Issued in 1851, the House Order of Hohenzollern always had a special position among the Prussian orders. The highest grade was awarded to the recipients of the Prussian Black Eagle Order only. The knights cross with swords is considered to be equivalent to the German Cross in gold (III.Reich). Being so dominant within the regular grades the Eagle decorations, the second tier of the order, seems almost forgotten.

Yet, they are much more interesting and definitely more rare than the "regular" crosses. They have almost only been awarded to either citizen in teaching positions or priests during their entire award period. Not enough with this. The lowest grade eagle weas mostly given to retirees for their dedicated and honorable service to the Prussian state.

Besides the Eagle of the Bearers (Adler der Inhaber), a plain silver eagle badge with enameled Hohenzollern coat of arms, there are the Eagle decorations for the Knights and Commanders.

I like to take the opportunity to write a few words about the Eagle of the Knights, since I just bought one for my collection. I actually bought the Eagle decoration together with a Red Eagle Order 4th class last model including their matching miniatures. All pieces came right out of Germany from a widow named Mrs. Ziegler (maiden name: Lauffer, born in 1904). The heirs unfortunately weren't able to tell me anything about those decorations. We can only speculate about the history of these pieces, but do know that the Red Eagle Order was given for long service as well as the Eagle of the Knight. In this case maybe a teacher, maybe director of a school, was lucky enough to be awarded the Red Eagle during his time in service, and received the Eagle of the Knight decoration going into retirement, following the general practice.

The early Eagle badges were made by Hossauer and crafted in an elaborate, 3-dimensional manner and are only enameled on the front. The Hossauer makers mark is easily to be found on the reverse of those decorations. Pieces made after the Hossauer period are generally flat and enameled on both sides. Original decorations made before 1916 are made form real gold and crafted from two pieces, front and back, to create a hollow construction. The resulting weight is rather lightweight - normally between 7 and 9 grams. Those badges show an incredible workmanship as shown on the pictures here.

Only 485 pieces were awarded between 1851 and 1918, equal to only 7 badges per year. Since the recipients were mostly men belonging to the lower to mid income bracket the likelihood of acquiring a piece for commemorative purposes for 81 Mark is doubtful. The heirs were normally not able to afford a piece like this either. Most eagles were therefor returned to the Prussian Orders Commission as the law at the time demanded.

The eagle badges are certainly a highlight of any Prussian collection and extremely hard to find.

For comparison a Eagle of the Bearers (Equivalent size to the Eagle of the Knights):

© A. Schulze Ising, VI/02