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Military Merit Cross (Mecklenburg-Schwerin)

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The Military Merit Cross (Militärverdienstkreuz) was established by Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on August 5, 1848. Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a grand duchy located in northern Germany, was a member of the German Confederation and later the German Empire.

In several respects, Mecklenburg-Schwerin's Military Merit Cross was patterned after the Prussian Iron Cross. Both came in two classes, a pinback 1st Class and a 2nd Class worn from a ribbon, both were awarded without regard to rank (most other orders and medals of both states were awarded in different classes based on the rank or status of the recipient), and both were awarded for specific campaigns, as indicated by a date on the bottom arm of the cross. However, there were more versions of the Mecklenburg cross than of the Prussian cross (which was only awarded by Prussia in the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, and by Nazi Germany in World War II).

The first versions were dated 1848 and 1849, and awarded for merit in the First War of Schleswig and in the suppression of the German Revolution of 1848-49 (some Mecklenburg troops were sent to Baden in 1849 while others remained in the fighting in Schleswig). In 1859, some Mecklenburg observers and Austrian officers were decorated for merit during the Second Italian War of Independence. The next version was dated 1864, and recognized merit in the Second War of Schleswig, also called the German-Danish War. Mecklenburg-Schwerin's participation on the side of Prussia and other north German states in the Austro-Prussian War led to the next version, dated 1866.

An 1870 version was created for the Franco-Prussian War, where Mecklenburg troops fought as part of the 17. Division. In this war, a number of officers and soldiers received both the Iron Cross and the Mecklenburg-Schwerin Military Merit Cross.

The next version was dated 1877. This was not awarded to Mecklenburgers (except for a few military observers), but to Russians and Romanians in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Certain German states, especially Mecklenburg-Schwerin, were sympathetic to the Russian and Romanian cause, and had dynastic connections to both states. Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II's grandmother was Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia, his daughter was married to Tsar Alexander II of Russia's son, and his son and heir, Friedrich Franz III, would marry Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia in 1879. The Romanian royal family was a branch of the Hohenzollerns, the ruling house of Prussia and the newly created German Empire.

A version dated 1900 was struck for Mecklenburgers who had distinguished themselves in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900-01. An undated version was then created, which was awarded for merit in various colonial conflicts of the first decade of the 20th century, including the Herero Wars (a series of brutal conflicts where some Germans displayed great bravery in fighting guerrillas from the Herero and other tribes, while other Germans perpetrated what has come to be seen as the genocide of the Herero people).

Germany entered World War I in the first days of August 1914. On February 28, 1915, Friedrich Franz IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, reauthorized the Military Merit Cross. The new version was dated 1914 and awards were made retroactively to the beginning of the war. Both classes of the Military Merit Cross continued to be awarded throughout the war, both to Mecklenburgers and to soldiers of other German states and German allies. Upon Friedrich Franz IV's abdication on November 14, 1918, the Military Merit Cross became obsolete. It continued to be permitted for wear by those who had received it through the Weimar era, the Third Reich and in West Germany (it is unclear whether East Germany permitted the wear of any Imperial German decorations).