Pour le Mérite

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Pour le Mérite - The Blue Max

The Pour le Mérite (for the merit), known informally as the Blue Max (German: Blauer Max), was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest order of merit. It was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, rather than as a general marker of social status or a courtesy-honour, although certain restrictions of social class and military rank were applied. The award was given as both a military (1740-1918) and civil (1740-1810, after 1842 as a separate class) honour.


One of the very first crosses, around 1740

The award was founded in 1740 by Frederick the Great (German: Friedrich der Große); it was intended primarily as a military honour, but was also sometimes given for civil accomplishments. New awards of the military class ceased with the end of the German monarchy in November 1918.

A separate civil class of the Pour le Mérite, the Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, was created in 1842 to honour accomplishments in the arts and sciences. This version of the order was revived as an independent organization in 1923, and again in 1952, with the President of Germany replacing the King of Prussia as head of the order. This version of the honour is still active.

The order is effectively secular, and membership endures for the remaining lifetime of the inductee, unless renounced or revoked.

Notable recipients of the military order (small selection)

Breast star to the rare Grand Cross of the Blue Max
Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg is wearing the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, the Military Order of Max Joseph and the Pour le Mérite among other orders of merit.

German Kingdom of Prussia

General der Infanterie a. D. Dr. phil. Hermann von Kuhl with both classes
Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (Prussia 1850), Tallinn Museum of Orders

German Empire

World War I (airforce)

World War I (army)

World War I (navy)

Recipients of both classes

Only a small number (the number of recipients is normally given with three to five) of persons have received both the military and civil classes of the Pour le Mérite:

List of recipients of the Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (small selection)

Date of award Name Description Residence
1860 Louis Agassiz Naturalist New Cambridge near Boston
1874 Helmuth von Moltke the Elder War researcher Berlin
1874 Heinrich von Sybel Historian Bonn
1874 Thomas Carlyle Historian London
1874 Friedrich Max Müller Orientalist Oxford
1887 Heinrich von Treitschke Historian Berlin
1887 Giuseppe Fortunio Francesco Verdi Composer Sant'Agata
1896 Otto von Bismarck Statesman Berlin
1906 Robert Koch Bacteriologist Berlin
1910 Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin Aeronaut Friedrichshafen
1911 Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz Military theorist Berlin
November 1918 Ceased with the end of the Prussian monarchy
1919–1922 No award made
1923 Revived with the Reichspräsident as head of the order
1923 Albert Einstein Physicist Berlin
1933 Absorbed into the state honours system of National Socialist Germany
1946–1952 No award made
1952 Revived with West German Bundespräsident Theodor Heuss as head of the order
1955 Thomas Mann Writer Kilchberg near Zürich, Switzerland
1957 Werner Heisenberg Physicist Munich
2000 Imre Kertész Writer Budapest

See also

External links



  1. Müller, Wilhelm (2013). Politische Geschichte der Gegenwart: 18. Das Jahr 1884 (in de). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 93. ISBN 978-3-642-99180-6. 
  2. Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste (1978). Die Mitglieder des Ordens 1882–1952 (in de). Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 116. ISBN 978-3-7861-1125-2. 
  3. Meier-Welcker, Hans (1982) (in German). "Kuhl, Hermann von ". In Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). 13. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 251 et seq.