Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories.

It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The VC is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. It is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross, which is the equivalent honour for valour not in the face of the enemy. However, the VC is higher in the order of wear and would be worn first by an individual who had been awarded both decorations (which has not so far occurred).

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 individual recipients. Only 13 medals, nine to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol. Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves.

Due to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal has fetched over £400,000 at auction. A number of public and private collections are devoted to the Victoria Cross. The private collection of Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. Following a 2008 donation to the Imperial War Museum, the Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the museum's Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.

Since 1990, three Commonwealth countries that retain the Queen as head of state have instituted their own versions of the VC. As a result, the original Victoria Cross is sometimes referred to as the "Commonwealth Victoria Cross" or the "Imperial Victoria Cross", to distinguish it from the newer awards.

Read more about Victoria Cross:  Origin, Appearance, Award Process, Authority and Privileges, Recipients, Public Sales, Thefts, Collections

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