The Royal and Military Order of Saint Ferdinand is a Spanish military order and Spain’s highest military decoration for gallantry. The Royal Military Order of Saint Ferdinand was set up by the Cádiz Cortes in 1811 to honour the heroic fight against the Napoleonic army.
The Cádiz Cortes was the first national assembly to claim sovereignty in Spain. It represented the abolition of the old kingdoms, and its members represented the entire Spanish empire and met in the safe haven of Cádiz during the French occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. The liberal Cortes passed the Spanish Constitution of 1812, which established a constitutional monarchy.
The royal order was validated by Royal Decree from Fernando VII on 10 July 1815. Ferdinand VII was twice King of Spain, first in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death in 1833. After being overthrown by Napoleon in 1808, he linked his monarchy to counter-revolution and reactionary policies. Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into civil war upon his death.
The order’s name refers to King Ferdinand III of Castile. Ferdinand III was King of Castile from 1217 and King of León from 1230, as well as King of Galicia from 1231. Ferdinand III is regarded as one of the most successful kings of Castile, securing not only the permanent union of the crowns of Castile and León, but also masterminding the most expansive campaign of Reconquista yet.
The order is awarded in recognition of action, either individual or collective, to protect the nation, its citizens, or the peace and security of the international community in the face of immediate risk to the bearer.
The Sovereign of the Order of San Fernando is the current acting monarch of Spain