Order of the Black Eagle
Schwarzer Adlerorden
Star of the Order of the Black Eagle
TypeState Order (formerly)
House Order (currently)
Established17 January 1701
CountryKingdom of Prussia Kingdom of Prussia
Royal houseHouse of Hohenzollern
MottoSuum Cuique (idiomatically, "to each according to his merits")
EligibilityMembers of ruling houses, senior civil and military officials and other worthy figures appointed by the King of Prussia.
Awarded forCivil or military merit
SovereignPrince Georg Friedrich
First induction1701
Total inductees407 (to 1918)[1]
Next (higher)None
Next (lower)Order of Merit of the Prussian Crown

Ribbon of the order

The Order of the Black Eagle (German: Hoher Orden vom Schwarzen Adler) was the highest order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Prussia. The order was founded on 17 January 1701 by Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg (who became Friedrich I, King in Prussia, the following day). In his Dutch exile after World War I, deposed Emperor Wilhelm II continued to award the order to his family. He made his second wife, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, a Lady in the Order of the Black Eagle.


The statutes of the order were published on 18 January 1701, and revised in 1847. Membership in the Order of the Black Eagle was limited to a small number of knights, and was divided into two classes: members of reigning houses (further divided into members of the House of Hohenzollern and members of other houses, both German and foreign) and capitular knights. Before 1847, membership was limited to nobles, but after that date, capitular knights who were not nobles were raised to the nobility (Adelsstand).[2] Capitular knights were generally high-ranking government officials or military officers.

The Order of the Black Eagle had only one class, but could also be awarded at the king's prerogative "with the Chain" ("mit der Kette") or without ("ohne Kette"). By statute, members of the order also held the Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle, and wore the badge of that order from a ribbon around the neck. From 1862, members of the Prussian royal house, upon award of the Order of the Black Eagle, also received the Prussian Crown Order 1st Class.[3]


Badge of the Order of the Black Eagle.

The badge of the Order was a gold Maltese cross, enameled in blue, with gold-crowned black eagles between the arms of the cross. The gold center medallion bore the royal monogram of Friedrich I ("FR", for Fredericus Rex).

This badge was worn from either a broad ribbon (or sash) or a collar (or "chain"). The ribbon of the Order was an orange moiré sash worn from the left shoulder to the right hip, with the badge resting on the hip. The sash color was chosen in honor of Louise Henriette of Nassau, daughter of the Prince of Orange and first wife of the great elector. The collar or chain (Kette) was worn around the neck and resting upon the shoulders, with the badge suspended from the front center; the collar had 24 elaborate interlocking links: alternately a black eagle and a device featuring a center medallion with the motto of the Order (Suum Cuique—literally "To each his own," but idiomatically "To each according to his merits"), a series of FRs forming a cross pattern, a blue enameled ring around this, and crowns at each cross point.

The star of the Order was a silver eight-pointed star, with straight or faceted rays depending on the jeweler's design. The center medallion displayed a black eagle (which gripped a wreath of laurels in its left claws and a scepter in its right) on a golden background, surrounded by a white enamelled ring bearing a wreath of laurels and the motto of the Order.

At meetings of the chapter of the Order of the Black Eagle and at certain ceremonies, the knights wore red velvet capes with blue linings. Embroidered on the left shoulder of each cape was a large star of the Order.[3]


From its founding in 1701 to 1918, the Order of the Black Eagle was awarded 407 times, with 57 of these installations occurring during the reign of Friedrich I (1701–1713).[1][4] In 1918, the knights of the order totalled 118 — 14 were members of the Prussian royal house, one was a member of the Princely House of Hohenzollern, 49 (of whom nine were from states then at war with Germany) were members of other reigning houses, and 54 (including 17 who had not yet been fully installed) were nonroyal Germans.[5] Subjects of the Prussian King receiving the order, which was only given in one class, were promoted to the peerage and received a hereditary title.

From the Prussian State Handbooks, it is clear that the Order of the Black Eagle (as well as, by statute, the other Prussian orders, as mentioned above) was conferred upon all male members of the royal family on their 10th birthdays; these men received the collar of the Order on their 18th birthdays. The Order was also conferred upon Prussian queens (and, later, German empresses), though other female members of the royal family usually received the Order of Louise instead.

Sovereigns and Masters of the Order

Friedrich Wilhelm IV, wearing the collar and cloak of the Order of the Black Eagle. Original portrait by Krüger


Royal House of Hohenzollern

Empress Auguste Viktoria, wearing the sash and star of the Order of the Black Eagle. Portrait by Philip de Laszlo

Princely House of Hohenzollern

Foreign royal members of the Order

Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria-Hungary, wearing the uniform of a Prussian field marshal and the sash and star of the Order of the Black Eagle, c. 1900

Knights of the Order

Graf Alfred von Schlieffen in 1906

Current usage

Feldjäger emblem

The Order of the Black Eagle is currently used as the emblem of the German Military Police (Feldjäger).


  1. ^ a b Preußische Orden.
  2. ^ Werlich, Orders and Decorations, p. 182.
  3. ^ a b 1918 Prussian State Handbook, p. 38.
  4. ^ It is unclear whether this number only covers capitular knights, or also includes members of reigning houses.
  5. ^ 1918 Prussian State Handbook, p. 38–41.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Germany". The Times. No. 36981. London. 19 January 1903. p. 5.
  7. ^ a b c "Court Circular". The Times. No. 36043. London. 19 January 1900. p. 7.
  8. ^ Rangeliste der Koeniglich Preussisches, 1903. Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler & Son, 1903. p 369
  9. ^ "Latest intelligence - Germany". The Times. No. 36781. London. 30 May 1902. p. 5.
  10. ^ a b Artikel „Kleist, Henning Alexander von“ von Heinrich Kypke in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, herausgegeben von der Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Band 16 (1882), S. 150–151, Digitale Volltext-Ausgabe in Wikisource, von Kleist(Version vom 26. September 2015, 20:02 Uhr UTC)
  11. ^ "Latest intelligence - The German Emperor at Posen". The Times. No. 36864. London. 4 September 1902. p. 3.
  12. ^ Witzleben, E. v. Adolf von Deines. Lebensbild 1845-1911 (Berlin, 1913)
  13. ^ "Court Circular". The Times. No. 36877. London. 19 September 1902. p. 7.
  14. ^ "No. 2731". The London Gazette. 7 May 1901. p. 3123.
  15. ^ (in German) Albert Pfister, "Johann Jakob Wunsch." Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Band 44. (1898), pp. 315–317
  16. ^ "Latest intelligence - The King of Italy in Berlin". The Times. No. 36859. London. 29 August 1902. p. 3.
  17. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Simson, Martin Eduard von". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 136–137.