In the beginning of the 1956 feature film, The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, one of his most enduring characters, Ethan presents a medal to his niece which looks like this:

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The medal has a blue and white maltese cross with an enamalled rondelle in the center featuring an insignia that is hard to make out. Was this medal an actual historical medal or based on a particular medal?


From IMDB...

In the screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, the medal Ethan Edwards gives to Debbie is identified as "a gold medal or medallion" awarded by Emperor Maximilian of Mexico to mercenary soldiers who fought between 1865-67 for the Emperor Maximilian's French forces against Mexican revolutionaries. This medal implies Ethan served in the French Mexican Expedition during his three-year absence and also explains his fluency in Spanish. In reality, the medal being used is the Order of St. Sava, a decoration of the Kingdom of Serbia established in 1883 to recognize civilians for meritorious achievements. John Ford was an admirer of Serbian people and heritage since his war days and probably came in possession of the medal through his friendship with director/actor Peter Bogdanovich, who has Serbian roots.

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