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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). 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.
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.
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). 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. Subjects of the Prussian King receiving the order, which was only given in one class, were promoted to the peerage and received 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
Friedrich I of Prussia (1657-1713) -- founder of the Order of the Black Eagle; last Elector of Brandenburg and first King in Prussia
Frederick William I of Prussia (1688-1740) -- first member of the Order, inducted in 1701, when he was crown prince; Sovereign and Master of the Order, 1713-1740
Friedrich II (1712-1786) -- "Friedrich the Great"; Sovereign and Master of the Order, 1740-1786
Wilhelm I (1797-1888) -- King of Prussia and first German emperor; Sovereign and Master of the Order, 1861-1888
Friedrich III (1831-1888) -- better remembered as "Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm" of Prussia; general during the German wars of unification; briefly German emperor, March to June 1888; Died of throat cancer
Wilhelm II (1859-1941) -- last King of Prussia and last German emperor; Sovereign and Master of the Order, 1888-1941
August Wilhelm, Prince of Prussia (1722-1758) -- second son of Friedrich Wilhelm I; brother of Friedrich II ("Friedrich the Great"); father of Friedrich Wilhelm II; Prussian general in the Silesian Wars
Heinrich, Prince of Prussia (1726-1802) -- third son of Friedrich Wilhelm I and younger brother of Friedrich the Great; general in the Seven Years' War
August Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia (1730-1813) -- fourth and youngest son of Friedrich Wilhelm I, and youngest brother of Friedrich the Great
Adalbert, Prince of Prussia (1811-1873) -- son of Prinz Wilhelm; Grandson of Friedrich Wilhelm II and nephew of Friedrich Wilhelm III; naval theorist, admiral, and founder of the first Prussian Fleet
Friedrich Karl, Prince of Prussia (1828-1885) -- veteran of the Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War; hero of Königgrätz; Generalfeldmarschall of Prussia, and honorary field marshal of Russia; eldest son of Karl, father of Friedrich Leopold
Albrecht, Prince of Prussia (1809-1872) -- second and youngest son of Karl, father of Albrecht
Heinrich, Prince of Prussia (1862-1929) -- second son of Friedrich III and brother of Wilhelm II; Grand Admiral in the German Imperial Navy, World War I
Empress Auguste Viktoria, wearing the sash and star of the Order of the Black Eagle. Portrait by Philip de Laszlo
Kaiserin Victoria (1840-1901) -- "Kaiserin Friedrich"; Daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Royal of Great Britain; wife and Empress consort of Friedrich III; mother of Wilhelm II; Dowager German Empress and Queen Dowager of Prussia, 1888-1901; recognized by Friedrich III, 9 March 1888
Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich of Russia -- Tsar Nicholas II's brother, Tsar presumptive sometimes referred to as "Tsar for a day" (15-16 March 1917) who was also the regimental chief of Ulanen-Regiment "Kaiser Alexander III von Rußland" (Weßtpreußisches) Nr. 1.
^ abc"Court Circular". The Times (36043). London. 19 January 1900. p. 7.
^Rangeliste der Koeniglich Preussisches, 1903. Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler & Son, 1903. p 369
^"Latest intelligence - Germany". The Times (36781). London. 30 May 1902. p. 5.
^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)
^"Latest intelligence - The German Emperor at Posen". The Times (36864). London. 4 September 1902. p. 3.
^"Court Circular". The Times (36877). London. 19 September 1902. p. 7.