Unique star of a Napoleonic Marshal. On display for the first time
A 19th-century Star of the Virtuti Militari Grand Cross, one of the two of this kind in the world and never shown in Poland before, can now be admired in the Royal Łazienki Museum.
The Star of the War Order of Virtuti Militari of the Duchy of Warsaw Grand Cross, which the French Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout, one of the finest and most faithful of Napoleon Bonaparte’s commanders, was decorated with, is displayed in Poland for the first time at the "Virtuti Militari" exhibition in the Officer Cadets School. It has found its way to the Royal Łazienki Museum from France, where it is kept in the collections of the Auxerre Museum of Art and History.
It is an extraordinary decoration, extremely valuable for the Polish phalerictics history and one of the two of this kind in the world. Other than the Marshal Davout’s star, only Prince Józef Poniatowski’s star has survived to our times; it is presently part of the collections of the National Museum in Kraków.
Davout – a French hero
Marshal Davout, believed alongside André Masséna to be the most prominent Napoleonic commander, did not lose a single battle throughout his military career. He fought in Egypt, as well as in the battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Austerlitz, and Wagram. On 15 July 1807, he was appointed governor-general of the Duchy of Warsaw and commander of the French and Polish armies stationed in this area. On 25 February 1809, the King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw Frederick Augustus signed a decree decorating Prince Poniatowski and Marshal Davout with the Grand Cross of the War Order of the Duchy of Warsaw (the French commander’s name was announced only a month later). These were the only Grand Cross decorations since the Order of Virtuti Militari’s inception in 1792 up to the end of the 19th century. Not earlier than on 14 June 1923, a Grand Cross of the War Order of Virtuti Militari was awarded another time to honour the Polish Marshal Józef Piłsudski.
The War Order of the Duchy of Warsaw, known today as the Order of Virtuti Militari was divided into five categories: The Grand Cross, Commander’s Cross, Knight’s Cross, Golden Cross, and Silver Cross.
The "Virtuti Militari" exhibition can be seen in the Officer Cadets School from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 16.00, Friday from 10.00 to 18.00 until 30 November 2019; and from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 to 16.00 from 1 to 12 December 2019. Admission: standard ticket – PLN 10, reduced-price ticket – PLN 5; in November, admission is free as part of the "Free November" campaign.