, was really Ludendorff awarded with the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order withe Swords and Oak Leaves, or with the First Class?

Erich-Friedrich-Wilhelm-Ludendorff.jpg

For all I know, all the Grand Cross of the Order belonging to German generals of the First World War had been granted before the war, together automatically and the granting of the Order of the Black Eagle (von Kluck, von Bülow, von Eichhorn, von der Goltz, von Hindenburg, von Heeringen, von Tirpitz, von Holtzendorff, von Koester and probably some general or admiral else I am forgetting). Maybe Otto von Bellow is the only case of Grand Cross of the Red Eagle Order awarded during the War, in 1917.

I have documented other cases of Stars of Red Eagle Order with Swords besides Ludendorff (Arnold von Winckler, Hermann von Francois and Ernst von Oven), but I think that all are First Class and not Grand Cross.

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Grand Cross with Oakleaves and Swords gazetted 25.09.17 replacing the 1st Class with Swords gazetted 31.03.17

Grand Cross with Oakleaves and Swords gazetted 25.09.17 replacing the 1st Class with Swords gazetted 31.03.17

It is interesting that there are few if any photos of him wearing the corresponding neck decoration for this award. The 'motto' ring around the center medallion also does not look like the dark blue enamel of the Grand Cross, so this photo seems to pre-date the later award. Does anyone have a photo of him wearing either the breast star or neck decoration for the Grand Cross award?

Edited by filfoster
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