Interwar period
Metal, enamel, cloth
Casting, hammering, enameling


    Text: Tudor Martin / photo: Marius Amarie.

    In 1927, King Ferdinand I of Romania, also known as The Unifier, died, leaving his grandson, Michael, as the successor to the throne, under the tutelage of a Regency. The Romanian state was governed by this Regency up to 1930, when the eldest son of the previous monarch, Carol II, was proclaimed King. In 1929, when the celebration of 10 years since the accomplishment of the Great Union was held, because the initial plan to celebrate the Great Union in 1928 failed due to various political and administrative reasons, it was decided to create a distinction to honor the memory of the King of the Great Union. These distinctions that bear his name – the order and medal of Ferdinand I – are going to be presented in this article.


    It was founded on 10 May 1929, in order to perpetuate the memory of the King during whose reign Romania was unified. This decoration was exclusively conferred to the Romanians who had an important contribution to the accomplishment of National Unity, the only exception to this rule being the French General Henri Mathias Berthelot, the commander of the French Military Mission in Romania, during the Great War. The order had six grades, with a limited number of members: Knight (100), Officer (75), Commander (60), Grand Officer (40), Grand Cross (15) and Collar (8). The princes and princesses of the Royal House received this order when turning the age of majority, these distinctions being awarded over the specified number of the members of the order.

    Like most of the Romanian orders at that time, the first three grades/classes of the order of Ferdinand I had only the insignia (worn on the chest – Knight/ Officer – or around the neck – Commander), whereas the following two also received a star, which was pinned to the chest. The insignia had the shape of a green enamel cross, with four equal sides, the upper one being surmounted by a royal crown, through which it was attached to the ribbon. For the grade of Knight, it was made of silver, whereas for the rest of the grades it was made of gilded silver. The star had the shape of a rhombic plate, on whose obverse the insignia of the order was applied, whereas the reverse had a pin. Both for the grade of Grand Officer and for the one of Grand Cross, the star had the same sizes (around 73x73 mm), the only difference being the metal they were made of – silver or gilded silver.

    This decoration is one of the three distinctions during the period of the monarchy, which had a collar, just like the order of Carol I (founded in 1906) and the order of “Loyal Service” (created in 1932, but to which the grade of Collar was added in 1937). The Collar, made of gilded silver, had twelve groups of two crowns of laurel leaves each, alternating with twelve crosses – six with green enamel and six with blue enamel. All the elements of the Collar are attached to each other by means of three small chains, of various sizes. Besides the big Collar, the official one, there was a small version of the Collar, made on the request of some personalities who had received the order with the grade of Collar. Two of these objects can be found in the collection of the National Museum of Romanian History. The small version of the Collar was worn at various events where the display of the big one was not compulsory.

    The ribbon of this order had the colors of the national flag – dark blue with a yellow stripe, having a red thread in the middle. During its short existence, this distinction was the second in the hierarchy of orders, after the order of Carol I. It was one of the more rarely awarded Romanian decorations and, consequently, the limits established for each grade have not been reached. In 1937 it was declared completed, probably based on the consideration that the ones who deserved it had already received it. The pieces in the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet were produced by the Resch workshop in Bucharest, at least the decorations for the grades of Grand Officer and Grand Cross, and by the Spink & Son workshop in London – the small collars.



    Like the order, the medal was also created in 1929. It was awarded to the civilians and servicemen for their exceptional activity to the country’s benefit. The medal was made of bronze. On the obverse of this distinction, there was the effigy of King Ferdinand I towards the right side, and the circular legend “FERDINAND•I• REGE•AL•ROMÂNIEI•”. On the reverse, in the middle, the was a cross of the order of Ferdinand I, in relief, and the years “1914” (up) and “1927” (down) – the period of the King’s reign. It was attached to the ribbon by means of a crown that had a ring in its upper part. There were at least two versions of the obverse and the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet contains medals from both of them. Some of the medals in the patrimony of the museum were made by the Resch workshop in Bucharest.

    The ribbon was dark blue, with a red stripe in the middle. For the servicemen, two crossed bronze swords were attached to the ribbon. This medal was designed as a reward for the merits of the Romanian citizens, the only exception being, again, General Berthelot, who had also received the order of Ferdinand I. The medal was mostly awarded to the ones who fought in World War I and were still serving in the army and to the volunteers who had come from Bukovina and Transylvania to fight in the Romanian army.