La Médaille de la Famille is awarded to parents or guardians who have brought up or are bringing up four or more children in a moral and responsible manner.
The honour was created on May 26, 1920 under the name Médaille d’honneur de la famille française and the medal features an image of a couple with their children. The back is inscribed with the words République Française.
It was part of a movement to recognise and honour mothers who had assumed the role of both parents during the First World War and who raised their children well, despite losing their husband on the battlefield. Widows who raised three children could also be honoured.
At the time Jules Louis Breton, a minister under President Paul Deschanel, said: “To deserve this award, it is not enough to bring children into the world. You must also know how to bring them up and endeavour, at all times, to instil a healthy moral code through giving advice and setting an example.”
At first, there were three grades of the honour: bronze for those raising four or five children, silver for parents of six or seven children, and gold for those with eight or more children.
Today, however, there is only the bronze, worn with its red and green ribbon.
In 1983, a change removed the need for candidates to be female, or French – as long as the children were French.
The award can be granted to fathers or anyone who has raised French children properly – although it is rare for divorced parents to be honoured – or to anyone else who makes a positive contribution towards improving family life.
One early male beneficiary of the award was a Catholic priest, Père Mayotte, who was curate at Randan, Puy-de-Dôme. He received the medal for raising the six children of his housekeeper, a widow who died suddenly.
An application is made at the mairie, which studies the application before passing nominations to the prefect for approval. The form can be downloaded online.
Once approved, a medal ceremony is held at the mairie or préfecture and generally the mairie buys the medal, although they can be bought for €30 at the Monnaie de Paris mint.
Some candidates are also invited to the Elysée each year where the president presents their medals.
In November last year 29 medals were presented.