Frederick the Great was never the type of Monarch to flaunt his royal status…for example, he said a crown was merely a hat that let the rain in….and he never wore any royal regalia. What he did wear was a soldiers tunic and one decoration, the Order of the Black Eagle Breast Star.
The motto …”To each according to their merit”…was engraved in Latin (SUUM CUIQUE ) on the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle in 1701. It was Prussia’s highest award, granted sparingly by the Kings of Prussia from 1701 to 1918. When you see portraits of Frederick the Great, you can see this breast star on his uniform…its the only decoration he ever wore.
The Order of the Black Eagle motto provides a tantalizing clue as to how the small Kingdom came to grow so large and powerful. The motto that is engraved upon the Breast Star was taken seriously and one that the Prussian kings lived by and instilled in their people. It was one very important philosophy…”To each according to their merit”…a motto that espouses rewarding merit and not allowing corruption or favoritism. It encapsulates how Prussia was ruled and why it became a model of efficiency in both civilian and military organization.
Great leaders made this happen, of course, and Prussia had two that were recognized as Great by all historians. The short time from the era of the Great Elector, when Brandenburg/Prussia began its ascendancy, to his Great Grandson Frederick the Great… who made Prussia a world power… was less than 100 years. Then, in less than another 100 years, Wilhelm I and Bismarck made Prussia even stronger…strong enough to unite all of Germany under their leadership.in 1871.