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Russian Order of St. Catherine Medal Sells for £322,000 at Morton and Eden Auction

Normally CoinLink does not report much on Ceremonial Medals or Orders and Decorations., which although very interesting, fall a bit outside are general interests. In fact the fist major profile we ran was for the Society of the Cincinnati Washington-Lafayette ‘Badge’

catherine_1_medal_120609That piece is believed to have been specially made for George Washington in 1784. In 1824, long after Washington’s death in 1799, it was reportedly given by Washington’s adopted daughter to the Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who served as a two-star general in the American Revolutionary army and played an important role in the Revolutionary War against the British. The Washington-Lafayette Medal sold at Sotheby’s in December of 2007 ofr $5.3 million dollars, a result that is the all-time second highest auction price for a numismatic item.

The Order of St Catherine, Second Class badge or Lesser Cross, was made by Eduard, St. Petersburg, circa 1901-1908, with workmaster’s mark ??, in gold, diamonds and enamels. The original estimate was for £60,000-80,000

The Order of St. Catherine, the only Order of the Russian Empire for women (excluding the Order of Saint Olga, given only in 1916-1917), was founded in 1714 in order to commemorate and immortalize the actions of Empress Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, whose selfless sale of her jewelry and property to pay the ransom of the Cossacks who were captured by the Turks in 1711 earned her the admiration of the court and country.

The statutes of the Order were first published in 1713, and on the 24th of November 1714, on the Empress’ name day, Peter the Great personally bestowed the insignia of the Order upon the Empress Catherine, creating her Grand Mistress of the Order. The order was to be limited to “Persons of the feminine sex” and was given in two classes; The Grand Cross, which entitled the bearer to wear a star and badge of the order, and the Small Cross, which entitled the bearer the right to wear the badge only. The badges were worn on the end of a red moiré sash trimmed with silver, with the embroidered motto: “Za lyubov i otchestvo” (For love, and for the Fatherland)

The Insignia of the badge of the order features at its center an enameled image of Saint Catherine in a white gown with a red cloak. In her right hand, the Saint holds a large white cross (a symbol of her faith) and behind her a large wheel (the symbol of her martyrdom). In her left hand, the Saint holds a palm frond. Over her head are her initials Sv. E (Svyataya Elizaveta) and between the arms of the cross, the letters D.S.F.R. (Domine Salvum Fac Regem, God Save the Tsar). On the obverse is an image of eagles destroying a nest of snakes at the foot of a ruined tower, at the top of which is a nest of eaglets. Above is the motto “Aequant Munia Comparis” (By her works she is to her husband compared). The Badges were 8.5 cm. high, and 7.5 cm. wide.

Every Russian Grand Duchess was conferred the Grand Cross of the order at her christening (or upon her marriage into the Romanov family), and princesses of the Imperial Blood were invested upon attaining their majority at 18. In addition to the members of the Imperial Family, 106 women were allowed to be members of the order; 12 Dames Grand Cross, and 94 Dames Small Cross. Peter decreed that Catherine, and every subsequent Empress, would serve as Grand Mistress of the order for life. Women elected to the order were so honored because of their philanthropic and charitable work outside of their work at Court.

On the 20th of October, 1856, Alexander II made further modifications, and decreed that henceforth, the star and badges of the Order were to be diamond-set. The Grand Cross and badge were to be completely set with diamonds, while the badges for Dames Small Cross were to be a mixture of diamonds and gold filigree work. There were plans for a Slavic revival modification to the robes of the order, as well as the creation of a collar chain for the members of the Imperial family, but these plans were never executed.

Dames of the first class wore the sash (10mm wide) over their right shoulder, with the badge attached to a bow embroidered with the motto of the order at their waist. The star was worn on the left side of the breast. Women of the Small Cross wore the badge suspended from a bow (4.5 cm wide) on the left shoulder. Women were elected members of the Order by the Emperor, but their patents were signed by the Empress, who served as Grand Mistress. Since the Empress served as Grand Mistress for life, it can be assumed that Empress Maria Feodorovna was the last Grand Mistress of the Order before the Revolution. The honor of membership in the order cannot be underestimated. Membership offered Dames of the Order complete access to the Imperial family, and a lifetime connection to them. When Alexandra Feodorovna and her daughters went into exile in Siberia, they took their badges and stars with them. They were recovered in 1933.

About the Author

Based in Central London, Morton & Eden Ltd., was founded in 2001 by James Morton and Tom Eden, specialist auctioneers of Collectors' Coins of all periods and types, War Medals, Orders and Decorations, Historical Medals and Banknotes.

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  1. mark | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

    can you tell me if you have any information regarding M.F.G.MILL receiving a medal for saving some Russian Royals and getting them safely to the UK during the war. He was awarded the Saint Catherine’s medal and is the only man in history to have been awarded one.

    Thanks for your time in this matter.


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