The modern insignia of The Order of Saint Joachim is similar to that in first use. Figure 8 (right) shows the ancient form of neck insignia worn by Grand Commanders, Commanders and Knights, suspended from a green watered silk ribbon with a golden knightly helm hanging device. The front shows St. Joachim with his staff, and the reverse detail shown underneath displays a green cross-pattee. 

Figure 9 (left) is the breast cross worn by the Grand Master, Grand Commanders and Commanders, with The Order's motto surrounding the centrepiece: DEO PRINCIPI LEGI. Except for the motto, the breast badge has changed little in design in more than 200 years.

These illustrations of the ancient insignia of the Order of Saint Joachim are from A.M. Perrot's work: Historische Sammlung aller Ritterorden der verschiendenen Nationen (A Historical Collection of all Knightly Orders of Different Nations) published in Leipzig in 1821.

Because of the Order's relatively small membership, actual surviving examples of The Order's insignia from its earliest period are rare but not unknown.

An example of The Order's breast cross for Knights Commander, shown below, was recently offered by a prominent European auction house specializing in German and knightly orders. The example below is interesting for several reasons. It is likely an early example from the the late 1700s or early 1800s. It uses The Order's older motto - DEO, PRINCIPI, LEGI - and known examples from the 1800-1805 period had begun to use the Order's other motto - JUNXIT AMICUS AMOR. There is also the unusual and unauthorized addition of rays or a starburst between the arms of the cross.

Some of the variations seen in The Order's early insignia can be attributed to the fact that most of it was custom made for individual members of the Order by jewelers who had never seen an actual example. The Order did specify in its 1793 Abrégé (Abridged Rules of the Order) that members could request insignia from a Mr. Jean Gottlob Grellmann, the banker of The Order, at Hamburg, although many apparently chose to have their insignia custom made locally by various Court jewelers, likely working only from drawings and descriptions. Although unauthorized, individual embellishments to the approved design occurred.

Beautifully made in silver and gilt, this example (right) dates from the period when Joachim Murat, a Marshal of France, was appointed Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves on March 15, 1806 and declared himself the Grand Master of The Order of Saint Joachim after seizing the legitimate Grand Master's lands. He made changes to the Order's insignia, including a rosette on the ribbon and this variation of the breast star which uses an eight-pointed "Maltese cross" instead of the proper cross-pattee of the Order, and added gold and silver rays between the arms of the cross. Murat also revised the Order's statutes to extend membership in the Order to any member of the French Legion of Honour. This version of the breast star can be seen in several contemporary paintings of Napoleonic French generals.

Lord Horatio Nelson's breast cross has been preserved in a photograph taken at the end of the 1800s. This is one of a set of medals that was presented to him in 1802 and came directly from The Grand Chapter on his being made a Knight Grand Commander of The Order of Saint Joachim. The original was stolen in 1900 and has never been recovered. The photograph shows his breast cross as somewhat plainer than the above example, with the Order's other motto - JUNXIT AMICUS AMOR - surrounding the centrepiece, with the date 1755 at the bottom. In the centre, likely hand painted on enamel, is the proper cross-pattee of the order surrounded by laurel leaves. The arms of the cross are in patterned silver brightwork.

Nelson typically did not wear the metal version of his insignia pictured below left, instead preferring to wear a wire-embroidered or "tinsel" version on his uniform coat.
The presentation version of Nelson's actual Order of Saint Joachim breast star photographed in the late 1800s
Photograph of one of Nelson's original "tinsel" Order of Saint Joachim breast stars. Another original version is shown below, right

Nelson had several tinsel or wire versions made of his Saint Joachim breast star, and wore the insignia from 1802 until his death. An embroidered version was lighter and more practical than a heavy metal award, and Nelson had all four of his orders of knighthood rendered in sequins, silk, velvet and bullion embroidery for semi-permanent attachment to his uniform.

In addition to the above unmounted example, a slightly different version is sewn to his famous "Trafalgar Coat" which he was wearing when killed in 1805 during the battle. This second wearing copy, shown at right, is still preserved and on display in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The threads that attach it to his jacket can be plainly seen.

During the 2005 bicentennial of the battle of Trafalgar Nelson was celebrated and marketed unlike another time, except perhaps following his death in 1805. One enterprising company reproduced all of Nelson's orders of knighthood for collectors and re-enactors. At left is their modern reproduction of Nelson's tinsel Order of Saint Joachim.

A photograph of Nelson's neck cross of The Order of Saint Joachim also exists, taken at the same time as the photo of the breast cross, above. The neck cross is shown suspended from the knightly helm hanger described and shown above by Perrot in 1821. At some point prior to being photographed it was removed and incorrectly reattached backwards to the hanger, as in the photograph the reverse of the cross is shown instead of the correct figure of St. Joachim that should be on the front.

The reverse shows a cross that is half-way between the correct cross-pattee and a Maltese cross, surrounded by a thin line of laurel leaves. The cross should be in green, but it is impossible to tell from the black and white photograph.

For comparison, another period neck cross of The Order of Saint Joachim recently surfaced and was offered for sale. Of great interest is the fact that it was a mid-19th century version of a Dames' neck cross of The Order of Saint Joachim worn by a female member of the Order.

Ladies of The Order of Saint Joachim wore the same cross as male Knights, but without the helmet hanging device. Instead the ladies' version was supported by a gilded skull and crossed bones hanger shown below. This somewhat macabre addition was principally to signify and remind ladies of the transitory nature of beauty and life, and that one should devote one's life to the more lasting virtues of honour, education and family.

The cross itself shows Saint Joachim in green on the face of the white enamel cross surrounded by a gold wreath. The reverse has a green cross in the centrepiece, surrounded by a gold wreath. The green cross is again a hybrid design between a Maltese cross and a proper cross-pattee. Originally ladies wore this cross on a long green ribbon around their necks in the centre of the breast.

Back to modern insignia.


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