French Governmental Awards

Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur

The Legion of Honour (l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur), France’s premier award, was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize eminent accomplishments in the service of France. The Order is made up of three ranks — Chevalier, Officier, Commandeur — and two high offices, or dignitésGrand Officier and Grand Croix. A Presidential award, the Legion of Honor may be given to foreign (non-French) citizens in recognition of actions benefitting the country of France or, more broadly, achievements which uphold its ideals. American honorees include John Ashbery, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, Barbra Streisand, and Elie Wiesel, as well as hundreds of World War II veterans.

Ordre national du Mérite

The Order of Merit (l’Ordre national du Mérite) was created in 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. This Presidential award recognizes distinguished service to France, in the military as well as in the public and private sectors. It has three ranks —Chevalier, Officier, and Commandeur— and two high offices, or dignités Grand Officier and Grand Croix.

Ordre des Palmes académiques

The Order of Academic Palms (l’Ordre des Palmes académiques) was founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte, who established the honorary titles of Titulaire, Officier de l’Université, and Officier d’Académie as awards for devotion and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship and research. Since being raised to the status of the Order under the Minister of Education in 1955, this award has had three ranks: Chevalier, Officier, and Commandeur. French citizens living abroad and foreign (non-French) nationals may receive this award for contributing significantly to furthering French intellectual, scientific, and artistic achievements across the world.

Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

The Order of Arts and Letters (l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The awards has three ranks–Chevalier, Officier, and Commandeur— and is given out three times annually under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Culture. American recipients of the award include Paul Auster, George Clooney, Ornette Coleman, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Kehinde Wiley, and Oprah Winfrey.