extracts from: Harrold E. Gillingham, Notes on the Decorations and Medals of French Colonies and Protectorates (ANS publication no 36), 1928. (In English)

1. French Indochina, pp37-38.

Française English



The territory of French Indo-China lies to the extreme South-east of China, and east of Siam. The earliest knowledge we have of the region is derived from the Chinese historians who mention the Annamese of 2257 B.C. The country is now divided into the colony of Cochin-China and the protectorates of Annam, Cambodia, Laos and Tong-king. Cochin-China is under the direct administration of France through its Lieutenant Governor, who resides at Saigon. In Annam the Emperor Bao-Dai is nominal sovereign, assisted by the French Résident-Supérieur. In Cambodia the king directs the native administration, assisted by a Résident-Supérieur. Laos has several departments, but that of Luang-Prabang only has a king, who is aided by a Résident-Supérieur. In Tong-king the Résident-Supérieur in the absence of any sectional native ruler is the sole governor.

French missionaries were established in this section in the seventeenth century* and the first treaty was made in 1787 with Gia-Long, the king of Annam, during the reign of Louis XVI.

In 1857 an expedition was sent out by France, since which time the gradual extension of control has been brought about, and from I883 the country has been entirely under French domination. The satisfactory government of these colonies is evidenced by the loyal support of the natives during the war with Germany, when several hundred thousand troops and workers were sent to France to assist the mother-country. Many millions of francs were subscribed by them for the war loans and relief societies.

The only regional decoration which applies throughout all of Indo-China is the

ORDER OF MERIT. Founded by the Governor-General at Saigon, April 30, I900, as a reward for exceptional services rendered in agriculture, commerce, industry and the arts. It is awarded to natives and to Asiatics only, and there are three classes, gold, silver and bronze. The decoration is a ball-tipped star of six points, 55 mm. in diameter, surmounted by a suspension ring composed of two branches of laurel. In the round medallion are the words INDOCHINE : FRANÇAISE, encircling two native characters, signifying To make known that which is beautiful. The ribbon is bright yellow.

Plate XVI.

* Guillaume Mahot, of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris, went to Cochin-China in 1666 and died at Fai-fo in I684. From Bulletin des Amis de Vieux Hué, page 408, 1915, No. 4.

2. Cambodia, pp52-55.

Française English



The Southern section of French Indo-China is called Carnbodge by the French and Sroc-Khmer by the natives. During the fifth century A.D., the Khmers, of Hindu origin, occupied the country and built many cities and monuments, notably those of Angkor-Thom and Angkor-Vat. The European name for Cambodia is probably derived from the Hindu, Kambu, the traditional founder of the Khmer clan. From the fourteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, the country was continuously at war with the Chinese from the North. The Annamese predominated in the population and controlled the country until the nineteenth century. After the French occupation of Annam, the King of Cambodia, Norodom I, fearing the encroachment of Siam, concluded a treaty with France on August II, I863. Since that time the country has been a protectorate of France, under a Résident-Supérieur. The present native ruler is King Monivong, whose capital is Pnomh Penh, on the Mekong River.

THE ROYAL ORDER OF CAMBODIA was founded February 8, I864, by the king, Norodom I (I835-I904), to reward civil and military services. There are the usual five classes, Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Chevalier. Foreigners are also given the decoration. The star of the chevalier is of silver; all others are of gold. The insignia is an eight-pointed faceted star of forty-eight rays surmounted by a royal crown. On the centre, within a red-enameled band, is a light blue medallion on which in relief are the arms of the kingdom in gold; at the bottom are two vases, one above the other, surmounted by a Cambodian royal crown of seven tiers. On these are superimposed the sacred swords of Phra-Khan, believed to have been given originally by Indra, the god of the air, to an early king of Cambodia. Flames are in the field.

The reverse of the star is plain. The ribbon is red, edged with green, when the order is conferred by the Cambodian government, and with this ribbon a French citizen can wear the decoration in Cambodia only. When the order is conferred by the French authorities the ribbon is white, edged with orange; this change was effected by a decree of December 5, I899.

Plate XXVI.

MEDAL OF THE ROYAL ORDER OF CAMBODIA. This is issued in gold, silver and bronze and awarded for services not warranting the Royal Order. It is 32 mm. in diameter, having on the obverse, within an oak and laurel wreath, NORODOM IER. ROI DU CAMBODGE, with sun rays above and below. On the reverse centre is the mantled Arms of the kingdom, around which is * SOMDACH PREA NORODOM PREA CHAU CRUNG * CAMPUCHEA *. The medal is surmounted by a crown. The ribbon has three equal stripes of red, yellow and light blue. This medal is often called the Military Medal of Norodom I.

MEDAL OF SISOWATH was founded in I904 when Sisowath became King of Cambodia, upon the death of his brother, Norodom I. It is 32 mm. in diameter, and surmounted by a Cambodian royal crown. On the obverse, within an oak and laurel wreath, is SISOWATH IER. ROI DU CAMBODGE, with rays above and below. On the reverse is the arms of the kingdom and the title of the king in native characters. The ribbon is of three equal stripes, red, yellow and purple. It is awarded to the military, as well as to civilians, for services to the kingdom.

Plate XX VII.

The MONI-SERPAHON, or Palmes of Cambodia, was founded by King Sisowath in July, I906, as a reward to teachers, artists and authors. It is modeled after the French Palmes Universitaires. The decoration consists of silver-gilt palm and laurel branches-in the centre is an urn with flowers and a knot of ribbon.  Obverse and reverse are the same. The ribbon is bright yellow.

Plate XXVII.

The SOWATHARA, or ORDER OF AGRICULTURAL MERIT, was created June I8, I923, by royal ordinance, and approved by a decree of the Résident-Supérieur of France, of July 3, I923. It is to reward and honor agriculturalists of Cambodia and had three classes, Commander, Officer and Chevalier. The decoration is a four-armed cross, each arm composed of five rays, in the angles of which are bunches of wheat, cotton, palm and rice paddy. In the green-enameled medallion is a gold representation of the three-towered temple of Angkor—the ancient capital of the country—surrounded by a gold circle. The cross is surmounted by a figure of the native earth-goddess, and is suspended by a green ribbon.


The temple of Angkor-Vat was built in the city of Angkor-Thom (Angkor the Great) by the Khmers, who came to this region from Burma and the Northeast, early in the Christian era. Apparently they were in the fullness of their power from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, and were surplanted in the fifteenth century.

3. Laos, pp56-57.

Française English


Part of Laos is in Siam and part in French Indo-China. The latter was largely ceded by Siam to France in 1893. The region west of Annam and North and Northeast of Siam has been a protectorate since that date. The country is inhabited by semi-civilized tribes and a mixed population from the surrounding regions. Vieng-chan (Vientaine) became the French capital of Laos, while the principal native city is Luang-Prabang (Kingdom of the Divine Buddha), in the province of the same name. Here resides Somdet Phra Chao Sisavang Vong, not only the King of Luang-Prabang, but in the native phrase—Master of Heaven and Life.

THE ORDER OF A MILLION ELEPHANTS or THE WHITE PARASOL. For eight years or more this order has been awarded to natives and foreigners by the King of Luang-Prabang, though no information is available as to who created it, the date, or the reason for its award. The decoration is composed of three white-enameled heads of elephants, below which is a peacock's spread tail, and above are four oval shields and a royal native crown. Surmounting this on a scroll inscribed with native characters is the name of the order. The ribbon is bright red with two narrow gold stripes and an angular scroll design on each side.

Plate XXIX

When honored with the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol, the brevet only is given ; the recipient is required to purchase the insignia.

Plate XXX.

4. Tonkin, p57.

Française English



This northernmost section of French Indo-China, North and Northeast of Laos and Annam, became a French protectorate by treaty of June, 1885. The French have been established in certain coastal sections of the region since 1862. There are no local rulers of Tong-king, hence there are no native decorations or medals issued, except the Military Medal described under Annam.

5. Biblography, p58.

Française English



ELIAS ASHMOLE. The History of the most noble Order of the Garter. London, 1715.
L. BRASIER & L. BRUNET. Les Ordres Tunisiens. Paris, 1898.
L. BRASIER & L. BRUNET. Les Ordres Coloniaux Français. Paris, 1899.
HENRY G. BRYAN T. The Land of the Golden Dragon. Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, April 1919.
ARTHUR DAGUIN. Manuscript Notes, 1894 to 1918.
DĂNG-NGOC-OÁNH, Secrétaire Général du Conseil de Régence. Les Distinctions Honorifiques Annamites. —No. 4 Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hué, Décembre 1915.
ANDREW FAVINE. The Theatre of Honour and Knighthood. London, 1623. Translated from a French edition, 1620.
HENRI HCGON. Les Emblèmes des Beys de 7 Tnnis. Paris, 1913.
JULES MARTIN DE MONTALBO. Armoiries et Décorations. Paris, 1896. Supplement. 1910.
JULES MARTIN DE MONTALBO. Les Décorations Françaises. Paris, 1912.
PASCHAL LE CHANOINE. Les Ordres Chevaleresque. Marseille, 1895.
L. SOIGNY. Chef de la Sureté de l'Annam. Les Plaquettes des Dignitaires et des Mandarins a la Cour d'Annam. Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Hué, No. 3, 1926.