Legion of Honour
An order of merit instituted by the First Consul in 1802, for either military or civil merit. In 1843 there were 49,417 members, but in 1851 one new member was elected for every two extinct ones, so that the honour was no longer a mere farce.
Napoleon III. added a lower order of this Legion, called the Médarille Militaire, the ribbon of which was yellow, not red. The old Legion consisted of Grand Cross, Grand Officers, Commanders, Officers, and Chevaliers, and the ribbon of the order was red.
“The Legion of Honour gives pensions to its military members, and free education to some four hundred of the daughters, sisters, and nieces of its members.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894