The French Commemorative Medal for Mexico

Obverse Reverse

With the imperial order of the 29th of August 1863 the French Emperor Napoleon III. instituted a commemorative medal to honor those men of the armed forces who fought in Mexico. The medal displayed the projected period of the campaign 1862-1865, medals of the very first issue even showed the dates 1862-1863, but finally it took longer than planned and de facto the whole period from 1862 to 1867 was covered. The round silver medal is 30 mm in diameter, a four times bound wreath of laurel leaves surrounded a 24 mm plain shield showing on the obverse the garlanded head of Napoleon III., looking to the left, surrounded by the inscription "NAPOLEON III EMPEREUR" and at the bottom the small hallmark of the artist "BARRE". On the reverse the plain centre shows the names of the major battles in five lines "CUMBRES/CERRO BORREGO/SAN LORENZO/PUEBLA/MEXICO" and is surrounded by the inscription "* EXPEDITION DU MEXIQUE *" on the upper half and the dates, separated by a point on the bottom. On the bottom bound of the laurel wreath is to be found the rectangular silver hallmark. The plain ribbon shows a cross of the Saint Andrew type with a green and a red beam behind a black, uncrowned Mexican eagle with a green snake in its beak.

Minor variant patterns of this medal do exist showing, instead of the artist hallmark of Barre, those of "SACRISTAIN" or "E.FALOT" or "E.F." for Eugene Farochon. Sometimes medals without any artists sign can be seen but they are commonly produced outside France. Officially produced and awarded medals (le modéle d'ordonnance) are always of the Barre-type while all others were produced to be sold to the veterans as replacements. There is also a bronze, silver plated variant of this medal without artist's hallmark produced in 1963 to commemorate the battle of Camerone! This battle of the 30th of April 1863 is commonly held as the hour of birth of the eternal honor of the French Foreign Legion and so they produced 100 years later these 300 medals for the anniversary ceremony.

Eduard von Pawlowsky, born 1833 at Pest volunteered as an hussar for the Corps. For his performance at Ajalpa he was honored with the Golden Military Merit Medal and promoted to Leutnant. End of 1866 he was promoted to Oberleutnant and joined the Mexican National Army as a Rittmeister 2nd class of the Red Hussars. He was commander of the small patrol which escorted Kaiser Maximilian to Quetétaro where he was honored with the knight's cross of the Order of our beloved Madonna of Guadalupe and captured at the end. After his return to Austria he entered the Hungarian Honvéd infantry in 1869 and eventually attained the rank of Major. He published his memoirs in the Hungarian language in Budapest in 1882. Photo of an unidentified French officer of the 38th infantry regiment, wearing the commemorative medal for Mexico and the knight's cross of the French Legion of Honor.

The picture was taken in the early 1880s.

Members of the French armed forces received the medal automatically after their return from Mexico while members of the several European volunteer corps had to contact their particular French consulates after their return to Europe by themselves.

Back to Orders and Decorations of the Segundo Imperio Mexicano