Order of the Crescent

Appearance history

In early August 1798, the most important naval battle of the British and French fleets took place near the coast of Egypt. In it, in essence, the fate of the Mediterranean was decided. Napoleon's army landed in North Africa. The emperor believed that in this way he would be able to weaken the British colonies and withdraw his mighty rival from the war. Throughout Napoleon's journey from France to Egypt, he was pursued by Admiral Nelson’s fleet. In the end, he overtook the French in the Gulf of Aboukir. The battle lasted three days. Nelson, outwitting the enemy, won, and the British fleet now dominated the Mediterranean. Horatio Nelson became the hero of Britain and all of Europe. His success in the Gulf of Abukir strongly impressed many monarchs, including the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Selim III was so admired that he demanded that Nelson should go to his service. This, however, was unrealistic. In the end, Selim decided to simply reward the admiral, but, here's the bad luck, the Ottoman orders that existed at that moment were not intended for Christians. And Selim had to invent a new order to reward him with Nelson. So the Order of the Crescent appeared.


Nelson received the star of the newly established Order and the chelenk, a silver insignia worn by Ottoman nobles on a turban, in August 1799. The British admiral was very proud of this award. On April 2, 1801, he won the famous Battle of Copenhagen, which resulted in Denmark being withdrawn from the war. The admiral personally accepted the capitulation and when signing the act he mentioned that he was a holder of the Order of the Crescent. Selim was extremely pleased with this. He sent Nelson additional attributes of the order, which, apparently, also invented specifically for him, - the admiral received another gold medal and ribbon.

The British Heraldic Commission reacted to these gifts without enthusiasm. Nelson had to wait another year to get permission to wear the Order of the Crescent on his uniform during official receptions. Having received it, the admiral no longer parted with his Ottoman awards. They can be seen on the ceremonial portraits of Nelson, including the most famous of them: the illustrious naval commander is depicted with the Order of the Crescent on the left side of the chest and a chelenkom on the hat. Nelson could have become the only holder of this award in history, but Selim decided that his offspring should be more widely spread.

As a result, the Order of the Crescent became the main Ottoman award given to Christian foreigners. In addition, it was decided that the order was intended to the allies of the Ottoman Empire. Selim even established the second degree of the order, apparently intending to hold numerous awards. In fact, after Nelson, the order was awarded to Selim only five times. All gentlemen - the British, who fought against Napoleon in Egypt. Their success, in the view of the Sultan, ensured the security of the borders of his power. That's just the policy soon changed. In the war of the fourth coalition, the Ottoman Empire was already an ally of France. And until the death of Selim, the order was no longer awarded. But he was remembered by another sultan - Mustafa IV, who came to power as a result of the Janissaries' uprising, who overthrew Selim from the throne.

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A significant role in Turkey’s withdrawal from the anti-Napoleonic coalition was played by Oras Sebastiani de la Porta - an outstanding French diplomat and military leader. He was the envoy of France at the court of the Sultan and achieved considerable success there, managing to set up the Ottoman Empire against Russia and Great Britain with his intrigues. Things reached the point that the British squadron of Admiral Dankworth entered the straits, which threatened the Sultan with the immediate seizure of Constantinople if it entered the war on the side of France. The second requirement was the immediate expulsion of Sebastiani. But he convinced the Sultan to repulse the British, personally supervised the construction of fortifications and the buildup of the arsenal. True, Mustafa, who replaced Selim, still gave up the slack. He yielded to Britain and sent Sebastiani to France, giving him finally the Order of the Crescent. The story was funny. The award, which was previously given exclusively to the British, this time received one of their worst enemies. The following awarding of the Order of the Crescent, which eventually became the last in its short but turbulent history, is also very curious. After the conclusion of the Peace of Tilsit in the Ottoman Empire, which did not determine whom to support, it was decided that it would not be bad to achieve a thaw in relations with Russia. Meanwhile, the adjutant Ivan Paskevich arrived in Constantinople to negotiate the exchange of prisoners. In Turkey, he was received very warmly, and Mustafa also presented him with the Order of the Crescent. Paskevich became his only Russian cavalier.

Mustafa planned to use the Order of the Crescent and further for his diplomatic purposes. Apparently, the list of his cavaliers on both warring parties could be very wide. However, the Sultan was soon overthrown, and he ended his days just like his cousin Selim. Order of the Crescent has not been officially canceled. But what happened to him is a debatable question. Either it was quietly abolished in the middle of the 19th century, or they were forgotten about it altogether - and it is possible that the reward still exists, but simply is not given. There is a version that during the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire was an ally of Germany and Austria, the Order of the Crescent was almost revived. It seems they were going to award the German General Erich Ludendorff. Whatever it was, did not award. So, Ivan Paskevich remained the last holder of the Order of the Crescent in history.

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