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France confers Grand Cross of Legion of Honour on PM Modi; details here

The Legion of Honour is the highest French decoration given to the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity

France's highest award Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour

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BS Web Team New Delhi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on an official visit to France, has been conferred with the country’s highest honour, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, by French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was conferred with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award, on 14 July 2023, by H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic of France. Prime Minister thanked President Macron for this singular honour on behalf of the people of India," MEA official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted on Friday.

The award is a "warm gesture embodying the spirit" of the India-France partnership, he said.

PM Modi became the first Indian premier to receive this prestigious recognition.

What is the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour?

The Legion of Honour is the highest French decoration and one of the most well-known in the world. It has been awarded by the head of state to the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity for more than two centuries.

The award is divided into five categories: Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, and Knight, with the Grand Cross being the highest. The first honor was given to the Prime Minister.

The award is a red ribbon and a badge—a five-armed Maltese asterisk hung on an oak and laurel wreath. On the obverse is the effigy of the Republic, and on the reverse are two tricolour flags and the inscription of the Order’s motto "Honour and Fatherland" and the date of its creation, May 19, 1802, written in French.

The award does not include any financial benefits. However, it is an invaluable source of pride for the recipients and an example of civic service made public.

The history of the Legion of Honour

Former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honour in 1802. He wished to implement a reward system that was considerate of residents' equality.

With the creation of the award, the monarch heralded a culture with "no privileges, no exemptions, no remuneration, but the recognition only of individual merit, acquired and not transmitted", according to the official website of the Legion of Honour.

"His soldiers and his savants," in Napoleon's words, were among the first to be decorated. He bestowed honors on war generals as well as judges, doctors, businessmen, scientists, artists, architects, singers, and writers.

Who is eligible for the award?

This award is granted to a French citizen who has no criminal record and has shown exceptional merit in the service of the nation, whether in a military or civilian role. A minimum of 20 years of service is necessary to qualify for the Legion of Honour.

Foreign nationals who help France or defend its ideals are also honored with the award. 

"Foreigners may be decorated with the Legion of Honour if they have rendered services (e.g., cultural or economic) to France or supported causes defended by France, such as human rights, freedom of the press, or humanitarian action. State visits are also an occasion for conferring the Legion of Honour upon official figures, pursuant to diplomatic reciprocity and thereby supporting the foreign policy of France," according to the award criteria.

Every year, 2,200 French and 300 foreigners are decorated. So far, more than 79,000 people have received the honor.

Three founding principles, which are the hallmark of the vitality of the Legion of Honour, are rewarding individual merit, universal recognition, and contribution to the public good, which will benefit society and not be in their exclusive interest.

The notion of universal recognition, which recognises people regardless of their domain, whether they are in the military, sports, a singer, or a volunteer, is considered to have revolutionised the official decoration system of many other countries.

Who has previously received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour?

Only a few leaders from throughout the world have received the award. Among them are former South African President Nelson Mandela, King Charles as Prince of Wales, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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First Published: Jul 14 2023 | 6:50 PM IST

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