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The ceremonial baton is a short, thick stick-like object, typically in wood or metal, that is traditionally the sign of a field marshal or a similar high-ranking military officer, and carried as a piece of their uniform. The baton is distinguished from the swagger stick in being thicker and effectively without any practical function. A staff of office is rested on the ground; a baton is not. Unlike a royal sceptre that is crowned on one end with an eagle or globe, a baton is typically flat-ended.
The baton can most likely be traced back to the mace, with ancient Kings and Pharaohs often being buried with ceremonial maces. With the advent of primitive body armor, the mace went out of fashion, but made a comeback as an effective weapon against full plate armour during the Late Middle Ages. During this time, the Staff of office also became a prominent symbol of power.
By the time of Louis X of France, it was common for sergeant-at-arms to carry highly ornamented ceremonial maces. By the 16th century, the war mace had once again been phased out; solely replaced by an ornamented ceremonial version, used as a sign of wealth and power. As such, only army commanders would carry these, transforming the maces into symbols of power on the battlefield.
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The Title of Marshal has existed in France at least since the thirteenth century, so the creation of the staff of Marshal surely coincides with this date (around the 1450s), the title was worn by the sons of Nobles, or military Nobles, the most strategist of France, in 1789 the title was abolished during the revolution because it was incompatible with the egalitarian ideas of the time. But in 1804 Napoleon I founded a new Empire and restored the old rank, the same years he awarded the title of Marshal as well as the batons with 18 of the best generals in France, thereafter 8 will be added spanking to climb the figures to 26, they were the greatest Marshals in the history of France, rewarded during campaigns by titles and fortunes with several of the best known (Davout, Ney, Soult or Lannes), in 1814 despite the fall of the empire and the restoration of the Monarchy, the title is kept in 1815 during the Hundred Days also. In 1848 during the proclamation of the Republic, the title was once again abolished, well rehabilitated 4 years later in 1852 during the founding of the Second French Empire. In 1870, the title and deleted during the period of the Paris Commune, then in 1871 finally restored once and for all, it remains during the twentieth century, by the military, generally rewarded with a Marshal's baton following victories and conquests especially in the French African Colonies. In 1914 Marshal Pétain and Marshal the best known of France as well as Leclerc, during the Second World War and the occupation of France, the title of France of Vichy and remove, although Pétain keeps it in title, in 1946 after 2 years of political change following the end of the Nazi occupation, the title of Marshal of France and the stick and rehabilitated. It is worn since 1947 by the French generals rewarded with a stick by the President of the French Republic.
In Nazi Germany, Generalfeldmarschalls and Großadmirals carried ceremonial batons, specially manufactured by German jewellers. Seven styles of batons were awarded to 25 individuals. Hermann Göring earned two different-style batons for his Generalfeldmarschall and Reichsmarschall promotions.
All the batons, except Erich Raeder's, were designed in a similar way: a shaft decorated with Iron Crosses and Wehrmacht eagles. Luftwaffe (air force) shafts showed the Balkenkreuz ("beam cross"), whereas Kriegsmarine (navy) shafts had fouled anchors. The ends of the batons were decorated with ornate caps.
- The seven styles of Nazi-era batons
- The first baton awarded was to Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg. This baton's shaft had a light blue velvet covering material. It is now in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
- The first air force baton awarded was to Hermann Göring after his promotion to field marshal. Though it was designed similarly to the Blomberg baton with a light blue velvet shaft covering, it incorporated the air force Balkenkreuz symbols. Additionally, the end caps were inlaid with many small diamonds. It is now kept in the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia.
- The next baton awarded was to Grand Admiral Erich Raeder. This baton's shaft had a dark blue velvet covering. This baton differed from other batons by having a chain link pattern sewn over the crosses, eagles and anchors. At the end of the war, the baton was reportedly disassembled and sold in pieces.
- Nine army batons were awarded in the summer of 1940 to newly promoted field marshals. The batons' shafts had red velvet coverings and differed only in identifying inscriptions on the end caps. Eight more batons of this style were later awarded to other field marshals upon their promotions. The first group was manufactured for 6,000 RM (about 30,000 USD in 2012) each. Most of the batons are now in museums or private collections.
- Three air force batons were awarded in the summer of 1940. They had blue velvet covering and the Balkenkreuz design, differing only in individual end cap inscriptions. One more baton of this style was awarded in 1943. The 1940 air force batons were slightly more expensive to manufacture than the 1940 army batons.
- The only other navy baton was awarded to Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. It had a blue velvet shaft covering and incorporated a U-boat symbol on one of the end caps. It is now in the Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury, UK, and was donated by Major General J. B. Churcher, who captured Dönitz at war's end and stole the baton.
- The only Reichsmarschall baton was presented to Hermann Göring in 1940. While similar looking to the other 1940 batons, it incorporated exceptional materials. The shaft was white elephant ivory, not velvet-covered metal. The end caps incorporated platinum in the inscription banding and over 600 small diamonds. The baton was manufactured for 22,750 RM (about 130,000 USD in 2012). It is now in the U.S. Army's West Point Museum, Highland Falls, New York.
Tsar Alexander I presented five batons, one to the Duke of Wellington and four to Russian generals.
The first [Russian] Field Marshal's baton, the emblem of this high military rank, was given to Count Fedor Golovin in 1700. In the 19th century, during the reign of Alexander I (1801-1825), only four Russian Generals and the Duke of Wellington received the coveted baton. Six were awarded during the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855), and a further six were issued under Alexander II (1855-1881). No Field Marshals were appointed during the reign of Alexander III (1881-1894) and only four batons were awarded during the reign of Nicholas II (1894-1917), the last being to His Royal Highness King Karl I of Rumania in 1912.
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The Duke of Wellington possessed multiple batons, since he held the rank of field marshal or equivalent in eight European armies each of which presented him with a baton. In addition to his English baton he was presented with two British batons. Nine of the batons (along with some staffs of office) are displayed at his former home, Apsley House (the Russian baton was stolen on 9 December 1965 and has not been recovered).
In heraldry and culture
A baton appears occasionally in heraldry as an armorial achievement by field marshals upon achieving substantive or honorary rank. In England and Wales, batons are usually represented as behind the coat of arms crossed in saltire although the sole holder of this achievement in practice is the Duke of Norfolk in his capacity as Earl Marshal.
- Howe, Malcolm (2000). "Wellington's Batons". British Historical Society of Portugal. 27: 13–22.
- Hedegaard 1979, p. 10.
- Hedegaard 1979, pp. 12, 14.
- Hedegaard 1979, p. 15.
- Hedegaard 1979, p. 17.
- Hedegaard 1979, p. 22.
- Hedegaard 1979, p. 25.
- "Batons [of] the Late Duke of Wellington". The Illustrated London News No. 532. 11 December 1852. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- "Duke of Wellington's batons". English Heritage. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- SR staff 1965, p. 2.
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- Hedegaard, E. O. A. (1979). Den militære feltmarskalstavs historie: En våben- og krigshistorisk studie [The History of the Field Marshal's Baton: A Study of the History of Weapons] (in Danish). Forlaget ZAC.
- SR staff (10 December 1965). "2 Robbers Beat Guard, Take Priceless Jewels". The Spokesman-Review. p. 2.
- Staff at Christie's (19 October 2004). "An extremely rare jeweled, enamel and gold Russian field marshal's baton marked Keibel, St. Petersburg, circa 1878 (Lot 121 / Sale 1458)". Christie's.