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.
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.
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.
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.