by Catherine Lapinsh and Kristjan Kaljusaar

There are many German orders on display at the Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood, however, there are two sets of insignia – of the Order of St Hubert and of the Order of St Henry – that deserve special mention in connection to the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, Charles I


The Order of Saint Hubert (Orden des Heiligen Hubertus or Hubertusorden) is a Roman Catholic dynastic order of knighthood formerly pertaining to the House of Jüllich and currently to the House of Wittelsbach. It was founded on 3 November 1444 by Gerhard VII, Duke of Jülich-Berg and the first statutes followed on 26 March 1445.

The background of the Order’s founding was a late medieval dynastic feud between the Dukes of Jülich and Dukes of Guelders – who were themselves descended from a female line of the House of Jülich – over extensive territories on the western banks of the Rhine, in nowadays western Germany and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1444, on November 3 – Saint Hubert’s day – Duke Gerhard VII of House Jülich achieved victory in the Battle of Linnich over his rival Arnold of Egmond, Duke of Guelders. He believed that he could only have won with the help of God and Saint Hubert and so, to celebrate his success and honour them, Duke Gerhard decided to establish the Order of Saint Hubert.

Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, 1917. Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

It was initially a knightly brotherhood, following the example of the prestigious Order of the Golden Fleece. Interestingly, the Order was open to women, as well as men, and members of both genders were called companions. Only the number of male companions was limited – to 60 members. The Order had one class, but there was a hierarchy since the statutes called for four Masters – in addition to the Grand Master, the Duke of Jüllich – and one Provost, or Arms Master. Two of the four Masters were required to belong to the families of the duchies of Jülich or Berg. The Masters decided who would be admitted to the Order, and the Provost initially maintained the weapons and arms of the brotherhood.

The Order’s namesake, Saint-Hubert, was born to the ducal family of Aquitaine about the year 656. After the death of his wife, he withdrew into the forests of the Ardennes and gave himself up entirely to hunting. According to legend, once, while pursuing a stag, Hubert suddenly witnessed a crucifix appear between its antlers and he received a vision telling him to turn to the Lord and also hold animals in higher regard as they are all God’s creatures. Hubert renounced his worldly possessions, titles, and wealth and, following the messages of his visions, went to Maastricht, where a certain Lambert was bishop. Bishop Lambert instructed Hubert in matters of faith, and he himself eventually became the Bishop of Liége (not far from the later site of the Battle of Linnich) in 708. Hubert distributed his episcopal revenues among the poor, was diligent in fasting and prayer and became famous for his eloquence in the pulpit. He died peacefully in 727 and was canonized in 743. Saint Hubert was widely venerated in the Middle Ages and is the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, knights, opticians, and metalworkers. 

The Vision of Saint Hubert, 16th century Prague School, after an engraving by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, Joseph Karl Stieler, Alte Pinakothek

The Order of Saint Hubert remained in the ducal family of Jülich (who also ruled the lands of Cleves and Berg) until 1609, when their line went extinct. During the following succession struggles in the 17th century, the Order fell into disuse but was restored in 1708 by Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm of House Wittelsbach, who had eventually inherited the territories of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Electors from the main line of House Wittelsbach also ruled Bavaria, and when their line went extinct in the late 18th century, the Palatine branch inherited the Bavarian holdings as well. Hence, the Order of Saint Hubert became a Bavarian order.

On 18 May 1808, the newly elevated King of Bavaria, Maximilian I, declared the Order of Saint Hubert to be the first in the kingdom, it could only be granted if the person already received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Bavarian Crown. Maximilian limited membership to twelve knights from the ranks of counts and barons, but the Order could also include sovereigns, ruling princes and their male descendants and relatives, as well as foreigners qualifying for the “exchange of orders” and all others, who the Grand Master deemed worthy of the honour. The number of Knights was, therefore, indefinite.

The Order of Saint Hubert remained with the Wittelsbach dynasty of Bavaria throughout the 19th century when the former electorate was elevated to the rank of kingdom after the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806. The Wittelsbach monarchy was deposed in Bavaria at the end of the First World War, but the Order of Saint Hubert was not abolished and continued its existence as a dynastic order. The present head of the House of Wittelsbach – Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria, Duke of Bavaria – is the current Grand Master of the Order of Saint Hubert.

The badge of the Order is an eight-pointed white-enamelled gold cross, surmounted by a crown. Gold rays emerge from between the arms of the cross. The central medallion bears a depiction of the vision of Hubert: the future saint witnessing the crucifix appear between the antlers of a stag and hearing the divine message. Encircling the image of the vision in the motto of the Order in Gothic letters: ‘In trau vast’ (West Middle German: Firm in Fidelity). The reverse of the badge features the imperial orb – one main insignia of the Holy Roman Emperor – and the inscription: ‘In memoriam recuperatæ dignitatis a vitæ 1708’ (Latin: In remembrance of the restoration of the original dignity, 1708).

Famous recipients include George IV of the United Kingdom (1762-1830), Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov (1729-1800), Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and Archduke Karl Franz Joseph (1887-1922).


Archduke Karl Franz Joseph was born on 17 August 1887 in the Castle of Persenbeug, and reigned as Emperor Charles I of Austria, King Charles IV of Hungary from 21 November 1916 to 11 November 1918

During his lifetime, he received, among others, the following awards:*


Order of the Golden Fleece: 1905


Order of the Black Eagle: 8 June 1906

Pour le Merite: 20 May 1916, with oak leaves added 6 December 1916


Order of the Rue Crown: 3 May 1905

Order of St Henry, Knight Cross: April 1916

Order of St Henry, Grand Cross: 14 November 1917


Order of St Hubert: awarded 7 May 1908

Military Max Joseph Order: 26 October 1916

Emperor Charles I in the ceremonial robes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Tom von Dreger, 1916

Although this is a typical list of high honours for an emperor or crown prince, at the time of his birth Charles was fifth in line for the throne, and the very likely birth of new heirs of the imperial Habsburg line should have moved him even further from the crown. However, the Astro-Hungarian Emperor Francz Joseph survived his only son Rudolph (died in 1889 without leaving any male heirs), his brother Archduke Karl Ludwig (died in 1896), his nephew Otto (died in 1906) and, finally, his other nephew, Franz Ferdinand (assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914), whose children, born from a morganatic marriage, held no right to the throne. And so, only in 1914, against all odds and simultaneously with the outbreak of World War I, the young Archduke became the heir to the 84-year-old Emperor. The death of Franz Joseph on 21 November 1916 elevated Charles to the thrones of Austria and Hungary and in an extremely difficult military and internal political situation, Emperor Charles I personally assumed command of the Austro-Hungarian army.

           Order of the Rue Crown Grand Cross set in case, Ernst August (1845-1923), Crown Prince of Hannover. Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

The Order of the Rue Crown (Hausorden der Rautenkrone) is a single-class dynastic order of knighthood of the Kingdom of Saxony created to be the civil counterpart to the Military Order of St Henry. The order takes its name from the green floral crown of rue found in the coat of arms of Saxony, and as the kingdom’s highest order was commonly conferred on foreign sovereigns with Napoleon being one of the first recipients. 

By this time, and as he was moving up the line of succession, Charles received, among others, the Order of the Rue Crown (1905), the Order of the Black Eagle (1906) and the Order of St Hubert (1908) – all highest honours in their respective countries. His father, Otto Franz, Archduke of Austria (1865-1906), was married to Maria Josepha, Princess of Saxony (1867-1944). Apart from Saxony, the family had strong ties to the Kingdom of Bavaria, as Princess Sophie of Bavaria (1801-1877) was the mother of the reigning emperor Franz Joseph and great-grandmother of Charles. Amalie Auguste, Princess of Bavaria and Queen of Saxony(1801-1877) was his maternal great-grandmother. As was the custom of the times, close family ties to the kingdoms of Bavaria and Saxony also determined the high orders of those kingdoms bestowed upon Charles – those of the Rue Crown and the Order of St Hubert. Another contributing factor was most assuredly the Dual Alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany. After the formation of the German Empire in 1871, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck brokered a vital defensive Dual Alliance (7 October 1879), aimed mostly against Russia which threatened Austria’s interests in the Balkans, making Austria-Hungary and Germany important political and military allies, which in turn led to the higher number of reciprocally bestowed awards to the countries’ officers. The alliance persisted until the end of the war in 1918.

Order of St Hubert. Insignia of the Order of St Hubert with the number 36 engraved on the side of the badge was issued to Archduke Karl Franz Joseph on 7 May 1908, although he only received these insignia in 1910.**


Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

Charles’ career as an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army started in 1903, as a Lieutenant in the 1st Lancers Regiment; followed by service in the 7th Dragoons Regiment from 1905, where he advanced to the rank of First Lieutenant in 1906, and Captain in 1909. He was then transferred to the 39th Infantry Regiment, where he became a Major, and, in 1914, a Lieutenant Colonel. He carried out his military duty initially in Prague and later in various Bohemian garrison towns. As Crown Prince already holding the rank of Colonel he served as liaison officer to the German army in Galicia. In 1915, he was promoted to the rank of Major General, and, in 1916, to Field Marshal Lieutenant as he took part in the offensive in South Tyrol. Charles became Cavalry General in 1916, and later that year Colonel General and Grand Admiral.*** As he succeeded to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones, Charles immediately assumed the title of Supreme Commander of the empire’s forces, which gave him independence from German leadership, and started working towards achieving a peace treaty. To ease the suffering of the populace he founded the Ministry of Social Welfare (1917) and the Ministry of Public Health (1918), and instigated the drafting of a new constitution based on the idea of an Austrian Commonwealth of Nations (Staatenbund). As the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, Charles first fled to Switzerland and after a failed attempt to return to power was sent into exile on the island of Madeira, where he died on 1 April 1922 of pneumonia, having never abdicated.

For his achievements during WWI Charles received numerous awards from his allies, including the Military Order of St Henry of the Kingdom of Saxony. The Emperor received the Knight Cross of the Order in April 1916 and Grand Cross on 14 November 1917.

Grand Cross of the Military Order of St Henry. Between 1917 and 1918, it was awarded a total of six times and apart from Charles I of Austria was bestowed upon Ludwig III of Bavaria, William II of Württemberg and German crown prince Wilhelm. Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood


The Military Order of Saint Henry (German: Militär-St. Heinrichs-Orden) of the Electorate and later Kingdom of Saxony was founded on 7 October 1736 by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony in celebration of his fortieth birthday. It was to be an award for Saxon military officers in times of war.

On the day of the Order’s founding, Augustus conferred it upon several generals – but the bestowals rested there, and the Order became dormant in 1763, following the death of the monarch, as well as the passing away of his son and successor only three months later. The Order was briefly renewed in 1768 by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. However, it was not conferred again until the French Revolutionary Wars in the 1790s. Its statutes were renewed in 1807, after Saxony was elevated to the rank of Kingdom. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, the Military Order of Saint Henry was granted to officers of the Saxon army and those of allied states. 

The Order had four classes: Grand Cross, Commander 1st Class, Commander (or Commander 2nd Class), and Knight. Generally, the military rank of the recipient determined which grade he would receive: the Grand Cross was bestowed upon monarchs and on high-ranking field commanders, Commander 1st Class on generals, Commander 2nd Class on officers holding the rank of major or higher, the Knight’s Cross – on other officers. With few exceptions, one was required to have received a lower grade before receiving the next higher grade.

The badge of the Order is a gold Maltese cross with a white-enamelled edge. The central gold medallion is surrounded by a blue-enamelled gold ring with the inscription ‘Fridr. Aug. D. G. Rex. Sax. Instauravit’ (abbreviated Latin for: Restored by Frederick Augustus, by the grace of God, King of Saxony). The yellow-enamelled centre of the medallion features the image of Saint Emperor Henry II with all the attributes of the imperial dignity, as well as his name: ‘S. Henricus.’ On the reverse of the badge the blue-enamelled ring bears the Order’s motto ‘Virtuti in bello’ (Latin: Virtue in War) and the centre of the medallion features the Saxon coat of arms – alternating horizontal black and gold stripes with a diagonal rue crown.


The Order bears the name of Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1014 to 1024. He was the last monarch of the powerful Ottonian dynasty that originated from Saxony. The name of their royal house is a testament to Emperor Otto I, who claimed the imperial crown for German (more accurately East Frankish) kings in the 10th century, but Henry came from a cadet branch and was initially the Duke of Bavaria. As Emperor, he waged numerous successful wars and increased the influence of imperial power in Europe. Henry also furthered the efforts to Christianize Slavic tribes on the northeast frontiers of the Empire, and made several kind donations to the church. He was canonized in 1146.

Famous recipients include German flying aces Max Immelmann – Knight, 1915, Knight Commander, 1916; and Manfred von Richthofen (Red Baron) – Knight’s Cross: 1917

* Austria’s State Archives hold a list of qualifications for Archduke Karl Franz Josef, which are very detailed up until the beginning of the war in 1914, however few entries were made during the following years. Since awards to the emperor did not require approval, they were generally not officially published, which made the task of gathering all the information on these awards all that more impressive. This task was completed by Peter Steiner and published in the journals of the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Ordenskunde (ÖGO) (Austrian Phaleristic Society) issues 109 (2/2018 ) and 112 (11/2018) with maximum details and sources (P. Steiner: Karl, Kaiser von Österreich und König von Ungarn. Versuch einer Aufstellung seiner Orden und Beför­ derungen)

**Schmidt-Brentano. Die österreichischen Admirale. Gives the date 8 October 1910 with the year 1908 in brackets.

***Rill, Robert: Charles I, Emperor of Austria, 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopaedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2015-08-19.