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Second Empire Campaign Medals with Crowns


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Here are Campaign Medals with crowns in my collection


-  Italy Campaign Full size. 1/2 size and one miniature.

- Mexico Campaign Full size

As far as I know they are called "Cent Gardes" Model

My question are:

Whether the same model does exist for the China Campaign?

Are those Models were really  given to the National Guards or are some kind of luxury models of the Campaign medals?






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  • 1 month later...

I've been fascinated with these medals and see quite a few of the Mexico ones available. How does one tell if they are fakes or real? Or are they even making fakes of these (yet)?



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Especially with Mexico and China, the ribbons are important, examples with nice original ribbons always make a premium. Also the privately made pieces by Falot and Sacristan are popular.



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Following to Paul's interesting observation, I would like to post the pictures of a nice, little group, belonged to a soldier who fought in the 1859, 60-61 and 1866 campaigns also earning the "Menzione Onorevole" (later transformed in the Bronze Medal for Military Valour), where the French medal, bears the signature of Sacristain.

Sacristain 1.jpg

Sacristain 2.jpg

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The ribbons are amazing, especially the blue rose shaped one. Was that custom or also allowed for official wear?


I've been hesitant to pick these medals up as I don't know if there are issues with fakes/copies on the market?

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Hi Paul,


I agree, however i would not buy such medals from a person who I never had deal in the past and i know that they are with good knowledge and most importantly honest.

Those medals are not mine main interest, however I am fascinated by the models with crowns. I was offered privately made ones without crown, however i declined

I would be trilled to get one China campaign medal with crown, however i am still reluctant till i get more evidence that they exist with crown..That is why started this topic



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Bonjour Graf,

Nice medals !


There is no consensus among French Collector about these Medals "with Crown".


But :

- There is photographic evidence of Italy medals with Crown in wear on period photographs.

One from my collection on a 1860 photo (full size medal) :


A half-size model on another 1860 photo :


(other photos known).


- The general consensus is that this fashion is an idyosincrasy by some officers (mostly) that was tolerated - so models made to look "nicer" at the request of the wearers.


- The "Cent-Gardes" nickname has stuck among collectors - however all period photos I know of Cent-Gardes wearing the Italy Campaign medal show them wearing models without crown.

You can see some here  on this excellent website :



So this name of "Cent-Garde" Model has to be retained for what it is :  a Collector's colloquial designation (so really "the so called Cent Gardes Model").


- With respect to Mexico and China campaign medals with Crown, they pop up now and again ... and generate a lot of speculation among French collectors !

Some crowned Medals may be modifications made at the request of the recipients - other later modifications by collectors, some very likely with an intent to deceive.

I am yet to see any period photograph showing one in wear. On these ones I'll refrain from making any conclusion..



The general hypothesis among collectors is that Italy Campaign Medals with Crowns allowed wearers to have the medals better aligned with other medals worn - esp. if the Italy Campaign Medal was to sit between the much "taller" Légion d'honneur / Crimea Campaign Medal. So an aesthetic choice ; that however is a conjecture,  no testimony or text describing these.

I am personnally of that opinion - but acknowledge it is, at the present time, merely an "educated guess".

(The added Crowns could also be some sort of political statement, showing the Emperor crowned... etc).


The general consensus is that they are all "unofficial" and assembled with Crowns as private "jeweller's pieces" - therefore trying to classisfy specific Models of Crowns is a bit of a useless endeavour ; any Crown available may have been used to "enhance" the Medal.

As a collector, "Caveat Emptor" - and the consistency of the patina between Medal and Crown is probably the major telltale sign to consider ?


Best rgds,


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An Article from "la Gazette des uniformes" about the Italy Campaign Medal, discussing a little the Models with Crowns - but they are merely described :







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Merci Djedj,


I had the information that the medals with the Crowns are considered as "Cent Gardes" 

That can explain their scarce nature if their were given to the 100 National Guards only

Similarly  like the "Cent Gardes' model of the Order of legion of Honour









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Thank you for the information It is nice Original medal, although on the expensive site.

I like the efforts the Dealer made to give very nice and extensive information





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On 09/10/2021 at 05:46, Graf said:

I had the information that the medals with the Crowns are considered as "Cent Gardes" 

That can explain their scarce nature if their were given to the 100 National Guards only

Similarly  like the "Cent Gardes' model of the Order of legion of Honour


Hello.  The 'Cent-Gardes' variation is a name given to luxury models of the LOH.  There is absolutely no evidence or documentation showing that the 100 members of the Escadron des Cent-Gardes of Napoleon III were awarded with a special model of the Légion d'honneur. 


Therefore, the term Légion d'honneur des Cent-Gardes was simply a sales tool used by some jewelers to describe expensive, private-purchase pieces for award-recipients who wanted a flashier medal than the plainer looking award-pieces. Regards.


Edited by Triadoro
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Although a novice to this medal (but not medals overall), there are a few things that stand out:


1. Why is the Red cloth inside the crown so bright red and not faded like the red on the ribbon? Fading of color should match over time.

2. Why is the Red cloth inside shedding on the medal? The King of France surely would have medals created that do not soil the medal and uniform of his Cent Garde...either a different cloth or felt would be used. That shedding appears to be that of cut ends that fray or just a piece of felt. I would like to see that under a UV light if it glows or not.

3. The crown is much darker then the medal, would they not have a similar color appearance after 150 years aging?

4. The crown still has some tiny pieces of green enamel jewelry on it when you zoom in, so after 150 years all the jewels have worn off but the cloth inside is again....bright red.

5. How difficult/expensive is it for a modern jeweler to attach an old beat up crown they have lying around to this campaign medal and now increase price by 4x?

6. Shouldn't you find a lot of red fibers from the crown also inside the box like you do on the medal?


These are all theories and thoughts, genuinely curious.

#7 - last theory that I keep coming back to: there were just a lot of French monarchists in the military and this was a way to show their support for the Napoleons but having their medals customized by a local jeweler. Which might explain why we see so many of them (and maybe not a modern fakes).


I have been searching for photos in the 1860/1870 of French war veterans or Cent Garde posing with their medals to find one with a crowned campaign medal. It should be easy as by this time we find photos of soldiers that fought at Waterloo posing with medals, it was all the new rage at the time with the new photo technology. 

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First the red cloth, as you noticed, looks modern one. Some collectors and dealers like to add the red cloth to give more dramatic look of the Orders and medals with crowns. i am not aware that this was a fashion among the awarded persons, however it might have been done by same of them. This in no way increase the value of the order/medal

The other issue is whether the crown could be added later on to increase the price. The answer is -Yes it is possible ..and not only by jeweler but by any more skilled collector or a Dealer. It has been happening with all Orders and Decorations around the world. It is tempting..it brings more $$$ and collectors value of the item.

I opened a Special dedicated Topic for fake Bulgarian Orders and decorations on this Forum. It is very popular.

How we can detect. That is the Million Dollars question. In my experience only collectors that are specialising in certain Orders and decorations and have extensive experience and handled many of those awards can be successful in some extend. No one is bullet proof to fraud.

My simple advice is -Listen your guts feeling and the very first impression. This comes on top  and with long experience.

I have seen some suggestions for the campaign Medals that the models without crown have the ring connection on top of the medal more rounded like a ball while those ones with the crowns are also round but a bit flatter.

However this is just speculation One had to do a proper research with a big sample


Your theory info is very interesting and can not be ignored. The photos are of help. Only problem how often we can come across of photos with Millitary people wearing those campaign medals, especially the ones with crowns.

I will be very happy if you come across one ore more of those photos and post them here.





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Hey Graf,


I never thought about someone putting the cloth in there recently! Ok, then my points 1, 2 4, 6 aren't really of much concern in the larger scope! So it's really an issue of determining if the crown was being placed on the medals in the 1860s, and I believe one of the smoking guns will be to find a picture of a French soldiers in the 1870s wearing it.


And I think it's very possible to find this, considering how many photos were taken of old Waterloo veterans and their medals in the 1860-1880 like in the link below. Also considering photographs (or lithographs...whatever the tech was called back then) was all the new rage in France. Of the hundreds of thousands of French soldiers that served in Napoleon III wars, I'm confident there are pictures of them that exist, veterans posing in uniform with medals, (I just had this brilliant idea the other day so I've just now started looking). 


Basically it boils down to if these medals were made back then, then we will find pictures. Due to how many of these crowned medals are popping up, we must surely find pictures with this then.


But this idea came from over the years I always see these Waterloo veterans (I use Waterloo as reference as I know more about this topic/medals and it's a good reference):




alternately: Franco Prussian War Veterans:




Pictures of French Mexican War Veterans with medals:







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Something tangible: in 2019 this document was sold along a crowned medal that they are paired. Is there anything in this diploma that is different than a non crown medal?


This also assumes the medal and document go together and not combined at a later time (there's not way to know this). But...if anyone has several of the medal documents, then with that familiarity perhaps there is something in this document to denote the crown or a special addition etc.



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It is a good work It looks you are very dedicated in your research


Here are few photos of

- Documents It will be very difficult to prove whether the medal and document from the Auction are not 'married' later on Only a strong provinance from the family member can prove this. Also I am not sure whether thre were different Documents for the "Cent Gardes' Model Medals

- Photo of General de Failly with the "Cent Gardes" medal. That is a proof that those medals did exist and are not a late creations The Question is whether they were awarded as that or the crown was added later on  by request of the owner of the medal to give more dramatic look.

It is known that the French Orders were awarded as standard model . Later on people with deep pockets ordered luxury models to show their status in the society Also many High ranking officers and Officials got luxury models as presents by their Officers or friends or employees



Général de Failly, campagne d'Italie



Catégorie : CDV > portraits > Militaires
Année : Circa 1865
Type : Tirage albuminé
Format (cm): 6,5x10,5

CDV vintage albumen.
Pierre Louis Charles de Failly
Le général de Failly
Le général de Failly
Naissance 21 janvier 1810
Décès 15 novembre 1892 (à 82 ans)

Né à Rozoy-sur-Serre dans l'Aisne, il est le fils de Charles, Louis comte de Failly et de Sophie de Mons de Maigneux. Il intègre l'École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr en 1826. Il fait ses premières armes à Paris, dans l'affaire de la rue Transnonain, où il gagne une réputation de cruauté militaire. Le crayon de Daumier a reproduit l'épisode de la maison Doyen avec une singulière énergie. Colonel au mois d'août 1851, général de brigade le 29 août 1854, il participe à la guerre de Crimée et revint général de division.

Il épouse en 1857 Felicité de Frézals de Bourfaud née à Compiègne (Oise) le 19 avril 1821.

Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur depuis 1842, il est nommé grand officier de l’ordre le 25 juin 18592, après la campagne d'Italie.

En 1867, il est chargé d'arrêter net la tentative de Garibaldi sur les États romains ; c'est alors qu'après Mentana il écrit : « nos fusils Chassepot ont fait merveille », phrase qui lui est durement reprochée.

Sénateur depuis le 12 mars 1868, il commande le 5e corps d'armée durant la guerre franco-allemande de 1870. Le favori impérial donne la mesure de son esprit militaire en laissant écraser Mac-Mahon à Reichshoffen, le 6 août 1870.

Le 30 août, méprisant les avertissements des habitants de Beaumont-en-Argonne, il se laisse surprendre, près de la Meuse, au moment où ses soldats mangent la soupe. Victime de l'impéritie de son chef, la division de Failly écrasée, découvre le corps principal de l'armée, en marche sur Sedan, et sa déroute précipite le désastre final. Failly est démis de son commandement, et se retrouve prisonnier après la capitulation de Sedan.

À son retour d'Allemagne, le général de Failly échappe au Conseil de guerre et se fait oublier avant de prendre sa retraite.









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Graf, thanks, that's great info. 


I understand then as the focal point: "The Question is whether they were awarded as that or the crown was added later on  by request of the owner of the medal to give more dramatic look." I will continue to search as I have become inadvertently committed:


On topic of unique 1859 campaign medals, I purchased some medals practically sight unseen because the photos were so grainy (I thought they were going to send a loaf of bread). The price was so low, I just had to see what they were... and have these medals, I think are real, and with one having the most interesting engraving.


See 3rd pic:




I've spent the last couple days and can't come up with anything if this is a battle, a name (like French abbreviations, or English), a nearby town.  There's an engravers line that runs straight under the letters touching the inner circle of the medal and it's very straight. This had to be done professionally.


Have you seen this before? 


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