The Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) is an Order of State awarded by the President of the French Republic. It was founded on 3 December 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle. The reason of the Order’s establishment was twofold: to replace the large number of ministerial Orders previously awarded by the ministries; and to create an award that can be awarded at a lower level than the Legion of Honour, which is generally reserved for French citizens.French nationals as well as nationals of foreign countries, men and women, can be received into the Order, for distinguished civil and military achievements, though of a lesser level than that required for the conferment of the Legion of Honour. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order, by convention, on the advice of the Government. The Order has a common Chancellor and Chancery with the Legion of Honour. Every Prime Minister of France is made a grand cross of the order after six months of service.
The Order has five classes, the same as the Légion d’honneur:
- Grand'croix (grand cross) - wears the badge on a sash on the right shoulder, plus the star on the left chest;
- Grand officier (grand officer) - wears the badge on a ribbon with rosette on the left chest, plus the star on the right chest;
- Commandeur (commander) - wears the badge on a necklet;
- Officier (officer) - wears the badge on a ribbon with rosette on the left chest;
- Chevalier (knight) - wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest.