A New Model
The desire to honor individuals who have accomplished actions of great social benefit is interwoven through human history. For example, in ancient Egypt Pharaohs granted awards to reward admirable actions.Greeks used crowns of glory and Romans awarded laurel wreaths or, later, collars of honor. In the Middle Ages, the ritual conferring knighthood to the young noble was spiritual in nature.
The first Orders of Knighthood: The Order of Malta and Order of the Temple were not rewarding orders, but were directly linked to the feudal system and to the concept of hereditary nobility. They were in fact, international associations regrouping knights in an Order with religious, military, or hospitality purposes.
With the gradual collapse of the feudal system, European sovereigns found it necessary to establish Orders to gather faithful followers serving their policy.
Initially international, the Order of Knighthood became national, and members were bound to the sovereign by a personal allegiance. The model Order was the Golden Fleece of the Dukes of Burgundy founded in 1429.
Later, the emergence of bourgeois and military classes consisting of non-noble individuals rendered necessary the establishment of Orders rewarding merit rather than pedigree. The first military Order rewarding merit was founded by the King of France, Louis XIV. The Order of Saint-Louis became the genuine ancestor of national Orders that exist throughout the world today.
Being the achievement of a long course of evolution, the National Order introduced its beneficiary into a closed group placed that must follow specific rules of discipline under the authority of a Grand Master.
Modern national Orders are thus associations of people that have distinguished themselves by their merit, without regard to any considerations related to class or origin, and as such, may be rewarded for: military courage, actions in the senior Civil Service (Magistrates, Ministers, etc.), and social dedication (doctors, lawyers, etc.).
Senegal has two national Orders. The first is the National Order of Lion, rewarding distinguished services, and the second is the Order of Merit, honoring outstanding actions.
Indeed, as the Order of Lion is only assigned sparingly in order not to discredit it. Many worthy actions could go without any official recognition. That is why the second order, the Order of Merit, was created - to reward actions of outstanding merit. The aim being to widen the number of individuals rewarded without deteriorating the purity of the first Order.