We asked Stephan Schwarz, historical researcher, author of the 3-volume work on the Orders and Medals of Honour of the Duchy of Brunswick, for help with information on an unusual Braunschweigian piece from our collection. The result was an article and our already traditional interview.

Catherine Lapinsh: How did your interest in phaleristics start?

Stephan Schwarz: I was fascinated by history since I was a little boy and one of my biggest interests was always to touch history to feel a connection to the past and the people who lived in these former times. One day my mother found the book from Karl-Gustav Studenitz about the magic of old orders and medals. She bought it and handed it over to me as a gift because she knew about my fascination with history. This book opened the door to the world of phaleristics.

CL: Do you have your own collection and what determined your choices for the items you collected?

SS: No, I don’t have a collection, not anymore. I started a small collection when I was a student in Brunswick and found my first order on the local flea market. After I realized that I would never earn that much money to get the really interesting stuff I sold my collection, but the fascination for these objects never left my blood.

 When I was collecting, I tried to get a Knight Cross of every German order to reproduce the history of my fatherland. So I started with preimperial knight crosses from the time of the Napoleonic wars covered the imperial time until 1918 and also had some medals from the Third Reich and the German Democratic Republic like the Karl-Marx-Order. So I was always interested in the timeframe and the settings which led to the foundation of the orders and the award to the recipients who got these medals. My favourite period was always the imperial one, these orders are true works of art, real handcraft by jewellers, who were masters in their jobs.

CL: What was the most interesting item in your collection?

SS: This is tough to answer, but the rarest piece was from Lippe – Detmold it was the 4th class of the Order of the Honorcross (Orden des Ehrenkreuzes) with swords. Only 3 awards of this class are known. The other pretty rare medal was the cross for the campaign of 1809 from Brunswick in Bronze. [shown here]

CL: Any favourites?

SS: Of course all the medals from Brunswick. I had the life-saving medal in a very pretty condition and when I bought my first knight cross of the order of Henry the Lion I fell in love with its blue enamel and the delicate painting on the arms of that order. My piece was on a triangle ribbon, so it was handed out to an officer from Saxony.


CL: Your new books are already getting great reviews from both collectors and museum curators. Is this your first published work?

SS: When I was an active collector I helped the curator from the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum to write a book on the Guelph’s of Braunschweig Bevern. I took over the chapter on their orders and what each order means for the political connection to other states and which family ties could be found out from these awarded medals. I also wrote some articles in the magazine for the German medal collectors scene. I have written some crime novels, the first one won a prize, I also wrote a musical and a book for children. But this work on the orders and medals from Brunswick is my first specialized book.

CL: When did you start working on this series?

SS: There is a small pamphlet from Roger Reckewell and Jens Fischer on the orders of the duchy of Brunswick published in 1987. For me, it was the bible on Brunswick when I started my collection. The only thing which always saddened me was the fact that the photos in that pamphlet were so small and just black and white. So I made myself the promise that someday I will rewrite it with better and amazing photos, that was 1992. After I have sold my whole collection I didn’t think on this project anymore. In 2017 I was moving and found an old box with all of my old photos on my collection and it was like meeting your first love after twenty years apart. I suddenly remembered my old promise and by pure luck, I had already founded my own publishing company to print my musical with notes for the piano. So I asked myself why shouldn’t I revive this long-dead dream right now. I remembered some of my old comrades from former times, like Andreas Schulze Ising and contacted them. They all encouraged me and introduced me to new collectors as I started gathering material for the book in 2017. I spent six weeks in the archive in Wolfenbüttel where all the documents were from the duchy of Brunswick. I flew all over the world meeting with collectors, taking photos of their collections. I was in the treasure chambers of several museums, who helped me and was allowed to take a look in the private archive of the Guelph’s in Hannover. 

The Unrealized Order of the Duchy of Brunswick

This order which now is stored in the Tallinn museum is just one out of two known pieces worldwide. There are no known documents like foundation document, bills from jewellers or any other documentation on it. In literature, you will find little to nothing on this cross. So you have to rely on the composition and design of this order and look at the history of the Guelphs [a European dynasty that included many German, Italian and British monarchs as well as Emperor Ivan VI of Russia] and the duchy of Brunswick to make some well-founded assumptions on this decoration.

If you take a look at the order’s badge, you will immediately notice the similarity to the Order of Ernst-August, which was founded by George V in Hanover on 15th December 1865. This badge constitutes a golden, white enamelled Maltese cross with golden balls attached to its points. These baubles are typical for all Hanoverian or Guelphic orders and are therefore also found on the Order of St George, the Guelphic Order, the Order of Ernst-August, and the Order of Henry the Lion of Brunswick. Only the later created 1st class, the Officer’s Cross and the 4th class of the Order of Brunswick do not have any balls on the tips of the cross arms

Ernst-August, Hannover, Grand Cross, Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

Henry the Lion, Brunswick, Grand Commander, Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

St George, Hannover, Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

The badge is topped by a golden royal crown, which according to Klenau is recognizable as the Hanoverian crown. From the sides of the crown runs a golden band, which connects the crown with the golden balls on the upper arm of the cross. This type of suspension is indeed found in some Austrian orders, such as the Order of the Iron Crown. The ribbon ring runs through the orb of the royal crown. Interestingly, vertical lines are worked into the lining of the closed royal crown, which heraldically is marked as red linings.

Between the crown and the cross is the trotting Guelph steed, which runs from right to left (heraldically the other way round). The steed is made of silver, thus heraldically white and sculptured. Very interesting is that XRF analyses performed at the Tallinn Museum showed that the horse is made of gold and only covered with silver for the heraldic effect! Why this is the case is not known so far. I would presume that the jeweller made the whole decoration in gold and later realised that the horse had to be heraldic white, so he silver plated it. Beneath the horse, there is a golden fan of rays in the angle of the upper arm of the cross, which is also found in the Brunswick Order of Henry the Lion, but there it lies between the lion and the cross.

Between the arms of the cross are the golden and intertwined initials “EA”. The monograms are alternately decorated with a golden royal crown and a princely hat. In contrast to the royal crown, the princely hats are difficult to interpret, they unlikely refer to Brunswick, rather they could be an allusion to the common history of the Guelphs before the division of the estate. Klenau even suspected a reference to the Principality of Oels, which had again fallen to the Prussian crown in 1884. I consider this to be very unlikely!

The central medallion shows the small national coat of arms of the Duchy of Brunswick on a white background on the obverse side. It is surrounded by a red enamelled ring on which the words “TWO IN ONE” are written in gold. At the bottom of the red ring are two laurel branches.

The central medallion on the reverse shows the intertwined initials “GR” and a small “V” on a red background. This combination stands for George Rex V. These interlaced initials are typical for Hanoverian orders and can be found on the reverse of the Guelphic Order and the Order of Ernest August. This monogram is topped by a golden crown. The medallion is encircled by a dark blue enamelled ring on which the motto in gold reads: “AT THE END OF ALL THINGS JUSTICE PREVAILS”. At the bottom, a small golden dot is embedded in the blue enamel to separate the end of the sentence from the beginning.

So what does the design of this projected order tells us? The initiator of this order project could only be Ernst August Duke of Cumberland (1845 – 1923), the son of George V of Hannover (1819–1878) and father of the later  Ernst August Duke of Brunswick (1887–1953). The author doubts whether George V would have had his son’s name applied to the Order, but the expelled King George V cannot be completely ruled out as the creator and founder. After all, the central medallion on the reverse side of the order cross rather points to George V, as these monogram medallions on reverse sides are also called donor monograms.

To understand why this order shows the small coat of arms from Brunswick and what the motto of the order could mean, we have to dig deeper into the history of the duchy of Brunswick. After both the reigning Duke Wilhelm  (1806–1884) and his exiled brother Duke Carl II (1804–1873) stood without legitimate heirs to the throne, the expelled Guelphs from Hanover made quite justified claims to the throne in the duchy of Brunswick. The Guelphic house laws provided for this as well. Duke Carl II had died in Geneva in 1873 and Wilhelm was already 67 years old at that time. It was extremely unlikely that he would get a legitimate heir to the throne being that old now. However, George V died already in 1878 and thus six years before his cousin from Brunswick. Now Ernst August II., the Duke of Cumberland, moved to the first place of the Brunswick succession to the throne according to Guelphic house laws and the Brunswick state constitution. It was foreseeable that Duke Wilhelm would not sit on the throne forever, and so Ernst August II could certainly have started planning for the accession to the throne in Brunswick around the time shortly after his father’s death. 

When Duke Wilhelm died on 18th October 1884, Ernst August II took possession of the Duchy of Brunswick by means of a patent. By refusing Ernst August to renounce his hereditary rights to the throne in Hanover, Reichs Chancellor von Bismarck succeeded in getting the Bundesrat to strike down the patent. Ernst August remained in exile, but tried his luck again after the death of Prince Regent Prince Albrecht of Prussia in 1906 and failed for the second time.

But what could have been the intention behind this project of the Order? I suspect that this order was intended as a second order for the duchy of Brunswick and would probably have been officially founded in Brunswick after the successful accession to the throne. The saying “two in one” suggests that with the possession of the duchy of Brunswick the new house of Hanover would have taken over the new Brunswick house and thus reversed the division of the inheritance of 1267*. “Two in one” also means that Ernst August still dreamed of the restitution of his kingdom of Hanover and eventual marriage to Brunswick. The initials of his father Georg V also point to this. Ernst August saw himself in the tradition of his father and succession to the Guelphic throne in Hanover and Brunswick.

The motto on the back: “At the end of all things, justice prevails” indicates that Ernst August hoped to succeed with his claims and in the end get justice and satisfaction after his family lost their throne in 1866. 

If these considerations are correct, then there can only be two time ranges for the production time: shortly before 1884 and shortly before 1906. If one looks at the design of the Guelphic Order project and compares it with the new classes of the Brunswick Ducal Order of Henry the Lion created in 1908, one sees that fashionable taste had moved away from the balls on the tips of the cross arms. I, therefore, tend to believe that this project was initiated between 1878 and 1884 and that the two specimens were made by an Austrian jeweller

George V of Hannover (1819–1878)

Ernst August II (1845 – 1923), Crown Prince of Hanover

Ernst August Duke of Brunswick (1887–1953)

*The division of the inheritance of 1267 – when the ruling duke of Brunswick-Lueneburg  Albrecht I the Great allowed his younger brother Johann I to rule beside him. Albrecht I was the head of the old house of Brunswick and Johann I became the first duke of the old house of Hannover. But both were called dukes of Brunswick-Lueneburg.

But why Ernst August III, when he ascended the throne of Brunswick in 1913, did not pull this order project out of obscurity and officially endow it, remains a mystery. There can only be two reasons for this: either one had simply forgotten about this project in 1913 or one did not want to forsake it immediately with the Prussians and the House of Hohenzollern after one had just returned to the ranks of the ruling German princely houses. In the German Empire, and especially in Prussia, there had been violent verbal attacks by the Guelph Party and conservative Prussian movements, and the mood was very irritable. The followers of the Guelphs demanded restitution of the former Kingdom of Hanover and the conservative forces in Prussia at times even demanded the incorporation of the Duchy of Brunswick into the Kingdom of Prussia. An order of this design, which documented the Guelphic self-image and at the same time also the claim to Hanover, would have been pure poison for the political mood at that time. Especially since one had now married into the imperial family and thus, in essence, belonged to it, such a foundation would certainly not have been well received.

So this order allows us to take a deep look into the history of the duchy of Brunswick and the royal family of the Guelphs and is a very interesting piece in the collection of the Museum of Orders of Knighthood in Tallinn.