Legion of Honour
A French citizen is admitted to the Legion with the rank of knight and may be promoted only to the rank immediately above.
The individual must have a minimum of 20 years of public service or professional activity and have attained outstanding achievement in either case.
Minimum time between each promotion
chevalier to officer: eight years
officer to commander: five years
commander to grand officer and grand officer to grand croix three years
Promotion in the Legion of Honour is always based on new achievement and not merit already recognized. While the cross had been awarded posthumously since the 1914-1918 war, the 1962 Code did not include this provision. Members of the parliamentary assemblies may not be admitted to or promoted within the Order while in office. Legionnaires are appointed or promoted by decree of the President of the Republic on the proposal of ministers and after a review of their merit by the grand chancellor and the Council of the Order. The decrees appear in the Journal Officiel.
No one is admitted to the Legion of Honour without being formally inducted: a Legionnaire of a rank at least equal to the appointee receives him in the name of the President of the Republic and bestows on him the insignia of his rank Until 1870 the ceremony involved an oath of loyalty, the terms of which varied according to the government, the last vestige like the ceremonial induction of the ancient orders of chivalry.
Privileges and Obligations of Legionnaires
Legionnaires are appointed for life. Military personnel honoured while on active service or for deeds in wartime in consideration of injuries or citations, receive a non-transferable and inalienable salary. They are eligible for help from the Grand Chancellery and the Legion of Honour mutual aid society and may send their daughters to the Maisons d’Education of the Legion of Honour insofar as places are available.
Legionnaires forfeit their position automatically if they are found guilty of a criminal offense or sentenced to a year or more in prison. In the case of less serious offenses or dishonourable offenses, the Council of the Order may propose either the expulsion of the offending member from the Legion or the imposition of a lighter sentence in the form of either suspension or simple censure.
Foreign nationals have been accepted into the Legion of Honour since its inception. They are admitted but not inducted. They may be appointed directly to a rank or higher dignity. South Africans who have received the Legion of Honour include Miriam Makeba, Desmond Tutu, Kader Asmal, Nadine Gordimer, André P Brink and Jay Naidoo.