The Order of Merit is a British honorary institution founded by Edward VII in 1902
to reward those who provided especially eminent service in the armed forces
or particularly distinguished themselves in science, art, literature, or
the promotion of culture. The order is limited to only 24 members, although
the British monarch can appoint foreigners as "honorary members." The order
carries no title of knighthood, but a member is entitled to add "O.M."
after his name. It has a civilian and a military division. Both men and
women are admitted into the order; Florence Nightingale was the first woman
awarded the honour (1907), and not another woman received the order until
the induction of Dorothy Hodgkin in 1965. The badge of the order portrays a
crown with the motto "For Merit." An Indian Order of Merit (no longer in
existence) was established in 1837.
The badge of the Order of Merit is worn suspended by a ribbon at the collar. (After: E. C. Joslin, Spink's Catalog of British Orders, Decorations and Medals, 1983). The ribbon displays the colors of the Order. The blue represents the Order of the Garter and the Red, the Order of the Bath.