Foreign Orders & DecorationsPoland

44 Goldene Virtuti-Militari-Medaille aus dem polnisch-russischen Krieg von 1792

 Oval gold medal, 19th century specimen struck from the original die.

Weight: 33.2 g.

This earliest form of the Order of the Virtuti Militari is an object that has been treated as a true national relic in Poland for centuries. This is confirmed by the words of Prince Józef Poniatowski in a letter to King Stanisław August:

"As for me, I will probably part with it with my life, and if I have children, I will leave it to them as a beautiful legacy and as a sign reminding them of the damage done to their fatherland, and as a reminder of the most flattering kind that a father can leave them. A sign that in the midst of traitors, in the midst of a hundred thousand Russians with whom he fought for the good of his country and the glory of his king, he dared to preserve the independence of his thought."

Julian Skelnik, author of the monograph "Medal Virtuti Militari", confirms the existence of 11 surviving examples of the medal from 1792 (counting gold and silver pieces together). But only 3 (!) of these are in private collections. Most of them are in museum collections: 2 pieces in the Russian Hermitage, one in Prague, Czech Republic, and 5 in Poland.

"Virtuti Militari" literally means "military virtues", and the award of this medal was introduced in 1792 in recognition of the demonstration of military virtues during the Polish-Russian War.

J. Skelnik writes: "The medal was not awarded for merit in the literal sense, but for the demonstration of military virtues. To receive it, one had to demonstrate courage in the face of the enemy, which is generally considered an exceptional virtue for any soldier. All the more so as it was an act that went beyond the limits of the usual duties of members of the military state".

After King Stanislaus Augustus joined the Targowica, the wearing of the medals was forbidden and their return was ordered, so that they were already regarded by the participants of the Polish-Russian War as an extremely valuable souvenir, a kind of relic.

This is illustrated by the letter from Prince Józef Poniatowski quoted at the beginning, in which he responded to Stanisław August Poniatowski's demand to return his award, as ordered by the Targowica. Prince Józef did not return the medal - after his death, the Virtuti Militari medal was among his personal belongings.

The historical background to the creation of the Virtuti Militari medal, its characteristics and a catalogue of known examples are compiled in the monograph "Medaille Virtuti Militari" by Julian Skelnik.

Extremely rare collector's item.