In most countries during the 18th century, the orders and decorations of the monarchies were often limited to a selected few and all knights of these orders had to be noblemen. Military decorations were therefore the perks of the officers.
Napoleon famously declared :
"You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led…
Do you think that you would be able to make men fight by reasoning? Never.
That is good only for the scholar in his study.
The soldier needs glory, distinctions, rewards."
This has been often degenerated to simply :
It is with such baubles that men are led
The first ‘Gallantry Medals’ for the other ranks had been instituted by Sweden and Austro-Hungary in 1789.
The Kingdom of Prussia was the first to introduce, what would later be termed ‘Campaign Medals’ for those who had taken part in the Wars of Liberation of 1813-14. This was then extended to cover the 1815 Campaign.
Similarly, in 1815, Austro-Hungary instituted the Bronze Canon Cross 1813-14 for participation in the Befreiungskrieg of 1813-14 to free Germany & Europe; this was their first medal given equally to all serving soldiers irrespective of rank.
The Battle of Waterloo prompted several of the nations involved to follow suit with their own ‘Waterloo Medals’, namely :
Britain, Hanover, Brunswick and Nassau
The newly created Kingdom of the Netherlands had just previously, in April 1815, instituted the Militaire Willems-Orde for feats of outstanding bravery on the battlefield, as well as a meritorious decoration to senior military officers. This was used rather than creating an additional Waterloo Medal.
Zoom / enlargement - the pictures of the medals can be seen in zoomed detail by simply clicking on the images.The Medals Previous