French Medal of Honor for Epidemics

The French Medal of Honor for Epidemics (Médaille d'Honneur des Epidemies) is another very complex French medal, which was issued by no less than eight ministerial authorities.

It was instituted by the Decree of March 31, 1885, following the breakout of a serious cholera epidemic in Europe, which claimed the life of the young Spanish king, Alfonso XII. To reward those, who risked their lives and their health to combat disease, the medal was awarded by the Ministry for Trade (on which the public health services depended) between 1885 and 1962. It was also awarded by the Ministry for the Interior and the Ministry for Hygiene, which subsequently became the Ministry for Public Health.

In addition, the Medal of Honor for Epidemics could be also be awarded by (1) the Minister for War (starting on April 15, 1892): (2) the Minister of the Interior Department for Algeria, starting from May 4, 1900; (3) the Minister of the Navy (starting from September 30, 1909) and (4) the Minister for the Colonies and subsequently the Minister of France Overseas, starting from June 3, 1927).

The recipients of the award received an official diploma citing the basis for the award. The award consisted of four levels awarded on the basis of the services rendered: (1) the bronze medal; (2) the silver medal; (3) the vermeil or gilt medal and (4) the gold medal. The gilt or gold medal could only be awarded to those individuals who had previously been awarded a bronze or silver medal or who had been admitted to the Legion of Honor.

In 1962, the medal ceased to be awarded by the Ministry for the Interior for Algeria and the Ministry for France Overseas. This same year, the Ministry for the Armies replaced the medal awarded by the Ministers of War and the Navy by the Medal of Honor of the Army Health Service (see below).

RECIPIENTS The Medal of honor of the Epidemics rewarded individuals who had shown exceptional devotion combating epidemic diseases: (1) by caring for infected patients or (2) undertaking actions to contain the spread of an infectious disease, while exposing themselves to dangers of contamination

The medal was suspended from a 30 mm tricolor ribbon (blue, white, red vertical bands) with a rosette for the vermeil and gold medals. The medal, when awarded by the Minister of the Navy, contained a red anchor on the central white stripe.

Special thanks to Marc Champenois for use of the images.

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