Although the precise date of the founding of the Order of the White Eagle remains the subject of some debate, most historians place its origins in the early eighteenth century. King Augustus II of Poland, whose rule was often in doubt, needed a way to reward both his Polish and Russian noble supporters and selected a gold medal inscribed "Pro Fide Rege et Lege" (For Faith, King, and Law). With the partitioning of Poland, the Order fell by the wayside until Emperor Nicholas I revived it in 1831 as the Imperial and Royal Order of the White Eagle. The order was redesigned so that the original Red Cross and Polish White Eagle were set against a larger Russian Imperial double-headed eagle. The Order of the White Eagle was among the most important of the Russian Imperial Orders and followed the Orders of St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Vladimir in the order of precedence.
The offered lot was made by the St. Petersburg firm of Eduard, one of two main suppliers of Orders and Decorations to the Imperial Court during the reign of Nicholas II. Although Eduard Fernandovich Dietwald (1868-1910) had only founded the firm in 1898, his adoption of new machinery and modern methods of production brought his company to the attention of the court and in January 1906 he won the exclusive contract to produce badges and stars for the various Russian Imperial Orders. This fact, together with the hallmarks on the piece, thus account for our dating of the present lot between 1906 and 1908. On the Order of the White Eagle as well as Eduard and the Court's oversight of the production of medals and orders, see Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System, 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, pp. 127-129, 382-383.
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