Military Order of Max Joseph

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Bavarian Military Order Of Max Joseph.jpg

The Military Order of Max Joseph (German: Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden) was founded on 1 January 1806 by Maximilian "Max" I Joseph of Bavaria, the first King of Bavaria, and was the highest military order of the Kingdom of Bavaria.


Breast Star of the Grand Cross, c. 1840
Commander (in Gold)
Generalleutnant Otto Ritter von Jäger (1861–1941) received the Knight’s Cross in 1915
Knight’s Cross for Georg Ritter von Hengl


The Military Order of Max Joseph was established for deeds "which an officer could either have neglected without personal responsibility, that would serve the benefit of the Bavarian Army, or which, with extraordinary cleverness or courage and determination, have been carried out for the special honor and advantage of the army or the troops." The order came in three classes:

  • Grand Cross (Großkreuz)
  • Commander’s Cross (Kommandeurkreuz)
  • Knight’s Cross (Ritterkreuz)

Bavarian subjects (Untertanen) who received the Military Order of Max Joseph (MMJO) and were not already members of Bavarian or German nobility (Freiherr, Graf etc.) were ennobled and would add the title of “Ritter von” to their family name (personal, non-inheritable nobility). Members of the order whose father or grandfather had already received the order were entitled to hereditary nobility. The six or seven non-Bavarian officers who received the award, like Karl August Nerger, did not receive the title "Ritter". The order became obsolete in 1918 with the collapse of the Bavarian monarchy after World War I, although the orders chancery continued to process outstanding award recommendations to at least 1922.

Honorary Knight

Previous holders of the Kurpfalz-Bavarian Military Medal were accepted as Knights of Honor in the order.

Großmeister and Grand Crosses

The King was Großmeister (Grand Master) of the Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden. He did not receive a class of the order. This was not an oversight nor due to his not being a field commander, but a matter of either choice or custom. All of highest sovereign allies of Bavaria received the Großkreuz: Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Friedrich August III, King Wilhelm II, Tsar Ferdinand, Sultan Mehmet V, Kaiser Franz Josef I and Kaiser Karl, but also Archduke Friedrich and outstanding field commanders like Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal and Paul von Hindenburg.

Bavarian recipients of the Großkreuz were Kronprinz Rupprecht, Prinz Leopold, Felix Graf von Bothmer, Karl Ritter von Fasbender and Konrad Krafft von Dellmensingen. Von Bothmer and von Fassbender received all three classes.

Award numbers


Order class 1806–1815 1816–1876 1914–1918
Grand Cross 7 1 5
Commander 13 2 14
Knight 93 55 246/281
Honorary Knight 13 ./. ./.

Other Germans and foreigners

Order class 1806–1815 1816–1876 1914–1918
Grand Cross 28 10 20
Commander 49 7 8
Knight 278 38 6/7

Pour le Mérite

37 knights received the Pour le Mérite, four of those with oakleaves.


19 posthumous awards were made during the war, and an additional 20 posthumous awards (total of 39) were made after the war. 89 of the Knight’s Crosses to Bavarians were made after WWI by the Chancellor of the Military Order of Max Joseph.

Outstanding German Knight's Cross recipients of two world wars

Ten knight's of the Military Order of Max Joseph from WWI received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (herausragende deutsche Ritterkreuzträger zweier Weltkriege) in WWII:

  • Robert Ritter von Greim
  • Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild
  • Hubert Maria Ritter von Heigl
  • Georg Ritter von Hengl
  • Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
  • Max Ritter von Pohl
  • Hans Ritter von Schmidt
  • Eugen Ritter von Schobert
  • Hermann Ritter von Speck
  • Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma


The badge of the order is a white-enameled gold Maltese cross with balls at each cross point. In the obverse, the center medallion, in blue enamel and edged in gold, features the monogram of Max Joseph (a cursive “MJK“). On the reverse it displays the Latin motto of the order, “Virtuti pro patria” (“Virtue/Bravery for the Vaterland”), both in gold. Above the cross is a gold crown.

The badge of the Knight’s Cross is much smaller than that of many other military orders and decorations, measuring only 28-mm in width (and 50-mm in height including the crown and ring). It was worn from a ribbon on the officer’s medal bar ahead of other decorations or, typically, separately worn through the buttonhole. The badge of a Commander’s Cross was somewhat larger (38-mm by 55-mm) and worn from a ribbon around the neck. The Grand Cross was still larger (68-mm by 100-mm), with golden rays between the arms of the cross.

The star of the order, which only came with the Grand Cross, was a silver eight-pointed star (with each point made of five rays). The center of the star featured a badge of the order, but with an oversized medallion, bearing the motto “Virtuti pro patria”.

The ribbon of the order was black moiré with inner white and outer blue edge stripes.

External links