The Military Maria Theresa Medal
M. Christian Ortner
The Austrian and/or Austro-Hungarian Military Maria Theresa Medal (MMTO) did not only represent the highest military decoration which the former Monarchy could bestow, but was internationally also considered one of the most distinguished and esteemed military order of merit during the time from its endowment until its expiration. Although the endowment was performed not before the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), the first considerations regarding the implementation of a military order of merit go back to 1749/50. After the completion of the Aachen Peace Treaty (1748), Ordnance General Leopold Joseph Graf von Daun (1705-66) had been tasked by Maria Theresa to reorganise and realign the armed forces. In this context, Daun also dealt with the endowment of a „Military Honour Medal“, which- apart from honouring military merits – was supposed to contribute to „awaken the craving and desire to enter into the soldiers’ trade”. It is not directly detectable, but understandable, that in the course of these considerations the Prussian order „Pour le Mérite“, which had existed since 1740, then contrasted by a Habsburgian match, had a „stimulating” effect. In contrast to the „Pour le Mérite“, Daun’s designs included three medal grades, including financial contributions for the wearers, so-called medal pensions. Here, Maria Theresa was supposed to take over the role of order grand master, and the affairs were to be looked after by appointed order officials; as a name, „Military Theresa Honour Medal” was suggested. At first, the appraisal of the monarch was noncommittal, because with respect to both the grand master laureateship and the incompatibility regulation of the Habsburgian Order of the Golden Vlies difficulties could be expected. Naturally, for the husband and co-regent of Maria Theresa, the Emperor Franz I. Stephan (1708 – 1765), the creation of an Austrian house order with his wife as the grand master, did hardly appear suitable for raising his reputation in the Austrian countries of heritage. Additionally, Franz I. also functioned as the sovereign of Order of the Golden Vlies, whereby the incompatibility regulation mentioned above became decisive. Due to this dynastic, political and legal ambiguity, together with the vague ideas with respect to both the appearance and the eponymy of the medal, the basic idea of creating a military decoration was put dormant for the time being. Only after the Seven Years’ War had broken out in 1756, the project plan of endowing an Austrian military medal was revived. According to the filing cabinets of the MMTO, the „goldsmith” Paul Kobril was the first manufacturer of the first insignia.
The medal ribbons were produced by the „court ribbon maker” Johann Götz. From the available sources, however, one cannot find out for how long the Kobril Company (and its successors) served as the sole manufacturer. In 1801, the „goldsmith” Ignaz Joseph Schmidt (and/or his widow Irma Schmidt) is mentioned as the manufacturer of two Grand Crosses and 111 Knight’s Crosses, and he was remunerated with 600 „Species” golden ducats allocated by the k.k. Mint.