The Order of William is the highest military order of the Netherlands which was first created in 1815. The Order was first authorized by order of King William I and was presented for feats of bravery on the battlefield and as a meritorious decoration to senior military officers.
Between 1815 and 1900, the Order of William was considered a single decoration. In 1940, the award was expanded into several different classes and awarded to those who had served in the defense of Netherlands from the summer attack by Germany. In 1944 and 1945, with the liberation of the Netherlands, the Order of William was again awarded, this time to both Netherlands citizens and members of foreign miliatires who had fought against the Germans.
By 1945, the following classes of the Order of William were in existence.
- Grand Cross
- Commander’s Cross
- Knight’s Cross
- Knight’s Medal
A fifth class also existed and was awarded as a unit presentation to military commands which had displayed feats befitting the Order of William Knight’s Medal.
The unit version of the Order of William is commonly known as the Orange Lanyard. To be awarded the Orange Lanyard a military unit must distinguish itself in battle to such a degree as would warrant the personal presentation of the Order of William. Only those who served in a unit at the particular time of action are entitled to wear the Orange Lanyard.
The Orange Lanyard is worn as a cord around the right shoulder and can be worn simultaneously with the French or Belgian Fourragčre of the Croix de guerre. The Orange Lanyard is considered a permanent decoration and is worn for the duration of a military member's career. In addition to the Orange Lanyard worn by unit members, the unit's Regimental Colour is decorated the medal itself, which hangs from the finial of the pike.
The Order of Orange Nassau is a similar decoration to the Order of William and was also awarded frequently during the Second World War.