Pre-Independence Orders and Medals in Iberian America

The Spanish monarchs introduced their systems of orders into the New World and created new ones during the period of colonization. Proclamation medals were widely minted and distributed to announce the coronation of new monarchs throughout the colonies. Napoleon’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula led to partisan opposition in Spain and in the Americas, which was the theme of a series of medals.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828), The Family of Carlos IV, 1800. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (PUNC)
Santiago Mataindios

This stone carving came from a hacienda in the Peruvian highlands near Cuzco and most likely adorned the house of a member of the Order of Santiago (Saint James). Known as Santiago Matamoros (Slayer of Moors) during the Reconquista, the saint became known as Santiago Mataindios (Slayer of Indians) in colonial Hispanic America.

Santiago Mataindios, 18th century (RLR)
The Order of Charles III

King Charles III (r. 1759–1788) instituted the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III in 1771, and it remains Spain’s highest order. Unlike most monarchical orders at the time, the Order of Charles III was an official state order and not a house order. It was given to promote loyalty to the state as well as to recognize meritorious service. Portraits typically depict Spanish kings wearing the Grand Cross of the order, with its blue-white-blue sash, as a symbol of sovereignty.

Spain, Order of Charles III, Collar (RLR)
The Order of Isabella the Catholic

Ferdinard VII (r. 1808, 1814–1833) founded the Order of Isabella the Catholic in 1815 after his return from forced exile in Napoleonic France to reward persons in Hispanic America for their allegiance and meritorious service to Spain. It became Spain’s second highest award after the Order of Charles III.

Spain, Order of Isabella the Catholic, Grand Cross, 20th century (RLR)
Proclamation Medals

Proclamation medals were minted and widely distributed in Spanish America to encourage loyalty to a new monarch, usually shortly after his coronation.

Mexico, Proclamation Medal of Charles IV as King of Mexico, 1789 (RLR)
Guadalajara, Proclamation Medal of Charles IV, 1790 (RLR)
Orizava, Proclamation Medal of Charles IV, 1790 (RLR)
Valladolid, Proclamation Medal of Charles IV, 1791 (RLR)
Lima, Proclamation Medal of Charles III, 1760 (RLR)
Medals of the Napoleonic Era

The exile of Ferdinand VII from Spain during the French occupation was the impetus for the minting of medals proclaiming loyalty to him, to the Junta of 1808, and to the Constitution of 1812.

Buenos Aires, Loyalty to Ferdinand VII, 1808 (RLR)
Mexico, Loyalty to the Anti-Napoleonic Junta, 1808 (RLR)
Mexico, Loyalty to Ferdinand VII, 1809 (RLR)
Peru, Forces Loyal to Ferdinand VII Defeat Army of La Plata, 1811 (RLR)
Archbishop-elect of Mexico, Loyalty to the Spanish Constitution of 1812 (RLR)
Restoration of Ferdinand VII, 1814 (RLR)
Archbishop-elect of Mexico, Loyalty to Ferdinand VII, 1814 (RLR)
Cathedral Canons of Mexico, Loyalty to Ferdinand VII, 1814 (RLR)